It’s no surprise that Donald Trump picked Brett Kavanaugh to fill the Supreme Court vacancy caused by Justice Kennedy’s retirement. The 53-year old judge was handpicked by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation — far right conservative groups — and easily passed their litmus test: Kavanaugh is itching to overturn Roe v. Wade and outlaw abortion, gut the Affordable Care Act and roll back the progress we’ve made toward full LGBTQ equality.
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Led by the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, anti-LGBTQ extremists are already lining up in support of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination because they see his confirmation as the key to rolling back decades of progress on LGBTQ civil rights. As a federal appellate judge, Kavanaugh has been a strong advocate for a so-called “license to discriminate,” which would allow businesses and potentially even government officials to use their personal religious beliefs as an excuse to discriminate against LGBTQ people, women and other marginalized communities.
How equal are our marriages? Can bakers, florists, restaurants and adoption agencies refuse us service just because they don’t approve of our sexual orientation or gender identity? Can brave transgender service members continue to serve honorably in our military? In the coming years, the Supreme Court will be asked to decide these critical questions. And with a Justice Kavanaugh on the Court, it’s clear that a majority of justices would allow the personal beliefs of some individuals to dictate the lives of LGBTQ people.
Trump has said that he he thinks women who seek an abortion should be “punished” and that the Supreme Court should “automatically” overturn Roe v. Wade once his next appointee joins the bench. There is no evidence to suggest that Kavanaugh disagrees, and quite a bit to indicate he and the president are on the same page. Last year, Judge Kavanaugh tried to block an undocumented 17-year-old in one of Trump’s ICE detention facilities in Texas from exercising her constitutional right to abortion care. When the D.C. Circuit overruled him, Kavanaugh claimed the court was creating “a new right” for immigrants in custody “to obtain immediate abortion on demand.” Kavanaugh even tried to run out the clock on the teenager’s abortion by orchestrating an opportunity for the Trump-Pence Administration to place her in the custody of a “sponsor” before allowing her to get an abortion.
From the onset, Kavanaugh has been relentless in his efforts to cripple the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the healthcare law that provided millions of LGBTQ people with comprehensive, non-discriminatory and affordable healthcare for the first time in their lives. He’s used a variety of legal maneuvers: a procedural challenge claiming that the ACA originated in the “wrong” house of Congress, a dissenting opinion that the ACA’s individual mandate would nullify the law’s requirement of coverage for those with preexisting conditions, and on religious grounds — when a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employer insurance plans cover birth control was not a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Judge Kavanaugh cited Hobby Lobby.
In his extraordinary 65-page dissent in the Priests for Life v HHS case Kavanaugh wrote, ‘the President may decline to enforce a statute that regulates private individuals when the President deems the statute unconstitutional, even if a court has held or would hold the statute constitutional.’ You read that right: Kavanaugh believes the president can ignore the law when he doesn’t agree with it.
Judge Kavanaugh’s dangerous view of the Second Amendment values gun rights over the lives of our children, family and friends. In 2011, he dissented from a decision upholding Washington, DC’s assault-style weapons ban and its requirement that handgun owners register their weapons. Talk about radical — Kavanaugh’s position that the Second Amendment gives people the right to own an AR-15 or other assault-style weapons puts him at odds with EVERY OTHER federal and state appeals court that has addressed this issue.
Kavanaugh’s positions on LGBTQ equality, reproductive rights, healthcare and gun safety — shared by every other name on the list of Supreme Court candidates vetted by right-wing special interest groups — are probably not what distinguished him in Trump’s view. It’s likely the fact that Kavanaugh has literally argued that sitting presidents are above the law — that they should be able to dismiss any counsel “out to get him,” and that the president does not need to follow the law if he thinks that law is unconstitutional or be subject to criminal prosecution while in office.
Here are Kavanaugh’s own words:
“Congress should give back to the President the full power to act when he believes that a particular independent counsel is ‘out to get him.’”
“The President should have absolute discretion (necessarily influenced, of course, by Congressional and public opinion) whether and when to appoint an independent counsel.”
And in 1998, Kavanaugh even argued:
“If the President were the sole subject of a criminal investigation, I would say no one should be investigating that at all.”
Kavanaugh has played prominent roles in some of America’s ugliest political fights: a protégé of Kenneth Starr, Kavanaugh wrote much of the Starr Report which was aimed at impeaching President Clinton, and he led the politically-motivated investigation into Vince Foster’s death in a bald effort to discredit Hillary Clinton decades ago. When originally nominated to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2003, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called his appointment, “not just a drop of salt in the partisan wounds; it is the whole shaker,” because Kavanaugh was so politically toxic.
It took three years for Kavanaugh to become confirmed but it was only after the venomously anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council fought on his behalf with this 2005 email alert, begging supporters of the radical right to contact Congress and demand his confirmation.
In the intervening years, Kavanaugh has become the very embodiment of the “DC swamp” that Trump professed he wanted to drain. As an attorney, and now as a judge on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, he has consistently sided with the wealthy and powerful at the expense of individual, consumer and environmental protections — most notably ruling that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the FCC’s net neutrality regulations are unconstitutional.
Equality California is strongly opposed to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh — and any other radical extremist Supreme Court nominee whose views conflict with our American values of fairness, equality and equal dignity for all people. More than 130 million people across our nation with pre-existing conditions are now protected under the Affordable Care Act. Seven in 10 Americans believe that Roe v. Wade was correctly decided — and that the right to privacy is fundamental. Decades of progress on civil rights and social justice are on the line. We will do all we can to urge the Senate to put party over country and to reject Judge Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court.
The country is watching, and we cannot afford another 40 years of Trump’s values on our nation’s highest court.