Matthew Kacsmaryk was confirmed to a federal judgeship despite opposition from 75 advocacy organizations representing LGBT interests.
The Senate on Wednesday cleared the Donald Trump appointee 52 to 46 for a lifetime seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, which includes Dallas.
Democratic lawmakers and LGBT rights groups have questioned Kacsmaryk’s ability to remain impartial in cases, especially those involving gay and transgender Americans.
“This is not a person who can sit on the bench and apply justice with an even hand,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said Tuesday. “We have a man with deep, powerful prejudices that he will bring to bear on the cases before him.”
Trump has vowed to reshape the judiciary with conservative appointees, and the Republican-led Senate has obliged by confirming virtually all of his nominees.
Democrats have complained that a number of them are unqualified or too extreme to sit as district, or trial, judges, or on the nation’s federal appeals courts, which are one step below the U.S. Supreme Court.
In Kacsmaryk, Trump put forward and Republicans approved a conservative attorney who implied in a regulatory matter that transgender people are delusional.
Kacsmaryk represented Oregon bakery owners fined for refusing on religious grounds to make custom cakes for a same-sex couple’s wedding, in Klein v. Or. Bureau of Labor & Indus. The Supreme Court recently sent that case back to the Oregon Court of Appeals in light of its decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colo. Civil Rights Comm’n, which ruled narrowly in favor of a Christian baker who had a similar religious objection.
Harper Jean Tobin, policy director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, one of the 75 groups that signed the letter opposing Kacsmaryk, described him as one of Trump’s “most anti-LGBTQ” nominees.
Kacsmaryk, a former Baker Botts associate and deputy general counsel for the conservative religious freedom group First Liberty Institute, didn’t return a request for comment. First Liberty Institute’s president and CEO said in a statement that Kacsmaryk is a “staunch defender” of the Constitution.
Conservatives, including his two Republican home-state senators, have defended him. Trump’s pick is “an accomplished attorney with a proven record of excellence, professionalism, and fidelity to the U.S. Constitution,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has said.
The Senate voted to confirm three other district judges, all of whom received a rating of “Well Qualified” from the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary; Kacsmaryk received a rating of “Qualified.”
Allen Winsor was confirmed to the Northern District of Florida on a 54 to 44 vote. Winsor has been a judge on the Florida First District Court of Appeal since 2016 and previously served as the state’s solicitor general. He was an associate at King & Spalding in Atlanta from 2003-05.
James Cain Jr. was easily confirmed to the Western District of Louisiana, 77 to 21. He is a founding partner of a law firm in Lake Charles, La.
Greg Guidry was confirmed to the Eastern District of Louisiana, 53 to 46. Guidry has been a justice on the Louisiana Supreme Court since 2009 and previously served as assistant attorney general for the Louisiana Department of Justice.
All four confirmed judges are members of the Federalist Society.