The Senate Just Confirmed an Unqualified, Anti-LGBT Judge to a Lifetime Appointment on the Federal Bench

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December 12, 2017
L. Steven Grasz

Today, the United States Senate handed Leonard Steven Grasz a lifetime appointment to the federal bench on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, despite being one of only four nominees since 1989 to receive a unanimously unqualified rating by the non-partisan American Bar Association.

Lambda Legal led a group of 28 national, state and local LGBT organizations in opposing his nomination, citing his controversial views in support of conversion therapy, his opposition to legal protections for LGBT Americans and his view that marriage equality is a “threat,” among other extremist, anti-LGBT positions he has promoted throughout his career.

Sharon McGowan, Lambda Legal’s Director of Strategy, issued the following statement: 

“It is exasperating, and yet unsurprising, that Senate Republicans could not even bring themselves to oppose a Trump nominee that received a unanimous ‘not qualified’ rating from the non-partisan American Bar Association.

"The total disregard for those most vulnerable in this country – those who depend on a fair and impartial judicial system to protect their basic rights – was on full display today by each Senator who voted to hand a lifetime appointment to Steven Grasz to the Eighth Circuit, where he will wreak lasting damage on civil rights for generations to come.

“Steven Grasz is one of only four nominees since 1989 to receive a unanimous unqualified rating from the American Bar Association. In the past, we could have counted on the Senate to turn back such a nominee. 

"But Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley have completely abdicated their responsibility to the American people. Although Chuck Grassley today rightfully and finally urged Donald Trump to reconsider the nomination of Jeff Mateer, the nominee who said transgender children were a part of ‘Satan’s plan,’ to the federal bench, he must also take accountability for all the Jeff Mateer-quality nominees he’s been jamming through the confirmation process, including Steven Grasz today.

“By pushing ahead with these nominees, Leader McConnell and Chairman Grassley have shown that loyalty to Donald Trump is more important to them than their commitment to the Constitution. And every Senator who voted in favor of Mr. Grasz must likewise be held to account for the ways in which they are allowing Donald Trump to decimate the integrity and legitimacy of the federal judiciary.

"We salute those who stood up for fair courts today, and will continue to fight alongside you. We urge the Senate to change course, which it will have the opportunity to do later this week when it considers the nominations of Don Willett and James Ho. Likewise, we urge Chuck Grassley and the Judiciary Committee to turn back the nomination of Matthew Kacsmaryk, who is essentially a carbon copy of the now-notorious Jeff Mateer.

"And all Senators, but particularly Senate Republican leadership, must start demanding better nominees from the President.”

The Senate is expected to hold a cloture vote on Don Willett’s nomination to the Fifth Circuit later today, with a floor vote taking place tomorrow. Lambda Legal organized a letter with 34 other national, state, and local LGBT groups, sent to the full Senate today, opposing Willett’s nomination.

They are also expected to hold a cloture vote on James Ho’s nomination to the Fifth Circuit tomorrow, Wednesday, and a floor vote would likely take place on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee will be holding a hearing Wednesday morning on Matthew Kacsmaryk’s nomination to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.


Judicial Nominations Schedule for Week of December 11

Tuesday, December 12

  • There is an anticipated cloture vote on the nomination of Don Willett on Tuesday.

Wednesday, December 13

  • Following an anticipated cloture vote on Tuesday, the full Senate is expected to vote on the nomination of Don Willett on Wednesday.
  • There is an anticipated cloture vote on the nomination of James Ho on Wednesday.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Matthew Kacsmaryk on Wednesday morning.

Thursday, December 14

  • Following an anticipated cloture vote on Wednesday, the full Senate is expected to vote on the nomination of James Ho on Thursday.