LGBT rights organisations in the US have condemned the Senate’s decision to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Kavanaugh was nominated by President Donald Trump in July and won support from a majority of senators—49 Republicans and one Democrat, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who is facing a tough re-election in his Trump-supporting home state—in a 50-48 vote on Saturday.
He was sworn in shortly afterwards to the lifetime position on the nine-judge court, which has a final saying on the interpretation of US law and will now present a conservative majority—Kavanaugh replaces Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has been the swing vote on many key decisions including the historic 2015 marriage equality ruling.
Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins, who was seen as a possible vote against Kavanaugh for her previous pro-marriage equality and pro-choice positions, supported the judge’s confirmation and faced criticism from LGBT+ groups.
“Senator Collins, who presented the closing argument on behalf of Senator McConnell and GOP leadership, has forever tarnished her legacy as a moderate, independent thinker,” said Sharon McGowan, Lambda Legal Chief Strategy Officer and Legal Director.
McGowan added: “Her full-throated endorsement of Brett Kavanaugh, coupled with her attacks on those who raised concerns about his nomination, were the defensive words of a partisan apologist, and not someone who takes reproductive freedom, LGBTQ rights or affordable health care seriously.”
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) group, which controversially endorsed Collins in 2014, condemned the Maine senator’s decision in a statement on Friday.
“We are deeply disappointed in Senator Collins today. In one of the most consequential votes of her lifetime—and of her constituents’ lifetimes—she has opted to back a dangerous, unqualified nominee who repeatedly lied under oath and has multiple credible allegations of sexual assault,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.
Most Democrats already opposed Kavanaugh, concerned about his previous record and consequences of his presence on the bench for women, minorities and LGBT+ people—but the opposition against his nomination intensified after three women came forward with allegations of sexual assault against the judge.
After the first woman to come forward against Kavanaugh, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, gave a poised and moving testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 27—followed by Kavanaugh’s forceful denial of the allegation and defence of his reputation—the FBI was tasked with conducting an investigation into the claim, producing a report after five days that was available to the senators, but not to the public.
According to GOP senators, the FBI report failed to corroborate Dr. Ford’s claims and cleared the way for Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski broke with her GOP colleagues—she simply said “present” rather than expressing a vote either for or against the nomination—after she voted against advancing the nomination to the Senate floor on Friday.
“50 members of the United States Senate opted to back a dangerous, unqualified nominee who demonstrated he lacks the temperament, honesty and objectivity required of any judge and continues to face multiple credible allegations of sexual assault that have not been fully investigated,” said HRC’s Griffin said in a separate statement on Saturday, following the vote.
National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) Legal Director Shannon Minter described the vote as a “blow” to the legitimacy of the Supreme Court presenting a “danger” to LGBT+ people.
“Today’s Senate vote is a slap in the face to women and all sexual assault survivors. It is also a blow to the legitimacy of the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh’s belligerence and hyperpartisan attacks at last week’s hearing do not reflect the temperament or impartiality required for a lifetime appointment to our nation’s highest court,” Minter said in a statement, adding: “The appointment of an openly partisan nominee threatens that balance and poses a danger to the equal rights of women, religious minorities, people of colour, and LGBT people.”