One of President Donald Trump’s federal court nominees made disparaging comments about diversity, same-sex relationships, and birth control, a BuzzFeed News review has found.
Gordon Giampietro, a lawyer in Wisconsin, was nominated by President Donald Trump in December for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. His nomination is pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee, just a few months after two of Trump's judicial nominees failed to move forward in part because of controversial writings and speeches.
On March 25, 2014, Giampietro wrote on the website the Catholic Thing that, “calls for diversity” are “code for relaxed standards (moral and intellectual).” Giampietro was commenting on a blog post about arguments in the US Supreme Court over the Affordable Care Act’s contraception care mandate and the history of government regulation of businesses. The author of the blog post had written that with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, “the federal government crossed a constitutional divide when it claimed the authority to bar discriminations on the basis of race in private inns and restaurants.”
Giampietro commented on the post that blog post author Hadley Arkes was “exactly right to trace the intrusion into private business to the Civil Right Act,” and that he would go back farther to “the original sin of slavery.”
“Absent slavery, there might have been a vibrant federalism that allowed for differences of opinion to exist side by side until the truth will out. Absent slavery, there is no racial spoils system, no calls for diversity — which is code for relaxed standards (moral and intellectual) — and no eye-rolling when appeals are made to ‘states rights.’ In short, because we denied blacks the fundamental human right to freedom we sowed the seeds of our own loss of freedom,” Giampietro wrote.
The comment was posted under the name “Gordon Giampietro.” Giampietro, an assistant general counsel for Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, did not return a request for comment and the Justice Department declined to comment. A source familiar with Giampietro’s nomination confirmed that he wrote the comment. The comments on the post are no longer available on the Catholic Thing’s website, but were saved in a earlier version of the post by the Wayback Machine, a digital archive, and obtained by BuzzFeed News. Giampietro did not include the comment in his Senate questionnaire.
In a July 24, 2015, radio interview, a month after the Supreme Court recognized a nationwide right to same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges, Giampietro said it was “irrefutable” that children are best raised by a heterosexual couple, and appeared to refer to same-sex relationships as “troubled.”
“No one would disagree with the fact that children, all the social science research shows this, are best raised by a man and a woman. This is natural, this is the truth, and it’s irrefutable. And so I think it has to be articulated in a way which isn’t dismissive of those troubled relationships, but it is reaffirming of the truth of marriage,” he said.
He urged listeners to read the Supreme Court’s decision, but said they could “ignore Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion, because it’s not really legal reasoning.” He said Kennedy “went off the rails years ago” with his 2003 opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down Texas’s sodomy law.
The court’s decision in Obergefell, Giampietro said, was “worse” than the court’s decision legalizing abortion in Roe v. Wade “because of the damage it does to civil society.” He characterized it as “an assault on the conscience rights of all Americans.”
He also called the birth control pill an “assault on nature,” and blamed it for other problems in society.
“When ever you go against god’s plan, bad things are gonna happen,” he said.
In a July 4, 2014, radio interview, Giampietro said that allowing same-sex marriage would undermine the “very idea of marriage.” Asked if legalizing same-sex marriage would open the door to three people being married or to a brother and sister being married, he replied, “Why not?”
Giampietro listed the 2014 and 2015 radio interviews in his Senate questionnaire. The comment on the Catholic Thing was not listed but the White House has pushed back on the idea that nominees are required to disclose anything they’ve ever written online. The questionnaire asks for “books, articles, reports, letters to the editor, editorial pieces, or other published material you have written or edited, including material published only on the internet.”
Asked about Giampietro’s comments, an administration official told BuzzFeed News in an email that, "Giampietro’s personal religious views have nothing to do with what he will do as a federal judge. He demonstrated his commitment to the rule of law and the ability to put those views aside for over a dozen years serving the people of Milwaukee as an assistant United States attorney. He’ll be able to do the same thing as a judge.” The official did not directly address Giampietro's comment about diversity.
Before joining Northwestern Mutual, Giampietro served as an assistant US attorney in Wisconsin from 2002 to 2015. He also worked for a private law firm and clerked for a federal district judge.
Giampietro was one of several candidates approved by a bipartisan judicial commission in Wisconsin for the district court vacancy and sent to the White House for consideration by Sens. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, and Ron Johnson, a Republican. A spokesman for Baldwin told BuzzFeed News in an email that Baldwin had not yet signaled her approval of Giampietro's nomination by returning what's known as a "blue slip" to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“These extremely troubling statements were not provided to the Wisconsin Federal Nominating Commission when it considered candidates for this vacancy. Both what was said, and the fact that it was not disclosed to the Commission, raise serious questions about whether this nominee would be able to serve as a fair and impartial judge on a federal court," the spokesman wrote.
There is no religious test for judges, and nominees have been confirmed who bring a variety of personal beliefs to the bench — it’s common to hear nominees testify at Senate confirmation proceedings that they will set aside personal beliefs and follow the precedent set by the Supreme Court and federal appeals courts if confirmed.
But civil rights and LGBT groups have been critical of the number of judicial nominees who have opposed LGBT rights, either in their personal capacity or in court. Lambda Legal published a report in December that concluded that nearly a third of Trump’s judicial nominees had anti-LGBT records.
Lambda Legal director of strategy Sharon McGowan said in a statement to BuzzFeed News that the White House should "immediately rescind" Giampietro's nomination.
"This type of prejudice and bias have no place in Wisconsin and no place in our federal courts. The vitriolic and incendiary anti-LGBT rhetoric from Giampietro captured in this recording, while shocking and disturbing, is unfortunately par for the course with respect to many of the judicial nominees coming out of this White House," McGowan said.
Inflammatory remarks about issues concerning race and LGBT rights played a role in the failure of two nominations last year — for district court nominees Brett Talley and Jeff Mateer. Republicans, not just Democrats, expressed concerns about those nominees: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley reportedly urged the White House to reconsider them, and Republican Sen. John Kennedy, a member of the committee, raised questions about their qualifications and temperament.
Talley, a Justice Department official nominated last year to a federal judgeship in Alabama, withdrew his nomination in December amid scrutiny of his writings as well as questions about whether he fully disclosed information about his background to the judiciary committee. BuzzFeed News and Slate reported that Talley appeared to have written thousands of posts on an Alabama sports fan website that hadn’t been shared with the judiciary committee. In one post, he appeared to defend an early version of the Ku Klux Klan.
The White House confirmed late last year that the administration would not go ahead with Mateer’s nomination to a federal district court in Texas. CNN reported in September that Mateer, a lawyer in the Texas attorney general’s office, gave speeches in which he said that transgender children were evidence of “Satan’s plan.” Texas Sen. John Cornyn reportedly said that Mateer didn’t disclose those comments to a state judicial evaluation commission, which Cornyn called a “serious breach of protocol.”
Damien Schiff, nominated last year for the US Court of Federal Claims, was criticized for a blog post in which he called Justice Anthony Kennedy a “judicial prostitute.” Schiff was voted out of committee but didn’t get a vote in the full Senate, and his nomination expired at the end of the congressional session. He has not been renominated, and the White House has declined to comment on whether Trump plans to do so.
Giampietro has not had a hearing yet before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Updated with comment from a spokesman for Sen. Tammy Baldwin.
Updated with comment from Lambda Legal director of strategy Sharon McGowan and an updated comment from an administration official.