It can be hard to believe this administration is doing even more damage under the shadow cast by the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh — President Trump’s beleaguered Supreme Court pick who responded to credible allegations of sexual abuse with partisan attacks and outraged entitlement. After the disheartening conclusion of that fight, however, this administration is continuing its anti-transgender transformation of our legal system on another level.
Just this week, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a vote on the nomination of Chad Readler to a lifetime appointment on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals — the final level in the judicial system before cases reach the Supreme Court. This week, NCTE published a strong letter of opposition to Readler — a hyper-partisan lawyer who has attacked the rights of transgender people to health care and defended the administration’s baseless attempt to ban transgender troops.
Mr. Readler has a record of advancing extreme and dubious legal arguments,” our letter of opposition notes, “sometimes reaching beyond the bounds of zealous advocacy, in support of efforts to strip individuals of their civil rights.”
Readler currently serves, an until recently led, the Civil Division of Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department, where has made the legal arguments behind numerous Trump Administration attacks and LGBT people and civil rights generally. Readler has one critical credential in common with Brett Kavanaugh: he can be counted on to help sabotage the Affordable Care Act.
Readler wrote the Trump Administration’s court brief challenging the right of people with pre-existing conditions to health insurance, prompting the Republican chair of the Senate Committee on health care to call his arguments “as far-fetched as any I’ve ever heard.” In fact, Readler’s arguments against the law were so extreme, a top Justice Department attorney resigned rather than take part in the brief. Two other career attorneys also refused to sign it.
As our letter notes, Readler also led the Justice Department’s effort to strip the ACA — the first federal law to explicitly ban sex discrimination in health care — of its legal protections for transgender patients by refusing to defendthe law’s protections for transgender patients.
Readler is also the lead attorney defending the administration’s reckless attempts to ban transgender people from serving in the military. The ban was purely a concoction of the President’s own prejudice and ignorance — as recent reporting has confirmed. But Readler has taken the lead on defending the ban in court after court, where it has roundly been dismissed as baseless, unnecessary, and unconstitutional.
His horrendous record puts Readler alongside previous Trump judicial nominees like Jeff Mateer, who literally demonized transgender children and Justice Kavanaugh himself, who has taken similarly fringe positions on the Affordable Care Act and the right of all people to adequate health care access. It’s no wonder Readler is opposed by home-state Senator Sherrod Brown. Brown’s opposition alone would normally sink the nomination under Senate traditions, but Senate leaders are plowing ahead anyway.
Justice Kavanaugh’s appointment is a horrendous insult to the rights of transgender Americans — particularly the half of all transgender people who have experienced sexual violence. No transgender person standing before Justice Kavanaugh will ever feel they are getting a fair, unbiased trial. The same is true of Chad Readler — just one more step in the administration’s campaign to undo the progress of our rights.