On March 29, two days before Trans Day of Visibility, Gov. Ned Lamont nominated 20 people for judgeships on the Superior Court. Better it were April Fools’ Day.
Among those jurists were two former state senators, Democrat Paul Doyle and Republican Jason Welch, both of whom voted against a landmark 2011 bill barring discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The legislation became pejoratively known as the “bathroom bill,” as its most hotly debated provision would protect the right of trans people to use facilities matching their gender. In the Senate, all Republicans voted against and 20 out of 22 Democrats voted in favor.
When Doyle was making the rounds to Democratic Town Committees in 2018 to solicit support for his attorney general bid, I asked him: With trans rights in great peril in this country, why should voters trust you to defend our fundamental freedoms as attorney general when you wouldn’t vote to advance them as a state senator?
He did not have a particularly convincing response, insisting that there was some legal technicality that motivated him to vote against the bill. Decidedly strange, considering that practically all of his Democratic colleagues (many of them lawyers as well) found no such fault with the legislation and enthusiastically voted for passage.
The anti-discrimination law has served us well since then. None of the dire scenarios of hordes of men infiltrating women’s bathrooms have come to pass. Instead, Connecticut can be proud to be among the most trans-friendly states in the nation.
Of course, there is (or at least should be) a significant difference between making the law and interpreting the law. There have been a number of principled Republican or conservative judges who ably did so. If this were merely a disagreement on fiscal or transportation policy, for instance, I wouldn’t be objecting. But upholding civil rights is a central tenet of the judiciary. Even if Doyle and Welch’s views have changed for the better in the intervening years, they still failed when they held positions of power and it counted most. To me, that is disqualifying.
Connecticut voters rightly rejected Doyle in 2018, when he came in third in the Democratic primary. There’s no good reason for Governor Lamont to artificially revive Doyle or Welch’s career in public service.
In his press release, Lamont stated, “Selecting nominees to become judges is one of the most important duties that I have as governor because these individuals will become responsible for ensuring that justice is administered fairly and without prejudice, and that everyone who comes before the court is treated equally and with respect.”
Nominating Doyle and Welch flies in the face of this solemn commitment. The General Assembly should vote to deny their confirmation.
Andy Gottlieb is a Democrat from Guilford and was a candidate for the General Assembly in 2018 and 2022.