Of the reported front-runners for Donald Trump’s next Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett has gotten the most attention, with many activists highlighting her ultraconservative religious beliefs and the threat she poses to LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights. But the other two judges said to be finalists are pretty appalling too. Trump has said he will announce a nominee this Saturday.
Allison Jones Rushing, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, has spoken favorably of laws that limit marriage to opposite-sex couples and has ties to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal group that has represented many anti-LGBTQ+ clients. Both the Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal have put out reports on her record.
She interned with the ADF when she was in law school at Duke University. The organization has represented a variety of anti-LGBTQ+ clients, including some involved in recent Supreme Court rulings. One was Harris Funeral Homes, which sought to justify its firing of transgender funeral director Aimee Stephens on the basis of its owner’s religious belief that gender is fixed at birth and immutable; the court, however, found that firing an employee for being trans is a violation of federal civil rights law. ADF also represented Colorado bakery owner Jack Phillips, who refused to make a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple because of his religious beliefs; he won a narrow victory, applying only to his case but not establishing a broad right to discriminate.
Rushing was not involved in those cases, but she has maintained ties with ADF since her internship. She has given presentations to ADF audiences at least eight times, in both its Virginia and Arizona offices, according to Lambda Legal. The organization’s cases focus on fighting LGBTQ+ rights and abortion rights, plus defending the rights of business owners to discriminate against customers who offend their religious beliefs.
It is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a progressive watchdog organization, which notes that it “has supported the recriminalization of sexual acts between consenting LGBTQ adults in the U.S. and criminalization abroad; has defended state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people abroad; has contended that LGBTQ people are more likely to engage in pedophilia; and claims that a ‘homosexual agenda’ will destroy Christianity and society.” Rushing’s affiliation with the ADF “proves she will be anything but impartial when judging cases with LGBTQ parties or about LGBTQ rights,” according to the HRC.
Rushing offered a justification of the Defense of Marriage Act, the now-invalidated law that prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, at a conference in Washington, D.C., in 2013. The event, titled “Enemies of Mankind”: Religion and Morality in the Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Jurisprudence, took place at Capitol Hill Baptist Church after the Supreme Court had struck down the main part of DOMA in the Windsor v. U.S. decision.
“The reasons for the law were both moral and practical,” she said in her speech, adding, “The fact that DOMA codified the definition of marriage that had prevailed throughout most of human history ... was evidence that the law did have a valid basis.” She also said the majority opinion in Windsor was written “in a unique way that calls it bigotry to believe that homosexuality does not comport with Judeo-Christian morality.” She further criticized the court majority for relying on previous pro-LGBTQ+ rulings Lawrence v. Texas and Romer v. Evans.
She has also taken anti-civil rights positions in cases involving housing discrimination and sexual harassment, according to the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which documented this in a letter opposing her confirmation to the appeals court in 2018.
Lagoa, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and a former Florida Supreme Court justice, doesn’t have much of a record on LGBTQ+ rights but has ruled against other marginalized groups. On the appeals court, she “recently joined a panel decision to strip away the right to vote from formerly incarcerated people unless they paid several fees and fines,” according to Lambda Legal, and she “refused to review a lower court’s decision to deny an immigrant’s petition for labor certification simply because he mistakenly checked the U.S. citizenship box on his driver’s license application form.”
On the Florida Supreme Court, she “refused to hear a case challenging a voter-approved minimum wage law in Miami Beach” and “held that Uber drivers were not eligible for unemployment benefits,” Lambda Legal notes.
Lambda Legal is encouraging civil rights supporters to call their senators and demand that the Senate not vote on any Supreme Court nominee until after the presidential election. “Every seat on that Court matters,” the group’s report reads. “We cannot count on the courts to defend our rights if we do not defend our courts from being packed with ideologues hostile to civil rights. The LGBTQ community deserves better, our country deserves better, and in this moment we must demand better.”