60+ LGBTQ Organizations Oppose Eric Dreiband to Run DOJ’s Civil Rights Division

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October 4, 2017
Photo by: C-SPAN
Eric Dreiband

Lambda Legal and more than 60 national, state and local LGBT groups from across the country urged the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to reject the nomination of Eric S. Dreiband to serve as the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the Dept. of Justice.

In a letter organized and led by Lambda Legal, the groups noted that Dreiband’s:

“overwhelmingly anti-civil rights record and his personal involvement in cases seeking to diminish the rights of LGBT people and other vulnerable communities strongly suggests that he will continue to promote the anti-civil rights agenda of this administration, rather than exercise the kind of strong leadership and willingness to defend civil rights that is needed from the head of the Civil Rights Division perhaps now more than ever.”

In a separate letter, also organized and led by Lambda Legal, 27 organizations urged the Judiciary Committee similarly to reject the nomination of Justice Joan Larsen to the U.S. Court of Federal Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and the nomination of Professor Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Court of Federal Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, noting that both nominees’ “views on civil rights issues are fundamentally at odds with the notion that LGBT people are entitled to equality, liberty, justice and dignity under the law.”

The letter elaborates that Justice Larsen has criticized the Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas, Lambda Legal's 2003 landmark ruling that struck down Texas’s sodomy law, and Professor Barrett has delivered a lecture paid for by the Alliance Defending Freedom, arguably the most extreme anti-LGBT legal organization in the nation.

Lambda Legal had previously urged opposition to Dreiband’s nomination, and called Dreiband’s pick as part of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ continued assault on civil rights.

“Under Sessions, DOJ has betrayed its obligation to defend voting rights, and has argued that LGBT workplace discrimination should be placed beyond the reach of federal law,” wrote Sharon McGowan, Lambda Legal’s Director of Strategy, in an op-ed for The Daily Beast.

“Per Justice Department protocol, Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler signed off on these documents for the Civil Rights Division. But you didn’t need forensic expertise to see Sessions’ fingerprints all over them," McGowan added. "Now, Sessions has selected someone to do more of his dirty work for him. In tapping Eric Dreiband as his choice to lead the Civil Rights Division, Sessions reveals the depth of his disdain for civil rights.”

The Dreiband letter echoes the op-ed, demonstrating how his nomination “embodies this Justice Department’s lack of commitment to defending the civil rights of LGBT people.”

In fact, the letter states that:

Mr. Dreiband chose to represent the University of North Carolina when it was sued by civil rights groups and the U.S. Department of Justice after North Carolina passed a law (HB2) restricting transgender people’s ability to access public restrooms. The nomination of an attorney who volunteered to join a litigation team seeking to frustrate the Civil Rights Division’s efforts to block a North Carolina law restricting transgender people’s access to public restrooms (HB2) is insulting not only to the LGBT community but to the career men and women of the Division who valiantly litigated that case for many months (until the Sessions Justice Department abandoned the litigation following a modification of the law).

The letter also puts Dreiband’s nomination into a broader context, illustrating how this Justice Department is on an anti-civil rights crusade, specifically calling out the response to the events in Charlottesville and the pardoning of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Additionally, Dreiband’s nomination comes at the 60th anniversary of the civil rights division, which historically has done so much for civil rights, yet this “DOJ has gone beyond merely abdicating its obligation to defend civil rights, and, with respect to many vulnerable and marginalized communities, including LGBT people, DOJ has been using its authority to inflict harm.”

Dreiband has a troubling anti-civil rights track record that mirrors DOJ’s recent work, which, as the letter points out, extends beyond the LGBT community, and includes professional efforts to restrict Muslim women from wearing headscarves at work and to block women’s access to contraception under the Affordable Care Act, and his testimony before Congress as a private citizen to oppose the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and other important protections for workers.