WASHINGTON ― The Senate voted Tuesday to move forward with confirming Matthew Kacsmaryk to be a lifetime federal judge, despite strong protests from Democrats ― and one Republican ― over his record of opposition to LGBTQ rights and abortion rights.
The Senate voted 52-44 on a procedural step to advance Kacsmaryk’s nomination to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. Every Democrat present voted no. Every Republican but one, Susan Collins (Maine), voted yes.
Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) and Ron Wyden (Ore.) did not vote.
Kacsmaryk, 42, is set for his final confirmation vote on Wednesday.
Lots of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees have records of opposing LGBTQ rights and abortion rights; indeed, it is essentially a requirement at this point. But Kacsmaryk, the deputy general counsel for First Liberty Institute, a right-wing Christian advocacy group, has drawn particular criticism for his extreme views on both fronts.
He has fought against protections for LGBTQ people in employment, housing and health care. He has called including protections for LGBTQ people in the Violence Against Women Act “a grave mistake.” In 2015, when Utah passed nondiscrimination protections, Kacsmaryk called the law ”a bad idea” because it suggests that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity should be taken as seriously as other forms of discrimination. He signed on to a 2016 letter that called being transgender “a delusion.”
Kacsmaryk also ripped the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark 2015 marriage equality case. He wrote that “five justices of the Supreme Court found an unwritten ‘fundamental right’ to same-sex marriage hiding in the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment ― a secret knowledge so cleverly concealed in the nineteenth century amendment that it took almost 150 years to find.”
Senate Democrats held a press call and gave floor speeches ahead of the vote on Kacsmaryk to emphasize their firm opposition.
“It strikes me as unusual, more than coincidental, that in June – the LGBTQ Pride Month – our Republican colleagues would decide to bring to the floor the nomination of a Texas district court nominee, Matthew J. Kacsmaryk,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “This is yet another extreme nominee outside the mainstream of American thinking who does not deserve to be rubber-stamped for a lifetime appointment by the United States Senate.”
Pretty much every major LGBTQ rights group in America signed a letter last week opposing his nomination.
“Mr. Kacsmaryk has challenged LGBT people’s right to form families at all, and argued that the families that they have formed are less legitimate than other families,” reads the letter, signed by 75 groups including Lambda Legal, Human Rights Campaign and the National LGBT Bar Association. “He has denied in some cases that LGBT people really exist.”
On reproductive rights, Kacsmaryk opposed the employer contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act and played a lead role in opposing a Washington state law that required pharmacists to provide birth control to women.
He has criticized the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade using nearly the same language he did to criticize Obergefell v. Hodges, describing that case as one in which “seven justices of the Supreme Court found an unwritten ‘fundamental right’ to abortion hiding in the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the shadowy ‘penumbras’ of the Bill of Rights, a celestial phenomenon invisible to the non-lawyer eye.”
Collins, the lone Republican who opposed Kacsmaryk, said his writings and interviews “indicate an alarming bias” against LGBTQ people and abortion rights.
“Mr. Kacsmaryk has dismissed proponents of reproductive choice as ‘sexual revolutionaries,’ and disdainfully criticized the legal foundations of Roe v. Wade. He has described the ‘campaign for same-sex marriage’ as ‘typified by lawlessness,’” Collins said in a statement. “Such extreme statements reflect poorly on Mr. Kacsmaryk’s temperament and suggest an inability to respect precedent and to apply the law fairly and impartially.”
“He has denied in some cases that LGBT people really exist.”
Kacsmaryk is all but certain to be confirmed on Wednesday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been laser-focused on confirming as many of Trump’s judicial nominees as possible, and even with the loss of Collins’ vote, he has more than enough Republicans to push Kacsmaryk across the finish line.
Kacsmaryk is just the latest in a series of young, right-wing ideologues being confirmed to lifetime posts on federal courts. He is also a member of the conservative Federalist Society, which has been driving Trump’s judicial selection process and funneling anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ nominees to the White House.
To date, the Senate has confirmed a total of two Supreme Court justices, 76 district judges and 41 circuit judges under Trump. That’s more circuit judges than any president has gotten through by this point in a first term. It’s so many that 1 in 5 of the nation’s current circuit judges was nominated by Trump.