The magnitude of a decision to confirm someone for a lifetime appointment to the United States Supreme Court demands the utmost care and consideration and, to the greatest extent possible, transparency. Yet none of those words — care, consideration or transparency — can be used to describe what has been happening with respect to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.
At least three women have courageously stepped forward to credibly assert allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh. All of them have asked for a thorough FBI investigation. Yet, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday refused to postpone its vote until after such an investigation, and has instead advanced the nomination to the full Senate on a party-line vote. A bipartisan group of senators has called for a one-week delay prior to any final vote so that the FBI can investigate these sexual assault allegations. But considering the fact that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to “plow right through” with this nomination, it is hard to feel any sense of comfort or reassurance by what happened Friday.
This refusal to properly investigate and review Kavanaugh’s entire record has been an issue since the nomination was announced. As demonstrated by their vote Friday, Senate Judiciary Republicans have all but abdicated their constitutional duty to provide meaningful advice and consent. Instead, their overriding objective has been to pack the Supreme and lower courts with partisan jurists who will, for their lifetimes, rule in favor of hyper-conservative policies that promise to set back the rights and protections of LGBTQ people (along with other vulnerable groups, including women) for decades.
My August 30 Advocate commentary called on the Senate to fulfill its constitutional duty to carefully review Kavanaugh's entire record. Every memo, every document. Their response? Simultaneously putting their head in the sand while forcing this nomination through at breakneck speed.
Heading into the initial confirmation hearing, we already knew enough to sound the alarm over Brett Kavanaugh. For the LGBTQ community, this nomination lands at a time when this president is using his power to target us on many different fronts — from students to service members to seniors. We knew we needed a Supreme Court justice who would apply the law fairly and who would hold the president accountable, rather than serve as a rubber stamp for the Trump-Pence administration’s dangerous agenda.
But what we didn’t know about Brett Kavanaugh heading into those hearings was so troubling to us that Lambda Legal and our partners at American Oversight filed eight separate FOIA requests and subsequently sued two federal agencies to gain access to records critical to assessing this nominee. The FOIAs focused on Kavanaugh’s time in the George W. Bush White House — including any role that he may have played in the Bush administration efforts to push a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to different-sex couples and to fund anti-LGBTQ propaganda using taxpayer dollars. We have, to date, received zero documents from the agencies and the two lawsuits filed seeking documents respectively from the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Health and Human Services are ongoing.
What we have always known, however, is that Kavanaugh is committed to overturning Roe v. Wade, because that’s how he got on Donald Trump’s Supreme Court short list (provided courtesy of The Federalist Society) in the first place. That makes him dangerous for LGBTQ people — not only because we need reproductive rights too, but because the legal precedent that undergirds the right to safe, legal access to abortion and birth control is also the bedrock underlying many LGBTQ constitutional protections.
As a result of Thursday’s hearing, we now have an even clearer sense of Brett Kavanaugh’s tenuous relationship with the truth. We witnessed his vengeful anger and how he will direct it against those whom he views as his “enemies.” Through his disturbing performance, he has shown total disdain for protecting the Court’s legitimacy as a place where people can receive fair and impartial justice, and certainly not if you are someone with the courage to stand up against powerful forces in pursuit of what is right. In that sense as well, Kavanaugh truly does reflect and embody Trump’s values.
Kavanaugh has made clear that he will not withdraw his name, and President Trump gives no indication that these credible allegations of sexual assault have given him pause with respect to this nomination. As a result, all eyes are on the United States Senate, and particularly on those senators who have the ability to bring this painful spectacle to an end.
With each passing day, polls show that more people oppose the Kavanaugh nomination. Even greater numbers believe that Dr. Ford's allegations, if proven, should be disqualifying. Brett Kavanaugh has repeatedly refused to agree to a brief pause in the proceedings to allow the sexual misconduct claims to be investigated. He is not interested in getting at the truth and clearly believes that his denials should be sufficient to silence any further discussion of these serious allegations.
A few Senate Republicans have finally stepped up and asked that an investigation take place prior to a final vote on this nomination. Lambda Legal agrees that such an investigation should occur out of respect not only for the women who have bravely come forward, but also out of respect for all survivors of sexual violence. With that said, regardless of the outcome of this investigation, we have seen and heard enough from Brett Kavanaugh himself to know that he is unfit for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.
This moment in our nation’s history demands clear answers to the questions of who we are and who we want to be. Across the country and around the world, people of all ages, but particularly our children, are watching and waiting to see what a handful of elected officials will do.
But we must do more than that. We must pick up the phone and call our elected representatives. We must urge every person in our lives to do the same. We deserve better, but we must demand better, and we must do it now before it is too late. Our dignity, our families and our lives depend on it.
SHARON M. McGOWAN is the legal director and chief strategy officer of Lambda Legal.