Blinded by the right

Trump’s new lifetime judicial nominee reeeeally hates queers

Howard Nielson

Yesterday, Senate Republicans voted to allow a confirmation vote on Howard Nielson, Trump’s 51-year-old judicial nominee for a lifetime seat on the U.S. District Court of Utah. Nielson supports torture and opposes abortion and firearm regulation and he’s also queerphobic AF.

He’s so anti-LGBTQ that 15 national, state and local LGBT organizations — including Lambda Legal, The Community of LGBT Centers and the National Centers for Transgender Equality and Lesbian Rights — sent a letter to the Senate asking the Republican-led chamber not to approve him.

The Republicans there will probably approve him — because that’s how they roll — but let’s cover his extensive anti-LGBTQ record anyway.

In 2009, Nielson filed a motion saying that out gay Judge Vaughn Walker couldn’t be trusted to issue an impartial ruling on Proposition 8, the 2008 Californian ballot measure outlawing same-sex unions. This isn’t so different from when Trump said that Mexican judges can’t be impartial against him because of his racist comments about Mexicans — it’s bigoted.

In his other comments against same-sex marriage, Nielson has said that same-sex families are “inferior to heterosexual families” and that there’s no way to tell between queer people and people who are just “confused or maladjusted.” He also “argued that sexual orientation is a choice and disputed the evidence that discrimination against LGBTQ people leads to higher rates of depression and suicide,” according to The Huffington Post.

In 2005, while serving as a legal counsel for the U.S. Justice Department under rabidly anti-gay Republican President George W. Bush, Nielson wrote a memo supporting the use of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” (or as everyone else likes to call it, “torture.”) He basically argued that the Geneva Conventions allow U.S. personnel to torture civilians outside of the U.S.

In 2016, Nielson authored two Supreme Court amicus briefs: The first argued that the the U.S. government wasn’t legally allowed to help Americans afford healthcare under the Affordable Care Act (a key tenet of Obamacare), and the second supported an unconstitutional Texas law that would’ve made abortions virtually inaccessible throughout the state.

Nielson has also represented the National Rifle Association (NRA) in three different cases. Each time, he argued that any bans on semiautomatic rifles and large capacity magazines, people under the age of 21 buying or publicly carrying firearms were unconstitutional.

In its open letter opposing Nielson’s confirmation, Lambda Legal wrote:

There are over 70,000 LGBT people who live in the state of Utah. Salt Lake City has the seventh highest percentage of adult LGBT people in the country — even larger than New York City. It is critical that members of this vulnerable minority, like everyone else, have access to equal justice under the law when they enter the courtroom. Unfortunately, Mr. Nielson’s long record of working to undermine protections for LGBT people … demonstrates that he will not be able to impartially administer equal justice.

Over 50 Democratic Congressmen also recently sent a letter to U.S. Senators asking them not to approve Nielson for his regressive views.