Donald Trump’s appointment of anti-gay zealots has been so reliable it’s almost a joke. At least it would be if it didn’t have the potential to ruin millions of people’s lives. The self-proclaimed “friend of the gays” has spent the first few months of his administration on a quest to radically transform the federal judicial system, undermining what few protections queer people have and casting us back to a dark, bygone era.
Two Terrible Anti-Gay Judges
The most recent cause for concern are Jeff Mateer and Matthew Kacsmaryk. Donald nominated them to be federal judges — appointments that almost always go to experienced judges, or at least people who’ve worked for judges. You’ll be shocked to hear that Trump’s nominees have no judicial experience, though they do have a history of working alongside hate groups.
Mateer and Kacsmaryk both come from a group called “First Liberty,” which worked for years to block marriage equality in Texas. When that failed, First Liberty shifted its focus to making it easier to discriminate against same-sex couples. Their lawyers defended businesses that turn away gays, and tried to overturn civil rights for queer people.
Worst Case Scenario
Those kinds of laws have been surging in popularity amongst anti-gay activists in recent years. Since the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry, those who oppose equality have been attempting to carve out craft exemptions that would still provide opportunities to express animus towards queer people.
In the past, courts have been the best way to protect LGBT people from discrimination. It was courts that secured the freedom to marry nationwide; and in the states, courts have protected queer people’s jobs, housing, and access to education.
Courts are supposed to be a more reliable arbiter of the law than public opinion. Though public support for marriage equality has been steadily climbing for the last two decades, it’s still just a shaky majority. That could reverse at any time.
In recent years, courts have also overturned older rulings, such as a ruling from the 80s that allowed cops to arrest gay people for having sex in their own homes. Now we could be sliding back to a time when courts kill civil rights instead of protecting them. If Trump’s nominees are confirmed, they could quickly dismantle what few protections exist for LGBTs.
For a look at what could happen if LGBT equality is left up to popular opinion, just take a look at Australia. Politicians there were unwilling to take a stand for equality, instead passing the buck to voters. Without courts stepping in to defend Due Process and Equal Protection — which is guaranteed in the United States by the Constitution — Australians are now being forced to engage in a popular vote on the freedom to marry. The result has been a surge in misleading information, hate speech, and mental health issues caused by an abusive political debate.
What Lies Ahead
Mateer and Kacsmaryk are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Trump’s attack on equality via the judiciary. If their appointments are approved by the Senate, they would likely be extremely receptive to any legislation that discriminates against same-sex couples. For now, that means laws that allow bakeries to turn away gay couples; but in the future, they could go far further, allowing schools to expel students for being gay or cops to arrest people for being gay.
The only hope is to block their confirmation in the Senate — and then to ensure that no president so toxic is ever elected again.
Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons