Prizm News / June 11, 2018 / By Bob Vitale

Sherrod Brown opposes two Ohio lawyers who fought marriage equality and military service for trans Americans.


By Bob Vitale

Eric Murphy
Chad Readler

An Ohio attorney who fought marriage equality all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and another who is defending a proposed ban on military service by transgender Americans have been nominated by President Donald Trump for seats on the federal appeals court that covers Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. 

Eric Murphy, Ohio’s state solicitor since September 2013, argued in 2014 to keep Ohio’s restrictive marriage laws before the same court on which he would serve if confirmed by the U.S. Senate. He also wrote Ohio’s 2015 brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in which he called marriage equality “disruptive…to our constitutional democracy” and claimed that the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage was “not intentionally discriminatory” toward same-sex couples.


Chad Readler, the acting assistant attorney general in Trump’s Justice Department, has argued in court for the president’s plan to kick transgender service members out of the military. He also wrote the Justice Department’s brief for the Supreme Court in favor of allowing a Colorado baker to refuse a gay couple’s business. 

The Supreme Court rejected the anti-equality arguments by Murphy and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine in June 2015 when it ruled in favor of nationwide marriage equality. Although the court ruled in favor of the Colorado baker last week, its narrow decision ignored Readler’s argument that those who oppose marriage equality have broad rights to discriminate.

Trump’s nominations of Murphy and Readler are for lifetime appointments to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which is based in Cincinnati. Murphy, a Miami University and University of Chicago Law School graduate, has been called “an up-and-coming conservative star” by the Cincinnati Enquirer. Readler, who earned his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Michigan, previously practiced law in Columbus. Both are members of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization led by former Bush, Bush and Reagan administration lawyers. 

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, says he opposes both nominations. 

In addition to Murphy’s work in defending Ohio’s marriage ban, The Plain Dealer of Cleveland reported that Murphy argued a case before the Supreme Court this year in which he defended a potential purge of thousands of inactive voters from Ohio’s registration rolls, which goes against a 1993 federal law. 

The paper also reported that Readler has worked at the Justice Department to defend Trump’s order barring entry to the United States by people from several predominantly Muslim countries. Brown said Readler also has worked to gut the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and strip the Ohio Constitution of provisions that support public education. 

“I believe Ohio kids have the right to quality education, Ohio citizens have the right to vote, working families have the right to be protected from abuse by big banks, and Ohioans have the right to marry the person they love,” Brown said. “I cannot support nominees who have actively worked to strip Ohioans of their rights. Special interests already have armies of lobbyists and lawyers on their side, they don’t need judges in their pockets.” 

Traditionally, senators have been given the power to block home-state appointees they oppose. But The Hill, a Washington newspaper that covers Congress and federal politics, says it’s a power that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley has granted to colleagues only sporadically. 

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, supports Trump’s two nominees. 

Two liberal groups have announced their opposition. 

“Chad Readler and Eric Murphy are perfect examples of the kinds of narrow-minded elitists that Donald Trump is trying to lock into lifetime seats on the federal bench,” People for the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker said in a statement. “Chad Readler…played a major role advancing the anti-LGBTQ agenda of Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump’s Department of Justice. … Eric Murphy, for his part, has spent years working to undermine voting rights and attack reproductive freedom. He worked to make sure same-sex couples would have no protections under Ohio law.” 

Alliane for Justice President Nan Aron said: 

“Chad Readler and Eric Murphy do not belong on the federal bench. Readler is a hardcore foe of public schools who has tried to destroy the right to public education in Ohio. His record reads like a catalog of extreme far-right positions: He’s fought voting rights, workers’ rights, LGBTQ rights, and consumers’ rights. Murphy’s record is no better: He also worked to undermine the right to vote in Ohio, has defended attacks on reproductive rights, and fought marriage equality.”