BY CHRIS JOHNSON, WASHINGTON BLADE
The White House is remaining silent in the aftermath of an explosive media report that President Trump’s pick for a federal judgeship in Texas endorsed widely discredited “ex-gay” conversion therapy and called transgender kids part of “Satan’s plan.”
Neither the White House, nor the Justice Department, responded Thursday to multiple Washington Blade requests for comment on whether Trump stands by his nominee in the aftermath of criticism from LGBT groups.
As first reported by CNN on Wednesday, Jeff Mateer, nominated by Trump earlier this month to serve as a U.S. district judge for the eastern district of Texas, made the controversial anti-LGBT comments in a pair of speeches in 2015.
In a May 2015 speech, titled “The Church and Homosexuality,” Mateer talked about a Colorado lawsuit in which the parents of a transgender girl sued her school for blocking her from using the restroom consistent with her gender identity.
“In Colorado, a public school has been sued because a first grader and I forget the sex, she’s a girl who thinks she’s a boy or a boy who thinks she’s a girl, it’s probably that, a boy who thinks she’s a girl,” Mateer said. “And the school said, ‘Well, she’s not using the girl’s restroom.’ And so she has now sued to have a right to go in. Now, I submit to you, a parent of three children who are now young adults, a first grader really knows what their sexual identity? I mean it just really shows you how Satan’s plan is working and the destruction that’s going on.”
Those remarks are consistent with the Trump administration’s decision earlier this year to revoke Obama-era guidance to schools assuring transgender kids access to the restroom consistent with their gender identity.
Mateer, who’s the currently first assistant attorney general of Texas, was at the time general counsel of the First Liberty Institute, a social conservative advocacy group previously known as the Liberty Institute.
In that same May 2015 speech, Mateer said that a Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage — which had not yet come out — could pervert the institution of marriage in “disgusting” ways.
“I submit to you that there’ll be no line there,” he said. “And actually in the arguments of Chief Justice Roberts, who’s in the center there said, I mean, what is the limiting? Why couldn’t four people wanna get married? Why not one man and three women? Or three women and one man? And we’re gonna spare you some of those slides. We actually have a presentation that we get into it. And I’ll tell you, we say it’s PG-13, it may be R, or what do they call the next one? NC-17 or whatever?”
In separate remarks in November 2015, Mateer lamented the push to ban “ex-gay” conversion therapy at a conference hosted by pastor Kevin Swanson, who gained notoriety during the 2016 presidential election for remarks insisting homosexuality should be punishable by death.
“Biblical counselors and therapists, we’ve seen cases in New Jersey and in California where folks have gotten in trouble because they gave biblical counseling and, you know, the issue is always, it’s same sex,” Mateer says in the speech. “And if you’re giving conversion therapy, that’s been outlawed in at least two states and then in some local areas. So they’re invading that area.”
Major medical and psychological groups — including the American Psychiatric Association — have come out against the practice of conversion therapy, which is in fact harmful to LGBT people.
Among those expressing condemnation of Mateer after his remarks were revealed was the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has successfully sued organizations that engage in conversion therapy.
David Dinielli, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said Trump has “once again demonstrated his complete disregard for the LGBT community” by the nomination of Mateer.
“Jeff Mateer has demonized the most vulnerable members of our community and expressed support for conversion therapy – the dangerous, fraudulent, discredited and inhumane practice that purports to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” Dinielli said. “There is no place on our federal bench for people who harbor this sort of extreme and dangerous bias.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement Mateer’s remarks cast “serious doubt” over his capacity to serve as a federal judge.
“Jeff Mateer has expressed reprehensible views about LGBT Americans,” Feinstein said. “There’s no question these views cast serious doubt on his ability to fairly enforce federal law and treat people impartially, a subject committee Democrats will be sure to tackle at his nomination hearing.”
A Feinstein spokesperson said Mateer’s confirmation hearing isn’t yet scheduled and the nominee hasn’t yet submitted his materials to the Senate Judiciary Commitee. Feinstein didn’t officially commit to voting “no” on Matter, the spokesperson said, out of policy of withholding a decision until after a confirmation hearing.
Sharon McGowan, a former civil rights attorney at the Justice Department under the Obama administration and Lambda Legal’s director of strategy, said the Mateer nomination “is the Trump administration’s latest slap in the face” to LGBT people.
“Unfortunately, the nomination of someone with Mateer’s explicitly homophobic and transphobic record can no longer be described as shocking – rather, it’s part of a larger pattern of actions by this administration that seek to turn back the clock with respect to the progress that this country has made on issues of LGBT equality,” McGowan added.
Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice, said Mateer’s comments are “among the most disgusting ever made by a federal judicial nominee” and called on the administration to “withdraw Mateer’s nomination immediately.”
“We are already seeing a well-documented pattern of anti-LGBTQ bias emerging among President Trump’s judicial nominees, most notably John Bush and Damien Schiff,” Aron added. “The Senate’s confirmation of Bush despite his history of bigoted remarks stands as a shameful day in its history, and there is no excuse for either the Senate or this administration to advance another nominee who has shown such hostility and hatred toward millions of Americans.”