The lawyer who helped craft many of Donald Trump's anti-transgender and anti-immigrant policies has been confirmed by the Senate as a judge on the nation's second-highest court.
By a 50-48 vote, the Senate confirmed White House legal adviser Gregory Katsas, 53, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. "The court is influential, in part because it adjudicates many of the orders and laws put forth by the administration," the Associated Press reports. "It can be a stepping stone to the Supreme Court just a few blocks away."
LGBT groups were quick to condemn Katsas's confirmation. "As deputy white house counsel, Katsas helped draft the White House memo formalizing President Trump's transgender military ban as well as the president's Muslim travel ban. Katsas has confirmed that he also advised on numerous administration attacks on LGBTQ people, including the February withdrawal of lifesaving guidance supporting transgender students, an aggressive Justice Department brief arguing federal civil rights laws do not protect LGBTQ people, and a brief in the Supreme Court arguing for a constitutional right to discriminate," notes a press release from the National Center for Transgender Equality.
He also had a hand in the administration's plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program unless Congress takes action to save it, according to the AP. The program, established by President Obama via executive order, allows undocumented immigrants brought here as minors to receive permits to work legally in the U.S. if they meet certain conditions.
"A top Trump White House lawyer simply does not belong on a federal appeals court," NCTE executive director Mara Keisling said in the release. "The audacity of this appointment cannot be overstated: the Senate has just placed one of President Trump's top lawyers, with his fingerprints on nearly every Trump attack on civil and constitutional rights, on the appeals court most responsible for deciding the legality of those same policies. We call on the Senate to stand up and do its job by following longstanding Senate traditions, thoroughly vetting nominees, and rejecting nominees whose chief qualifications seem to be their willingness to attack transgender people and other Americans because of who they are."
Lambda Legal also denounced Katsas's appointment. Sharon McGowan, director of strategy, issued this statement: "Today's confirmation of the legal architect of much of this administration's anti-LGBT agenda to the powerful D.C. Circuit is a disgrace, and demonstrates that the Senate has become nothing more than a rubber stamp for Donald Trump, without regard for how anti-LGBT, anti-woman, anti-Muslim, or anti-immigrant the records of his judicial nominees. The courts play an essential part in protecting those most vulnerable in this country, and the damage being done to the judicial system by this administration cannot be overstated. Senators abdicate their constitutional duty when they simply roll over and allow Donald Trump to pack the courts with lifetime appointees who share Trump's distorted view of the Constitution."
Both groups spoke out against Trump nominees for the federal courts who will soon go before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Stuart Kyle Duncan, nominated to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and David Ryan Stras, nominated for the Eighth Circuit, are scheduled for committee hearings Wednesday. On Thursday, the committee is expected to hold hearings on L. Steven Grasz for the Eighth Circuit - who was deemed unanimously "not qualified" by the American Bar Association - and Mark Norris for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. Lambda opposes all of them.
NCTE further noted its opposition to Matthew Kacsmaryk, nominated for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and Stephen Schwartz, nominated U.S. Court of Federal Claims - along with the infamous Jeff Mateer, a nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, who has called same-sex marriage "disgusting" and said transgender children are part of "Satan's plan."