President Donald Trump on Monday nominated conservative jurist Brett Kavanaugh as his second pick to the U.S. Supreme Court. The choice, lauded by Republicans and conservatives, has alarmed Democrats, and advocates for LGBTQ people and women.
Kavanaugh, 53, has served for 12 years on the D.C. Court of Appeals, nominated to that role in 2003 by President George W. Bush. A contentious three-year debate surrounded his nomination. Democrats at the time feared he was far too conservative. Kavanaugh’s final approval by the U.S. Senate came in 2006, when only three Democrats voted to appoint him.
Among the chief concerns are Kavanaugh’s potential rulings on reproductive health and same-sex marriage.
Progressive groups have latched onto Kavanaugh’s membership in the Federalist Society, a right-leaning organization of Republicans and Libertarians who seek to reform the nation’s legal system.
Advocates have also criticized Kavanaugh for the support he received from the far-right anti-LGBTQ group the Family Research Council, listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“We note that the Family Research Council (FRC) repeatedly advocated on behalf of Mr. Kavanaugh’s nomination,” LGBTQ legal advocacy group Lambda Legal wrote in a release on Monday evening. “FRC sent an email alert in 2005 urging supporters of the religious right to contact Congress and demand Kavanaugh be confirmed. FRC also criticized then-Senator Bill Frist (R-T.N.) for not advancing Kavanaugh’s nomination. After Judge Kavanaugh was finally confirmed, FRC praised the vote and urged action on other nominees.”
Lambda Legal added, “It is clear that they believed that Mr. Kavanaugh would represent their interests, are focused largely on working to undermine the rights of LGBTQ people.”
Kavanaugh’s actual record on LGBTQ rulings are slim, but advocates have pointed to several other cases they say raise alarm.
Last year, Kavanaugh ruled against an undocumented teenager seeking an abortion. In his ruling, Kavanaugh criticized “abortion on demand.”
Kavanaugh has also consistently ruled against workers and in favor of employers, including several discrimination cases and a ruling in favor of companies who sought religious exemptions to the Affordable Care Act.
“Judge Kavanaugh’s record clearly demonstrates his hostility toward civil rights,” Lambda Legal said.
Kavanaugh’s views on executive and presidential power have also been questioned. In some opinions, Kavanaugh has said the president cannot be sued, indicted, tried or investigated for crimes or even questioned by prosecutors while in office, according to The Atlantic.
In his dissent to a challenge to the Affordable Care Act, Kavanaugh also outlined what some have called a radical interpretation of the Constitution and presidential power. In his dissent, Kavanaugh wrote: “Under the Constitution, the President may decline to enforce a statute that regulates private individuals when the President deems the statute unconstitutional even if a court has held or would hold the statute constitutional.”
Kavanaugh was born and raised in Washington, D.C. He attended Yale Law School and clerked for retiring Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, who he’ll replace if appointed by the Senate. Kavanaugh’s profile in public surface increased when he joined the legal team of Kenneth Starr, for whom he had worked under President George H.W. Bush. Starr’s investigation ultimately led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment later in the decade.
As a lawyer, Kavanaugh has taken decidedly conservative cases, which could raise the suspicious of progressives and LGBTQ advocates. In 1999, he argued in favor of a New Mexico school district’s student-led prayers at football games. In 2000, he represented Florida’s then-Gov. Jeb Bush, as he defended a school voucher program that redirected money from public schools to private religious schools.
Court watcher Adam Feldman has said Kavanaugh’s 12 years’ worth of D.C. Circuit rulings have “almost entirely in favor of big businesses, employers in employment disputes, and against defendants in criminal cases.”