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Anti-gay lawyer confirmed as head of US Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division

Anti-gay lawyer confirmed as head of US Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division

The United States Department of Justice Headquarters

Anti-LGBTI lawyer Eric Dreiband was confirmed by the United States Senate to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

The confirmation took place Thursday, 11 October. This coming about a week after the controversial confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Dreiband’s nomination for this position came in June of 2017, according to The National Review. The Senate voted 50-47 to end Dreiband’s nomination and move forward with his confirmation.

The role of the Civil Rights Division

Dreiband’s role in the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division is to oversee and enforce the nation’s civil rights laws. In particular, laws that ban discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and religion.

The Civil Rights Division often oversees disputes relating to The Voting Rights Act. Examples include voter suppression, gerrymandering, and voter ID laws. Such rules are designed to keep people of color away from the polls.

During Dreiband’s confirmation hearing, the responses he gave to senators show that he will likely hold a very narrow view as to what constitutes a civil rights violation.

Dreiband’s controversial history

LGBTI rights groups, in particular, worry about Dreiband’s confirmation. For instance, in 2016, Dreiband represented the University of North Carolina when the state was sued by the Justice Department for restricting trans people’s access to public restrooms.

When asked by Senators during his confirmation about his stance on protections for LGBTI students, Dreiband declined to comment. He cited it being ‘ongoing litigation’ as the reason.

Similarly, when asked about his views of the case involving a Colorado bakery refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, Dreiband did not comment.

‘Because I am not currently working at the Department, I am not familiar with the details of the Department’s position and internal discussions in this matter,’ Dreiband said. ‘In addition, because there is ongoing litigation in this matter, it would not be appropriate for me to comment.’

Moreover, Dreiband has worked for non-profit organizations seeking religious exemptions from the Affordable Care Act. Specifically, for their right to deny contraceptive coverage for their employees.

LGBTI rights organizations respond

Dreiband’s confirmation to this seat, along with three more anti-gay judges in other government branches. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) called all four ‘threat to the rights and safety of LGBTQ people.’

‘These nominees have anti-LGBTQ records that are disturbing and disqualifying,’ David Stacy, HRC’s director of government affairs, said in a statement.

‘Throughout its 60-year history, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has been a stalwart defender of civil rights in employment, education, housing, voting and many other aspects of life. In the face of increased violence and pervasive discrimination against vulnerable groups, including the LGBT community, the work of the Civil Rights Division is more important than ever,’ said Sharon McGowan, Lambda Legal’s chief strategy officer and legal director.

McGowan was formerly a career official for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.

‘What the Department of Justice sorely needs at this moment is a strong leader with a proven track record of defending civil rights,’ McGowan continued. ‘That is not what they got today in Eric Dreiband. It is a sad day for the Civil Rights Division. And yet another example of how the Department of Justice is no longer in the business of doing justice.’

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