CNN reported today that Jeff Mateer, a former attorney for the Religious Right legal group First Liberty Institute who President Donald Trump recently nominated to a lifetime seat as a federal district court judge in Texas, has a long history of extreme anti-LGBTQ positions, including saying that transgender children are part of “Satan’s plan” of “destruction” and speaking at a 2015 conference organized by Kevin Swanson, a far-right pastor who has advocated for the death penalty for gay people.
A Right Wing Watch review of others of Mateer’s speeches and interviews further reveals a clear hostility toward legal protections for LGBTQ equality and reproductive rights.
In a May 2015 speech, titled “The Church and Homosexuality,” Mateer discussed a Colorado lawsuit in which the parents of a transgender girl sued her school for preventing her from using the bathroom of her choice.
“In Colorado, a public school has been sued because a first grader and I forget the sex, she’s a girl who thinks she’s a boy or a boy who thinks she’s a girl, it’s probably that, a boy who thinks she’s a girl,” Mateer said in a video posted on Vimeo in 2015 and reviewed by CNN’s KFile. “And the school said, ‘Well, she’s not using the girl’s restroom.’ And so she has now sued to have a right to go in. Now, I submit to you, a parent of three children who are now young adults, a first grader really knows what their sexual identity? I mean it just really shows you how Satan’s plan is working and the destruction that’s going on.”
CNN did not include video of the remarks, but we have clipped the relevant portion here:
CNN notes that in the same speech, “Mateer said that the Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex marriage could lead to what he called ‘disgusting’ new forms of matrimony” such as “people marrying their pets.”
Earlier in the presentation, Mateer told the audience that the “elephant in the room is homosexuality and the agenda that this small group is seeking and imposing on the rest of us” and the “legal attacks that that group of individuals and their surrogates are unleashing on the rest of the country.”
He added that the U.S. was facing a “clash of absolutes” between “religious liberty rights” and “what is now being raised as a new sexual orthodoxy,” warning that “the other side” wants to see “enshrined in the Constitution” the “right to engage in homosexual conduct and be protected in that”:
Later that year, as CNN notes, Mateer spoke at a “National Religious Liberties Conference” hosted by radical pastor Kevin Swanson. The conference also attracted then-GOP presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal, none of whom declined to attend after we revealed Swanson’s history of anti-LGBT extremism. Swanson didn’t hide his beliefs at the conference itself, declaring multiple times that the biblical penalty for homosexuality is death, saying that if his son were to marry a man, he would sit outside the church covered in manure, and warning that God would judge America for gay characters in children’s books. Another speaker at the conference distributed literature attempting to justify the death penalty for homosexuality. In a report about the conference, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow dubbed it the “kill the gays rally.”
In his speech to Swanson’s conference, CNN reported, Mateer “lamented that states were banning gay conversion therapy.”
Speaking about the Obergefell marriage equality decision at Swanson’s conference, Mateer indicated that he would be hostile not only to marriage equality, but to LGBTQ rights and reproductive rights more broadly. “I don’t see anything about right to same-sex marriage, I don’t see anything about right to homosexuality, I don’t see anything about right to privacy, I don’t see any of those things in the 14th Amendment,” he said, a reference to court decisions striking down state bans on contraception, abortion and consensual sex among gay adults. We obtained the audio:
Swanson’s conference was an extreme example of the Religious Right’s efforts to use the language of “religious liberty” to carve broad exemptions into laws requiring the equal treatment of LGBT people and others. Mateer, in his former role as the top attorney at the Religious Right legal group First Liberty, was at the forefront of advancing this strategy. Mateer served as the general counsel of First Liberty, then known as Liberty Institute, from 2010 to 2016, when he left to take a job in the Texas attorney general’s office.
During that time, Mateer represented First Liberty Institute’s agenda in the courts and in public speaking engagements, promoting the group’s line that conservative Christians in America are facing persecution because of expanded rights for LGBTQ people and others.
While Mateer was at First Liberty Institute, the group represented a number of people who claimed to have been discriminated against for having anti-LGBTQ views. One of those was Wes Modder, a Navy chaplain who faced a complaint that he had acted inappropriately toward those he counseled, in one instance telling a student who was having premarital sex that she was “shaming herself in the eyes of God” and in another, telling a student that “the penis was meant for the vagina and not for the anus” while “making an inappropriate hand gesture.”
In a 2015 interview about Modder’s case on conservative activist David Barton’s “Wallbuilders” program, Mateer said that Christians in the military were now “in the closet, so to speak” and were facing a new Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. “Well, what has happened,” Mateer said, “and we’re all familiar with the phrase ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and we know that that got reversed a few years ago by President Clinton [sic], but there’s a new Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and it’s being a Christian.”
“We can look at world history,” he added, “and know when you remove religion from public life, military, our institutions of government, what follows is all freedoms. All freedoms will go away”:
In a June 2015 conference call with the American Pastors Network, Mateer stressed to pastors that if the Supreme Court struck down same-sex marriage bans, they would have to be prepared to explain why their religious faith condemns marriage equality, especially since judges might rely on “heretics” who say that Christianity condones it.
“At the end of the day, judges are going to say—there are these heretics who say the Bible says same-sex marriage is permitted, you know—so you’ve got to demonstrate that the Bible—almost a theology lesson. And that will help me when I’m defending you in some court case because the judge is going to go to the Bible, that’s why,” he said:
Mateer is one of two attorneys connected to First Liberty that Trump has nominated to district court seats in Texas. The other is Matthew Kacsmaryk, who is currently the group’s deputy general counsel.