Lambda Legal Slams U.S. Senate for Continued Degradation of the Federal Judiciary This Week

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Following Months of Advocacy, Lambda is Gratified that Notoriously Anti-LGBT Nominee Jeff Mateer and Anti-Civil Rights Nominee Brett Talley's Nominations Will Not Proceed
December 13, 2017

Washington, DC – Today, the United States Senate confirmed Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. In addition, the Senate Judiciary Committee today held a hearing on the nomination of Matthew Kacsmaryk to the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Texas. Lambda Legal recently organized a letter with 34 other national, state, and local LGBT groups opposing Willett’s nomination in addition to the nomination of Matthew Kacsmaryk, stating that “these dangerous nominees will increase the likelihood that LGBT people living in these states will continue to experience discrimination with no meaningful access to justice in their lifetime.” Willett is one of three anti-LGBT nominees that will likely be confirmed by the Senate this week. L. Steven Grasz was confirmed to the Eighth Circuit on Tuesday, and the full chamber is expected to vote on the nomination of James Ho to the Fifth Circuit tomorrow.

Sharon McGowan, Lambda Legal’s Director of Strategy, issued the following statement:
“While the rest of the country is taking a stand against hate, fear, and division, the United States Senate continues to endorse it. The Senate is simply rubber stamping nominees and giving license to Donald Trump’s interest in stacking the federal bench with extremist nominees, rather than safeguarding the access to justice for all those in this country who rely on a fair and impartial judiciary to protect their basic rights. Mitch McConnell, Chuck Grassley, and other Senate Republicans are jamming through these nominees at breakneck speed, and the end result will be the decimation of our civil rights. Today’s confirmation of Don Willett – who has mocked LGBT people on Twitter, called himself the ‘most conservative justice’ on the Texas Supreme Court, and has stated that ‘there is no ideological daylight to the right of me’ – exemplifies the total disregard the Senate has for those most vulnerable in our country.

“By week’s end, Donald Trump could place 12 circuit court judges on the federal bench. In 2016, the Supreme Court decided approximately 69 cases, while U.S. Courts of Appeals decided approximately 58,000 cases and U.S. District Courts decided about 355,000. So, with each new Trump nominee handed a lifetime appointment on the federal bench, there will certainly be a severe impact on civil rights in this country for generations to come. For perspective, at this point in his administration, President Obama had only confirmed three circuit court judges. And Trump is not slowing down. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee continued moving forward with the nomination of Matthew Kacsmaryk, who is the former boss of fellow anti-LGBT activist and nominee Jeff Mateer, who is notorious for publicly calling transgender children a part of ‘Satan’s plan.’ Senators should not be fooled: while Mateer was caught on video, Kacsmaryk is as bad as Mateer, if not worse, as are many of Trump’s nominees. We all deserve better.

“Lambda Legal has been unrelenting in sounding the alarm on these nominees, and our efforts are paying off. We recognized the threat posed by Jeff Mateer the minute he was nominated, and made sure that this message got out the rest of the country. After months of advocacy, we are gratified to hear that his nomination will not move forward. We also joined our voice with other civil rights groups denouncing the nomination of Brett Talley, and feel vindicated that his nomination will also be withdrawn. But our work is far from done, and we will continue to put a spotlight on the records of Trump nominees who have been selected not merely in spite of, but rather because of their anti-LGBT and anti-civil rights pedigrees.

“We truly appreciate a number of Senators who have discussed these nominees’ dangerous records and beliefs about the LGBT community, including Senator Dick Durbin who referenced our letter in his line of questioning towards Kacsmaryk today, and Senators Mazie Hirono and Jeff Merkley who spoke out today against Don Willett’s nomination, and many others. It’s time the Senate Republican leadership gets on board not only with these Senators doing their job, but also with the nationwide belief that enough is enough with the hate that is infiltrating our federal government.”

Today, Senator Mazie Hirono spoke out about the nomination of Don Willett and many other of Trump’s dangerous nominees. In her statement, Senator Hirono said about Donald Trump’s extremist judicial nominees: “The President nominates them precisely because they have these ideological perspectives and agendas. He expects their decisions to reflect these ideological agendas… We need judges who will rule fairly, regardless of their personal, ideological views. And while President Trump’s nominees profess that they will set aside their personal views, there is little evidence from their past positions and decisions that they will do so.”

Senator Hirono added about Justice Willett: “Throughout his career, Justice Willett has expressed outrageous and outdated views on women in the workplace… As a Justice on the Texas Supreme Court, he has been very upfront about the bias he brings to his decisions. Why else would he have declared during one of his campaigns, and I quote, ‘I have earned consensus support from every corner of the conservative movement: pro-life, pro-faith, pro-family, pro-liberty, pro-gun rights, pro-law enforcement, pro-private property, and pro-limited government’? It is clear that he has an ideological agenda that will be reflected in his decisions.”

More information about Don Willett from Lambda Legal can be found here:

More information about James Ho from Lambda Legal can be found here:

More information about Matthew Kacsmaryk from Lambda Legal can be found here:

More information about Jeff Mateer from Lambda Legal can be found here:


Contact Info

For further information, or to speak with a representative of Lambda Legal, please contact Tom Zigo at