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Antigay Judge Nominated by Trump Is Confirmed to Federal Appeals Court

John Bush
John Bush

John K. Bush, confirmed today to the Sixth Circuit, has objected to rulings against sodomy laws and likened abortion to slavery.

LGBT and other civil rights activists are denouncing the Senate's confirmation of John K. Bush as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Bush, apparently no relation to the two President Bushes, has criticized rulings that struck down antisodomy laws, objected to gender-neutral language on passport applications, and likened legal abortion to slavery, notes the Human Rights Campaign. The Senate today confirmed his lifetime appointment by a vote of 51-47, all Republicans voting for him and Democrats against him, with Democrat Debbie Stabenow and Republican John McCain absent.

"Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell should never have advanced this nominee who is clearly unfit to serve as a federal judge and we are disappointed that Senate Republicans voted to confirm him," said David Stacy, HRC director of government affairs, in a press releast. "John Bush does not have the judgment or temperament to serve on U.S. Court of Appeals and has publicly demonstrated his contempt for LGBTQ people and their families."

Alliance for Justice president Nan Aron released this statement: "Today we've witnessed a new low for both the Senate and the federal judiciary. The GOP-led Senate has confirmed to the federal bench a person, John Bush, who has repeatedly denigrated LGBTQ Americans, women, the former President of the United States, and others, using coarse slurs and citing disreputable sources. The nomination was rammed through under pressure from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was the beneficiary of millions of dollars raised for his reelection campaign by Mr. Bush's wife. We commend Democratic Senators who stood in opposition to this nominee; this whole deal reeks, and we feel for the litigants who will have to face Judge Bush in court someday."

A Lambda Legal press release also used the "new low" language: "As noted by numerous Senators who spoke out in opposition to this nomination, Bush's offensive public statements and anonymous blog posts were rife with homophobic and misogynistic language unlike anything in recent memory. By passing along 'birther' conspiracy theories about President Obama and comparing abortion to slavery, John Bush represents a new low in terms of Congressional rubber-stamping of the extremist agenda of the Trump/Pence administration." Lambda and HRC were among several LGBT groups that sent a letter to Senators opposing Bush's appointment.

Bush is a partner in a Louisville, Ky., law firm and heads the local chapter of the Federalist Society, a conservative organization. He also has experience with Washington, D.C., law firms, has been a clerk at the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, was one of President Reagan's attorneys during the Iran-Contra investigation, and has been a member of the Sixth Circuit's Advisory Committee on Rules.

Among his statements, he has criticized the Kentucky Supreme Court's "expansive view" in a ruling that "immunized consensual sodomy from criminal prosecution." In a blog post under a pseudonym, he said of adding options "Parent 1" and "Parent 2" to "Mother" and "Father" on passport applications, "I suppose that's better than 'Thing One' or 'Thing Two', but Hillary's hybrid hardly eliminates my confusion." (The change was made by the State Department when Hillary Clinton headed it.) In another blog post, he wrote, "The two greatest tragedies in our country -- slavery and abortion -- relied on similar reasoning and activist justices at the U.S. Supreme Court, first in the Dred Scott decision, and later in Roe."

When Sen. Al Franken pressed him on the latter statement, The Daily Beast reports, "Bush provided the preposterous 'explanation' that Roe was tragic because 'it divided the country' whereas Dred Scott was tragic because it 'took away Mr. Scott's freedom' and because of its 'taking the issue of slavery out of the political process and leading to civil war.'"

The Sixth Circuit covers Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. It was the circuit that ruled against marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges, the decision overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015, bringing equal marriage rights to all 50 states. During his confirmation hearings, Bush promised to "faithfully apply" Obergefell and all other precedents. Whether or not he does will of course be scrutinized.

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