Most Americans don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this country’s court system. If you’re lucky, you don’t have a lot of direct contact with the courts. The most privileged among us don’t even really have to think about it at all.
The judicial system is like a sewer system: If it’s working okay, then it’s largely out-of-sight out-of-mind. But when it gets clogged up with garbage, everybody is sorry they didn’t take better care of it and check on it sooner.
And clogging our courts up with garbage is just what Donald Trump is doing.
He’s outsourced the judge-picking to far-right groups, who give him names of extremists that he then dutifully nominates.
His nominees are unfit for the bench. But when you’re the president, they let you nominate those people anyway.
One of these unfit nominees is Jeff Mateer, who has been nominated for a lifetime seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.
And he is a nightmare.
In a video put together by the People for the American Way, Mateer calls homosexuality “the elephant in the room,” and bemoans “the agenda that this small group is seeking and imposing on the rest of us.” According to this man, who Trump wants to make a judge forever, LGBTQ people are not protected by the Constitution.
“I’ve read the 14th Amendment thousands of times,” Mateer says in a recording. “I don’t see anything about right to same-sex marriage. I don’t see anything saying right to homosexuality. I don’t see anything about right to privacy.”
No doubt he thinks it perfectly all right to tell a lesbian couple, “We’re not going to rent to you,” or to refuse to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding, just by citing religious freedom.
He also believes in so-called “reparative therapy,” which has been thoroughly debunked by medical experts but is still embraced by those who believe that you can just “pray the gay away.”
The worst of it is what he has to say about transgender kids and their audacity to fight for the right to use the restroom at school: “It just shows you how Satan’s plan is working and the destruction that’s going on,” Mateer says.
Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, isn’t having it.
“How dare he?” Keisling asks. “How dare anyone talk about children this way? This nomination is another slap in the face to hundreds of thousands of families across the country and their children who are transgender. How can they explain to their children that a public official, let alone a judge, speaks about them this way?
“This nominee simply cannot be confirmed.”
And yet, he probably will be.
Republicans have been rubber stamping Trump’s nominees. The Democrats are opposing them, but they are in the minority.
In a letter signed by 278 parents of transgender children from 36 states, Mateer is encouraged to apologize and invited to withdraw his nomination.
“Hundreds of thousands of children and adolescents throughout this country are transgender, like our kids,” the letter reads. “Like all children — like your children, Mr. Mateer — they deserve to grow up knowing that they are loved and supported.
“Your statements about children like ours are the opposite of love — they are cruel. We urge you to apologize sincerely and without reservation to us and our families and all the others like us, and to clearly articulate how wrong and damaging your words are to children like ours — or to withdraw your nomination.”
Of course, that’s like imploring the fox to be nice to the chickens now that he has the key to the coop. The radical right doesn’t exactly have a history of showing mercy to LGBTQ people.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
Elections have consequences. And when Trump is finally gone, his legacy will live on in conservative anti-LGBTQ judges across the country and in the Supreme Court that will shape the legal landscape for generations to come. Some of the battles we thought we won will have to be fought again.
The most effective weapon against this? Vote.
D’Anne Witkowski is a poet, writer and comedian living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBT politics for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 6, 2017.