Confirming Kacsmaryk to U.S. District Court would run counter to core American values

The greatest obligation I have as a member of the United States House of Representatives is the duty to protect and preserve the rights of my constituents. So many families feel frustrated and unheard under this radical administration, and I know intimately the dispiriting power of watching your country turn away from equality and towards injustice.

I take seriously the privilege I have to help people in my district and across the nation fight for the future they know their children deserve.

One of the most lasting and damaging impacts of the Trump administration, however, is happening outside my purview and under that of the Senate. Over the last two years, I’ve watched Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) rush through 97 federal judicial nominees handed down by Trump, giving an entire cast of ideologues and right-wing partisans lifetime appointments as federal judges. One of these judges may soon be Matthew Kacsmaryk, an ultra-conservative lawyer with no prior judicial experience now nominated by the president to serve as a district judge.

While Kacsmaryk has many extreme views, I find untenable with the job he seeks — including a blanket dismissal of the entire Affordable Care Act — his view on the rights of the transgender community are particularly egregious. As the proud grandmother of a young transgender man, I cannot sit by and watch the body on the other side of the Capitol Dome confirm an aspiring judge determined to strip my grandchild — and hundreds of thousands like him — of the rights and opportunities deserved by every person.

In his work at the ill-named Liberty Institute, Kacsmaryk dismissed laws protecting the rights of LGBTQ people as a “a bad idea,” and decried the historic inclusion of protections for transgender people in the Violence Against Women Act as “a grave mistake.” Kacsmaryk has promoted disregard and dismissal of transgender people generally, calling them and their experiences a “delusion.” In fact, he characterized LGBTQ youth like my grandchild as yielding to “the erotic desires of liberated adults.”

Such harmful rhetoric about a marginalized community in our country is well below the standard a majority of the Senate should hold for a federal judge or any person trusted to uphold and interpret the law. How can any transgender person feel they are being given a fair trial in front of the bench of a man who doesn’t believe they are deserving of rights? How can any family have trust in a court system that allows for men who decry their children as delusional?

While I have been a lifelong advocate for LGBTQ equality in this country, Kacsmaryk’s words and record are particularly damaging to transgender youth like my grandson, Isaac. Transgender youth face severe stigma throughout their lives, ranging from bullying and harassment at school to abuse and rejection by their own families.

According to a recent study by the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, transgender youth are many times more likely to be harassed, bullied, physically abused, and sexually abused. One in three feel unsafe at school, and they face a suicide attempt rate nearly nine times higher than the general population.

Transgender youth and their families are facing a crisis in this country, and it is one that cannot afford a nominee like Matthew Kacsmaryk. I was so moved when my colleague, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), spoke up about her own gender non-conforming child at a hearing of the Judiciary Committee, stating “My child is free to be who they are, and in that freedom comes a responsibility for us as legislators to protect that freedom.”

I couldn’t agree more. Every lawmaker in Washington is currently being trusted with power to shape this country in a way reflective of core American values like equality, opportunity and self-determination. A vote for Matthew Kacsmaryk is an abdication of the trust our constituents invest in us, and I hope a majority of our U.S. Senate will embody that trust and vote against this disqualified and dangerous nominee.

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky represents the 9th District of Illinois. This opinion piece was originally published in The Hill on May 9.





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