Just like his old one, President Donald Trump’s new choice for Attorney General is no friend to the LGBTQ community.
The POTUS nominated William Barr to replace the outgoing Jeff Sessions, who resigned earlier this year at Trump’s request. In comments delivered to reporters on the White House lawn, he referred to Barr as a “highly respected lawyer” and a “terrific man.”
“He was my first choice from day one, respected by Republicans and respected by Democrats,” Trump said of Barr, who previously served as Attorney General under President George H.W. Bush from 1991 to 1993. “He will be nominated for the U.S. attorney general and hopefully that process will go very quickly, and I think it will go very quickly.”
The 68-year-old’s decades-long record in public life includes working on domestic policy under the Reagan administration and serving in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel under Bush. Barr quickly rose the ranks to the DOJ’s top position.
But while supporters of the nomination lauded it as a comparatively “mature” pick for the president, critics noted Barr’s well-documented history of anti-LGBTQ remarks.
During a May 1992 speech at a dinner thrown by Agudath Israel of America, Barr lamented a “steady assault” on “the moral values that have sustained this country” since the mid-1960s, which he believes has “led to America’s decline.”
“We have lived through 25 years of permissiveness, sexual revolution, and the drug culture,” he claimed while accepting the group’s humanitarian award. “People have been encouraged to cast off conventional morality and old-fashioned restraints. The emphasis has been on individual fulfillment and the unbridled pursuit of pleasure.”
“Moral tradition has given way to moral relativism,” Barr continued, calling it a “doctrine which… [gives] full leeway to the pursuit of individual appetites.”
While the former CIA official didn’t specifically name the LGBTQ community in that address, compare those to comments he made in an October 2017 journal article penned for The Catholic Lawyer. He bemoaned a 1987 decision from U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia compelling Georgetown University to “treat homosexual activist groups like any other student group.”
Barr used the same language as before—on the “moral relativist viewpoint”—to condemn that ruling. He claimed granting equal footing on campus to LGBTQ student organizations “dissolves any form of moral consensus in society.”
In a subsequent passage lamenting that fellow Catholics do not follow “traditional morality,” Barr again harped on his criticism of the so-called “homosexual movement.”
“If the Catholic faithful do not take the hierarchy seriously, why should anybody else in the political structure?” he wrote. “It is no accident that the homosexual movement, at one or two percent of the population, gets treated with such solicitude while the Catholic population, which is over a quarter of the country, is given the back of the hand.”
“How has that come to be?” Barr continued. “We need to go back to basics and reassemble the flock. We may be frittering away our limited moral capital on a host of agenda items.”
The watchdog group GLAAD suggested his comments should immediately disqualify him from the position of Attorney General.
“William Barr… is the latest in a long line of replacements who President Trump has appointed to his Cabinet who are just as anti-LGBTQ as their predecessors,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, its president and CEO. “If confirmed, there’s little doubt that William Barr would continue the Trump Administration’s objective of erasing LGBTQ Americans from the fabric of this nation.”
DNC Chair Tom Perez also issued a statement in response to the nomination:
“Our next attorney general must be able to stand up to the president and act as an independent law enforcement official. Trump has consistently shown a corrupt disregard for the rule of law and used his office to undermine civil rights, workers’ rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and voting rights.
“William Barr must assure the American people that he will resist any attempt by the president to interfere in law enforcement matters, and he must unequivocally commit to protecting the special counsel’s investigation and defending our constitutional rights.”
Human Rights Campaign’s Director of Government Affairs David Stacy also released a statement:
“The Trump-Pence White House and the Justice Department have been pursuing a policy agenda to undermine the legal rights of LGBTQ people since day one. From his views around HIV/AIDS during his tenure as attorney general to his more recent writing promoting extreme views around religious exemptions, William Barr looks ill suited to be our country’s top law enforcement officer. The Senate has a solemn responsibility to advise and consent on this important nomination and his troubling views on LGBTQ equality and the law must be thoroughly vetted.”
If confirmed by the Senate, Barr would seemingly fall in line with his predecessors in the DOJ.
While Attorney General of Alabama, Sessions fought to keep an LGBTQ conference from meeting at the University of Alabama. During his nearly two-year stint in the Trump administration, his DOJ argued Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect workers from being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.
Shortly before tendering his resignation, Sessions’ office also argued that trans employees aren’t protected under federal civil rights law.
After the former Alabama Senator announced he would be stepping down from the DOJ in November, Sessions was replaced by Matthew Whitaker. As U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, he allegedly persecuted openly gay Iowa State Sen. Matt McCoy because of his pro-LGBTQ activism.
While Senate Democrats could choose to oppose yet another anti-LGBTQ pick to the DOJ, it’s unlikely they would have the votes to do so. They will be outnumbered 53 to 47 when Congress reconvenes in the new year.