William Barr has been confirmed as US Attorney General, prompting outrage from LGBT+ activists.

President Donald Trump’s pick was voted through by the US Senate on Thursday (February 14) by a 54-45 margin, with all Democratic senators who are running for president voting against Barr.

It is feared that Barr will continue the anti-LGBT policy stances pursued within the Department of Justice under former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

US Attorney General nominee William Barr (C) is sworn in prior to Barr testifying at his confirmation hearing January 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. Barr, who previously served as Attorney General under President George H. W. Bush, was confronted about his views on the investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller.
William Barr was challenged over his role in establishing prison camps for HIV-positive people. (Alex Wong/Getty)

Barr faced criticism over his record on LGBT+ issues during his Senate confirmation hearing. He was forced to defend his role in setting up prison camps for around 300 asylum seekers with HIV during his first spell as Attorney General from 1991 to 1993.

And in October 2017, the new Attorney General wrote an article for The Catholic Lawyer in which he decried the attention shown to “the homosexual movement” and appeared to express opposition to LGBT+ anti-discrimination laws.

LGBT+ groups voice their opposition to Attorney General William Barr

Queer activist organisations have condemned Barr’s appointment and warned that he will incur legal challenges if he chooses to follow Sessions’ path in attacking LGBT+ rights.

Lambda Legal’s legal director Sharon McGowan said in a statement that “as Attorney General, William Barr will be responsible for defending the civil rights of all people, not just the wealthy and the powerful.

“From his first day on the job, he must make clear that, unlike his predecessor, he will not use the Department of Justice as a weapon of discrimination and bigotry.

“The Attorney General’s job is to enforce the law for all, and we will hold him to it.”

— ACLU legal director David Cole about William Barr

“He must bring new leadership to the Department of Justice, and get it back in the business of defending civil rights and equal justice under law for all people.”

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David Cole, the American Civil Liberties Union’s legal director, issued a similar warning, saying: “Now that William Barr has been confirmed, he should be on notice that if under his leadership the Department of Justice continues the unconstitutional policies and practices of his predecessor, the ACLU will see him in court.

“The Attorney General’s job is to enforce the law for all, and we will hold him to it.”

William Barr has previously said LGBT+ equality led to a moral crisis

Sarah Kate Ellis, president of LGBT+ media monitoring group GLAAD, referred to Barr’s 1992 comment that the US’s “sexual revolution” was partly to blame for “a great moral crisis” in the country.

In a statement, Ellis said it was “alarming and upsetting that a person citing LGBTQ people as a reason for the decline of the United States will now serve as the nation’s top law enforcement official.

“There’s little doubt that William Barr will carry on this administration’s ongoing efforts at rolling back the progress LGBTQ Americans have made in recent years.

“He has made clear that he is a threat to the very rights an AG is supposed to protect.”

— Planned Parenthood

“This confirmation today reminds us once again that the Trump administration is no friend to us.”

Reproductive health care charity Planned Parenthood called Barr’s confirmation “unacceptable” on Twitter, adding that “Senators who voted to confirm William Barr have truly lowered the bar by confirming him for US Attorney General.

“He has made clear that he is a threat to the very rights an AG is supposed to protect.”

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