On Friday, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), urged the Senate Judicary Committee to reject the nomination of Lawrence VanDyke to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in light of his anti-LGBTQ history and a rare “unqualified” rating from the American Bar Association.
“Lawrence VanDyke has made clear that he has no intention of upholding the rights of LGBTQ people,” said HRC President Alphonso David.
“From his college writings to his roles in government, VanDyke has spent his career consistently opposed to equality for all people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Senate should not confirm a judicial nominee who has received a rare rating of ‘unqualified’ from the American Bar Association, in part because of his inability or unwillingness to separate his deeply troubling anti-LGBTQ views from professional decisions demanding legal analysis. Senators must reject this nomination and demand a nominee who will uphold the rights of all citizens under the Constitution, not just some.”
Last month, the American Bar Association took the rare step of rating VanDyke as “unqualified,” noting that colleagues of his that were interviewed consistently gave this description “arrogant, lazy, an ideologue and lacking in knowledge of the day-today practice including procedural rules. There was a theme that the nominee lacks humility, has an ‘entitlement’ temperament, does not have an open mind, and does not always have a commitment to being candid and truthful.”
Furthermore, they were concerned “about whether Mr. VanDyke would be fair to persons who are gay, lesbian or otherwise part of the LGBTQ community.”
VanDyke has a long history of extremist anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and actions. As a student at Harvard Law School, he wrote an op-ed claiming that marriage equality would “hurt families and consequentially children and society.”
At his hearing, VanDyke was provided with an opportunity to address his previous statements regarding marriage equality, specifically as to whether marriage equality damaged children. He pointedly refused to answer. VanDyke also refused to respond to Senators’ inquiries as to his legal approach to the intersection of LGBTQ rights and religious liberty.
Instead, he referenced his involvement in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez on behalf of a group called Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty. These actions provide no assurance for LGBTQ litigants. This case addressed whether a university’s nondiscrimination policy required a Christian legal organisation operating on campus to welcome LGBTQ students.
The brief authored by VanDyke argued that LGBTQ protections do not require a religious group not to discriminate. Trying to argue that a case to limit legal protections for LGBTQ people is an example of how he would be fair to LGBTQ litigants provides no reassurance whatsoever.
Emails from him and state colleagues reveal a Solicitor General who had little interest in engaging in the daily tasks of the office, and instead an ideologue committed to advancing a political agenda. For example, VanDyke consistently prioritised evaluating and joining amicus briefs supporting other states’ efforts to undermine abortion access, marriage equality, and gun safety measures.
While serving in the office of the Montana Solicitor General, VanDyke helped draft an amicus brief in support of a photography business seeking to discriminate against same-sex couples, and helped recruit other signatories. Further, he pushed the office of the Montana Attorney General to join several amicus briefs opposing marriage equality, and supporting the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act.
He has long-standing affiliations with extreme anti-LGBTQ groups, including the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and the Family Research Council (FRC), notorious for their advocacy against the rights and livelihoods of LGBTQ people.
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organisation, working to achieve equality for LGBTQ people.