A nominee for a position in the U.S. Marshals Service, a federal law enforcement agency, has been accused of transphobia — by his transgender daughter, who says he told her she was “possessed by the devil.”
Frank Coffman, a veteran Secret Service agent, was nominated by Donald Trump to serve as U.S. marshal for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, a position that is subject to Senate confirmation. The U.S. Marshals Service “is the enforcement arm of the federal courts,” with duties that include “protecting the federal judiciary, apprehending federal fugitives, managing and selling seized assets acquired by criminals through illegal activities, housing and transporting federal prisoners and operating the Witness Security Program,” according to its website.
Bailey Coffman, now 30, told BuzzFeed that when she came out as transgender in 2015, her father did not take it well. “He accused me of being possessed by the devil, and corrupted by demons and society,” she said. “He told me you’ll never be female, you’re not female, and you’ll only ever be a freak in a dress.”
“If he feels this way about transgender people, I wonder what he would do with a case involving an LGBT person,” she continued. “I worry about the bigotry he would bring to this job — if he would be fair.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked Frank Coffman about the comments in a questionnaire last month. She noted that an Oklahoma LGBT publication, The Gayly, had reported the comments in 2017, having interviewed Bailey. The elder Coffman responded to the questionnaire last week, saying he had never made those statements or other anti-transgender comments, and that Bailey “is my child whom I love very much.”
In the questionnaire, a copy of which was obtained by BuzzFeed, he also said that over his 25-year career as a police officer, probation officer, and Secret Service agent, he has never “demonstrated bias or prejudice against any individual or group of individuals, including those in the LGBT community. If confirmed, I will perform the duties of a United States Marshal in the same manner.”
Jacob Coffman, Bailey’s brother, said that her coming-out “was a shock to our family” and that his father was “confused” but trying to understand. “I remember my dad hugging [her] and saying, ‘I want to understand,’” he told BuzzFeed. Jacob added, “Even if he wasn’t supportive of that type of, I don’t want to say lifestyle, but that lifestyle, when it comes to his job, that is not going to change anything he does in the law.”
Feinstein and another Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Cory Booker, also queried Frank Coffman about some messages he’d posted on his Twitter account, mostly retweets. They included anti-transgender tweets from evangelical minister Franklin Graham and tweets from Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee that were critical of Black Lives Matter. There was also a tweet from Graham that claimed God placed Trump in office as president “to stop the godless, atheistic progressive agenda from taking control.” Coffman replied, “I often re-tweet tweets from a variety of individuals on a variety of issues to elicit conversation. These re-tweets are not endorsements.”
LGBT activists said Coffman should be thoroughly vetted. “These are allegations [from his daughter], but they deserve to be fully explored and answered before a nomination like this goes forward,” Harper Jean Tobin, policy director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, told BuzzFeed.
“Given the concerns and allegations raised by a member of the nominee's immediate family, and the inflammatory and demeaning tweets by the nominee, the burden is on him to prove that these things are not true, he does not believe these things, and he can be fair and unbiased,” Tobin added. “These minimal answers are not enough.”