Forty-seven LGBTQ advocacy groups have come out against the appointment of Trump nominee Eric Dreiband, who is poised to lead the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Office.
In a Tuesday letter, organizations like Lambda Legal, People for the American Way, and National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund called on Congress to oppose Dreiband’s nomination. The signatories claim that he would be “ill-suited” to defend the rights of LGBTQ people and other marginalized groups, including women and people of color.
“The message being sent…could not be more clear,” the statement reads. “The Civil Rights Division will no longer be in the business of defending civil rights.”
As an attorney at Jones Day, Dreiband defended the University of North Carolina’s position on House Bill 2, the divisive anti-LGBTQ bathroom bill passed in 2016. The university initially stated that it would comply with the law but reversed its decision following lawsuits from trans students and staff members.
But Vanita Gupta, who headed up the DOJ’s civil rights office under Obama, says that Dreiband’s poor record of equality extends beyond the LGBTQ community.
Calling him “woefully unqualified” for the post, Gupta claims in a statement that Drieband “has made a name for himself as one of corporate America’s go-to lawyers in an effort to restrict the rights and remedies for discrimination victims.”
Despite serving in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under George W. Bush, Dreiband has continually defended companies accused of discrimination.
His prior clients include Abercrombie & Fitch, which was sued by a Muslim woman who claimed she was denied a job at the clothing retailer for wearing a headscarf. When Bloomberg L.P. was accused of discriminating against female employees by docking their pay if they became pregnant, Dreiband helped the New York-based consulting company win that case.
The NAACP additionally claimed in a statement that Dreiband has “[advocated] for weaker anti-discrimination protections in the workplace.”
Drieband’s record, though, is in the model of previous Trump appointees to the DOJ’s civil rights office, which has been a revolving door since his inauguration. After Thomas E. Wheeler stepped down from the post in July, the office has been led in the interim by John M. Gore, a fellow Jones Day attorney who worked on the HB 2 case. Throughout his career, Gore has repeatedly defended red states accused of unlawful gerrymandering.
The White House has previously defended the nominee’s controversial history on civil rights.
“The White House judges nominees on the merits of their character and not on the clients they once represented as counsel,” White House spokeswoman Kelly Love said in a statement to CNN. “Mr. Dreiband is highly qualified to run the civil rights division, and we are privileged to have his service.”
Drieband’s pending appointment follows numerous moves by the Trump administration to curtail its civil rights offices. The president’s proposed 2017-2018 budget would ax 600 jobs from the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which oversees discrimination complaints among federal contractors. It also calls for drastic cuts to the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights.
The nominee is set to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.