HRC Calls on Senate to Reject Nomination of William Barr as Attorney General

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2019 — The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released a letter calling on the Senate to reject the Trump-Pence White House’s nomination of William Barr as Attorney General of the United States. During his nomination hearing this week, Barr failed to alleviate HRC’s concerns and confirmed he will continue the Trump-Pence administration’s biased and negligent approach to enforcing laws impacting LGBTQ people.

“William Barr has made clear that as Attorney General he would not defend and uphold civil rights laws for all Americans — including LGBTQ people,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “This nominee is all too ready to follow in the footsteps of Jeff Sessions and double down on this administration’s relentless attacks on LGBTQ equality. The Senate must reject Barr’s nomination, and Senators must make clear to the Trump-Pence White House they will only confirm a nominee who will treat all Americans equally with the dignity and fairness they deserve.”

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In the letter calling on the Senate to reject Barr’s nomination, HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy made clear that the next Attorney General must promote equality for all Americans by vigorously enforcing federal civil rights laws that so critically protect those most vulnerable to discrimination. Read the letter in full here.

Earlier this week, HRC asked Senators to demand answers from Barr on his troubling public record regarding LGBTQ equality and people living with HIV.  Barr has been a vocal supporter of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ memo sanctioning religious-based discrimination, as well as the Justice Department’s interpretation excluding transgender people from coverage under Title VII and Title IX sex discrimination provisions. Barr has also made personal statements promoting a draconian approach to the federal government’s role in responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, including the adoption of proven methods of prevention and access to treatment.

In the hearing held on Tuesday, Barr reiterated his previously stated position advocating against interpreting federal laws to include gender identity or sexual orientation – a position that disregards the holdings of more than forty federal courts in the last twenty years. Barr was directly questioned as to whether under his leadership the Department of Justice would continue to argue against the inclusion of sexual orientation within the definition of “sex” in Title VII. He specifically stated that he would look to the interpretation of “sex” as understood in 1964, arguing that this interpretation had been the “common understanding for almost 40 years.”

Barr’s interpretation runs counter to current legal analysis and existing Supreme Court precedent regarding the interpretation of Title VII to include classes or characteristics not originally considered by the 1964 Congress. Barr’s statements Tuesday reflect a willingness to ignore meaningful case law and a reticence to employ mainstream legal theories that run counter to his personal beliefs.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community. www.hrw.org