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Feinstein Statement on Kacsmaryk Nomination

  Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today released the following statement on the nomination of Matthew Kacsmaryk to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas:

            “June is the month that we recognize as Pride Month to celebrate the lesbian and gay community – and to acknowledge that individuals should not be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation.

            Yet, today we are voting on a nominee, Mr. Kacsmaryk, whose career has been defined by opposition to the rights of LGBT Americans. He has argued against marriage equality and defended a company that refused to provide service to a same-sex couple – simply based on their sexual orientation.

            It is disappointing that the Senate is moving forward on his nomination, and even more disappointing that the majority has scheduled this vote during Pride Month.

            Mr. Kacsmaryk’s long record of opposing civil rights protections for LGBT Americans should disqualify him from service on the bench. They demonstrate that he puts his personal opinion above Supreme Court precedent.

            Specifically, I want to highlight some key positions in his record.

            In 2015, Mr. Kacsmaryk made comments deeply critical of United States v. Windsor, the case that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. Mr. Kacsmaryk claimed that the Obama Administration – which refused to defend DOMA – had “effectively collaborated with the adversary.”

            Mr. Kacsmaryk’s comments make clear that he believes those fighting for the right of LGBT Americans – including the right to marry – are adversaries. Someone making a statement like this should quite simply not be a federal judge. 

            He likewise claimed in a radio interview that efforts to achieve marriage equality were marked by “lawlessness,” adding that the Justice Department’s refusal to defend DOMA was an “abuse of rule of law principles.”

            Also in 2015, Mr. Kacsmaryk submitted a brief in Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark Supreme Court case that guaranteed marriage equality.

            Mr. Kacsmaryk urged the Court to deny that the Fourteenth Amendment extended to the right of same-sex couples to marry.  He argued that finding a nationwide right to marriage equality would violate the free speech rights of those who oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds.

            And he claimed that allowing gay couples to marry would “silence religious dissenters who continue to hold to their millennia-old definition of marriage.” The Supreme Court disagreed.

            In 2016, Mr. Kacsmaryk continued his efforts opposing the civil rights of LGBT individuals by defending a company that refused to sell a wedding cake to a same sex couple, simply because they were gay.

            Mr. Kacsmaryk denied that the business had refused to sell the cake because of the customers’ sexual orientation. Instead, he claimed that the law prohibiting discrimination against LGBT individuals “forc[ed] business owners to publicly facilitate ceremonies, rituals, and other expressive events with which they have fundamental” disagreements.

            Businesses should not be permitted to discriminate against customers because of their sexual orientation. But in Matthew Kacsmaryk’s opinion, it is completely acceptable to do just that.

            Throughout his career, Mr. Kacsmaryk has taken particularly offensive positions on the rights of transgender Americans, including transgender youth.

            He has argued that being transgender is a “delusion.”

            He also signed onto a letter claiming that transgender people are suffering from a “psychological condition in need of care,” and are “not a category of persons in need of special legal protection.”

            Taken together, these positions show that Mr. Kacsmaryk has strong personal beliefs and is opposed to defending civil rights of gay and lesbian individuals.

            Further, when asked during his hearing whether he would recuse himself from cases involving LGBT individuals, Mr. Kacsmaryk refused. When asked in written questions how his record did not create an appearance of impropriety when it comes to deciding cases on gay rights, Mr. Kacsmaryk simply cited the federal recusal statute, refusing to answer the question directly. 

            In addition, Mr. Kacsmaryk has also worked to undermine women’s access to reproductive health care.

            For example, he argued that the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage requirement was unconstitutional, and then later claimed that the Obama Administration’s religious accommodation to that requirement was likewise unconstitutional.

            Without any evidence, Mr. Kacsmaryk accused the Obama Administration of treating religious protections “as a secondary consideration.” With respect to the accommodation – which required non-profit organizations to submit a one-page form to their insurer noting their objections – Mr. Kacsmaryk claimed the government was “forc[ing] religious objectors to provide material aid to those who would commit the ultimately wrongful act” of providing contraceptives.

            He also argued that a Washington State statute requiring all pharmacies to stock emergency contraceptives violated the rights of religious pharmacists. The statute permitted individual pharmacists to decline to fill prescriptions that ran contrary to their religious beliefs.

            But this was not enough for Mr. Kacsmaryk, who argued that the pharmacies themselves should be exempt from the statute. He also claimed that in seeking to provide contraception to women, Washington had “radically depart[ed] from the nationwide consensus protecting conscience rights” for health care professionals.

            The Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

            Given the positions he has taken in litigation and the inflammatory comments he has made in his personal capacity, I am concerned Mr. Kacsmaryk will not bring the temperament needed to demonstrate respect for all litigants that we expect from all federal judges.

            Madam President, I am voting against Mr. Kacsmaryk because I believe his record shows he is far outside the legal mainstream, and I urge my colleagues to do the same.”