Leahy presses Trump court nominee over LGBTQ tweets

Leahy presses Trump court nominee over LGBTQ tweets
© Greg Nash

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyAvalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign America isn't ready to let Sessions off his leash Your tax dollars fund Afghan child rape MORE (D-Vt.) chastised Texas Supreme Court Judge Don Willett, who President Trump has tapped for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, for tweets signaling his extreme views on LGBTQ people.

Leahy on Wednesday noted that Willett, who is active on Twitter, shared a Fox News story about a California law prohibiting discrimination in school athletics that allowed a young transgender woman to play on her high school baseball team and with the comment, “Go away A-Rod.”

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Leahy said the tweet sent a clear message that Willett believes this young woman has no legal or moral right to play on the team.

“If you’re confirmed to the Fifth Circuit you’re going to hear constitutional and civil rights cases involving LGBTQ individuals," Leahy said. “Why would a transgender person before with a case before you ever think they’d have a fair and impartial hearing?” 

Willett started to answer by saying he "appreciates" the question.

“No you don’t, but go ahead anyway,” Leahy quipped.

Willett explained that Twitter is topical and carried by current events. When he posted that tweet, he said NBA player Alex Rodriguez had recently agreed to a one-year suspension.

“The tweet was an A-Rod-focused tweet," he said. "I would never disparage anyone in that way."

Leahy then asked, “If a transgender person came before you with a case would you have an open mind?”

“Absolutely,” Willett said. 

Leahy told Willett he should consider taking the tweet down and then noted another tweet Willett posted after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in in which he said, “I could support recognizing a constitutional right to marry bacon.”  

Willett said he was attempting to inject a bit of levity at a divisive time in the nation.

“And you think that cut back the divisiveness with a comment like that?” Leahy asked incredulously. 

“Senator, I believe every American is entitled to equal worth and dignity,” he said. "I’ve never intended to disparage anyone and would never do so. That’s not where my heart is.”