President Donald Trump’s nominee for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans was confirmed by the Senate Tuesday, but Kyle Duncan’s extreme conservative views have Democrats worried over his ability to be an impartial arbitrator.
Duncan’s record includes defending a voter ID law in North Carolina, opposing the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, and defending a same-sex marriage ban in Louisiana, according to NBC News.
"He is out of the mainstream," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "In fact, he is out of the stream entirely."
Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., however, said that some of his Democratic colleagues were confusing the role of lawyer and client. Kennedy noted Duncan had argued more than 30 cases in federal and state appellate courts and represented Louisiana in several high-profile cases. He called Duncan a careful thinker and articulate, adding he does not recognize “the Kyle Duncan being described by some of my colleagues.”
The executive director of Lambda Legal – an organization devoted to protecting the civil rights of the LGBTQ community – released a statement blasting Duncan as someone who has built a career “targeting LGBT children and families”.
“The idea that Mr. Duncan will cast aside his bigoted beliefs overnight, and miraculously transform into an impartial judge, is ludicrous and reckless. His career has been one long grudge match against women and LGBT Americans — now the Trump/Pence Administration is making him a referee,” [Rachel] Tiven added.
Duncan took part in a handful of high-profile cases in recent years, including arguing for the Virginia’s Gloucester County School Board against a transgender student’s right to use the bathroom corresponding to his gender identity; defending Louisiana’s same-sex marriage ban in 2014; and writing an amicus brief prior to the Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage stating such a decision would “do incalculable damage to our civic life in this country”.
Aside from his involvement in LGBTQ-rights cases, Duncan was lead counsel in the Hobby Lobby case before the Supreme Court, which decided that some corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of a requirement to cover contraceptives for women. He also served as general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which describes its mission as protecting the free expression of all faiths.