Donald Trump’s not the best at picking judicial nominees. You might remember the awkward hearing of U.S. District Court nominee Matthew Peterson, a lawyer with no trial experience. Peterson was probably the bottom of the barrel — and thankfully withdrew — but it’s not like his other choices are better. Howard Nielson does have trial experience, but he’s famous for arguing that gay judges should recuse themselves from hearing LGBTQ-related cases.
Nielson represented the plaintiffs in Hollingsworth v. Perry. That 2013 case was a defense of California’s anti-marriage equality amendment Prop 8. Nielson lost that case, but not before he filed a motion arguing the judge who heard that case “had a duty to disclose not only the facts concerning his [same-sex] relationship, but also his marriage intentions.”
Kamala Harris, then the Attorney General of California, filed a brief opposing Nielson’s motion. She wrote:
Just as every single one of the attempts to disqualify judges on the basis of their race, gender, or religious affiliation has been rejected by other courts, this Court should similarly reject Defendant-Intervenors’ effort to disqualify Judge Walker based on his sexual orientation.
Journalist Dahlia Lithwick agreed with Harris, writing:
Still, just because a legal argument is degrading and futile doesn’t mean nobody will make it. For as long as there have been bigots in America, litigants have tried to argue that women are too womanly to decide gender cases and that Jews are too Jewish to hear cases involving the first attacks on the World Trade Center. Like ProtectMarriage, these litigants also have tried to dress up their claims as something other than pure bigotry. They never prevail.
As Lithwick predicted, Nielson’s motion was rejected.
However, that wasn’t the end of Nielson’s homophobic fight. He also opposed the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage.
According to Lambda Legal, almost one-third of Trump’s nominees “have records that demonstrate hostility towards the rights of LGBT people.”
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