People For the American Way

Trump’s Texas Judicial Nominee Jeff Mateer Is Unfit to Serve

News and Analysis

Just when you think Donald Trump’s judicial nominees can’t get any more extreme, along comes Jeff Mateer of Texas. Yesterday, CNN and Right Wing Watch reported on Mateer’s long history of extremism against LGBTQ people, including his assertion that transgender children are part of “Satan’s plan,” his defense of dangerously harmful “conversion therapy,” and his belief that allowing people to marry someone of the same sex would lead to allowing people to marry animals.

Mateer also spoke at a 2015 conference organized by right-wing extremist Kevin Swanson. As Right Wing Watch reported in 2015, before the event:

Swanson has called homosexuality a “death penalty crime” and defended a Ugandan measure to make homosexuality a criminal offense punishable by life imprisonment or the death penalty, saying he was glad the country was “standing strong” by adopting extreme anti-gay laws. He has said that it’s acceptable to attend a gay couple’s wedding only if you hold up a sign telling them they should be put to death.

Swanson was far from the only conference speaker who called for the execution of lesbians and gays. However, this did not deter Mateer from attending and lending his support to what Rachel Maddow dubbed the “kill the gays rally.”

Now, at Ted Cruz and John Cornyn’s recommendation, President Trump has nominated Mateer to be a federal district judge—a lifetime position.

Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein has correctly noted what Mateer’s statements say about his ability to be an impartial judge, as reported by the San Antonio Express-News:

“Jeff Mateer has expressed reprehensible views about LGBT Americans,” she said. “There’s no question these views cast serious doubt on his ability to fairly enforce federal law and treat people impartially, a subject that committee Democrats will be sure to tackle at his nomination hearing.”

Feinstein is right: This is about his ability not only to judge without bias, but also to dispel any appearance of bias. Would an LGBTQ litigant believe for even a second that Mateer would give them a fair hearing, especially on a legal matter involving LGBTQ rights? Would anyone believe that Mateer’s courtroom was a place for disinterested rulings based only on the law, when he has made such extreme comments?

If supporting someone who thinks gay people deserve to be executed doesn’t disqualify you from the bench, then what will? The same goes for calling innocent children part of Satan’s plan.

And every American should remember that this frightening nominee was recommended by Senators Ted Cruz (who also attended the Swanson conference) and John Cornyn.

Mateer appears to be simply incapable of seeing all parties before him as equals. He lacks the basic qualities that are necessary for our judicial system to work. The Senate should reject Mateer’s nomination, and do so overwhelmingly.