Prizm News / February 6, 2019 / By Bob Vitale

Eric Murphy and Chad Readler have been nominated by Donald Trump to the U.S. Sixth District Court of Appeals.

Trump nominees oppose marriage equality, transgender military service and expanded nondiscrimination laws. Sen. Rob Portman supports them.

UPDATE: The Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed the nominations of Ohioans Eric Murphy and Chad Readler to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday, Feb. 7. All 12 Republicans voted for the nominees, and all 10 Democrats voted against their appointments. The nominations now head to the full U.S. Senate.

By Bob Vitale

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote today on the federal appeals court nominations of two Ohioans whose legal records include high-profile fights against LGBTQ civil rights. 

Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio said Wednesday that Eric Murphy and Chad Readler, nominated by President Trump to serve on the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, are too extreme for lifetime appointments to the federal bench. In a conference call with reporters, Brown was joined by former Cincinnati resident Jim Obergefell, whose lawsuit to get state recognition for his marriage led to the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that brought about nationwide marriage equality. 

Obergefell spoke against the nominations as well. 

Sen. Sherrod Brown
and Jim Obergefell

Murphy, who has been Ohio’s solicitor general since 2013, argued against Obergefell in court and in favor of the state’s 2004 constitutional amendment that denied marriage rights to same-sex couples. 

Readler, currently working in Washington as a principal deputy attorney general, has defended Trump’s move to kick transgender Americans out of the U.S. military and wrote a Justice Department brief backing a Colorado baker who refused the business of a gay couple. 

“Our court system exists to protect our rights,” Obergefell said. Asked if he considers marriage equality a matter of settled law, he said: “I wonder how secure marriage equality is.” Although Chief Justice John Roberts voted against expanding marriage rights in 2015, Obergefell said Roberts’ belief in adhering to court precedents “gives me the bit of confidence I can find” for the ruling. 

The Vetting Room, a website that analyzes and tracks federal judicial nominations, describes Murphy and Readler as controversial candidates for the federal appeals bench but says both are likely to be approved by the full Senate. Traditionally, a senator has veto power over nominees from his, her or their home state, but that privilege was stopped by Senate Republicans when Trump took office. 

Brown opposes the two nominees not just because of their opposition to LGBTQ civil rights. Murphy also defended an aggressive purge of Ohio voting rolls by then-Secretary of State Jon Husted, who is now lieutenant governor. Readler filed a court challenge last year to the Affordable Care Act’s guarantee of coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions. 

“I cannot support nominees who have actively worked to strip Ohioans of their rights,” Brown said. “Special interests already have armies of lobbyists and lawyers on their side, they don’t need judges in their pockets.”  

Sen. Rob Portman supports both appointments.