Several sources are confirming that conservative attorney Charles “Chuck” Cooper will likely be Donald Trump's pick for solicitor general, the Justice Department lawyer charged with arguing administration cases before the Supreme Court. Cooper is the favorite of good buddy and fellow Alabaman Jeff Sessions. Naturally, he has defended same-sex marriage bans (California’s Proposition 8, to be specific) and argued in favor of the special right of religious organizations to discriminate against people based on religious grounds. Surprise, surprise. Liz Goodwin writes:
Cooper is a longtime friend of Trump’s attorney general nominee, Sen. Jeff Sessions. [...]
Cooper’s confirmation process could be complicated both by his 2013 defense of the same-sex marriage ban and by his 1986 argument, while in the Office of Legal Counsel, that the federal government could reject job candidates with AIDS out of fear of contagion. Also controversial will be his 1982 role as a lawyer in the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division arguing for the federal government to reverse a ban on giving tax breaks to private schools that discriminated based upon race.
Cooper said his position on same-sex marriage has evolved. He even helped plan his lesbian stepdaughter’s wedding a few years ago, which could neutralize the California case’s impact. But the 1982 Supreme Court case he argued, called Bob Jones University v. U.S., might prove to be more problematic. Cooper believed the First Amendment prevented the IRS from revoking tax exemptions from a private, religious university that barred interracial dating among its students. The Supreme Court disagreed, ruling against him 8 to 1.
Ah, yes, that hallowed First Amendment right to discriminate based on deeply-held religious beliefs. Anyone who really followed Cooper’s defense of California’s Proposition 8 (like I did!) got the sense that his heart wasn’t in it anymore by the time the case reached the Supreme Court. One has to imagine that his daughter coming out sort of put a damper on the joys of defending anti-gay discrimination. But make no mistake, so-called “religious freedom” is exactly where the battles over LGBTQ and reproductive freedom will take place during the Trump era. Cooper appears to be firmly in the camp of believing that religious folks should feel perfectly free to step all over the rights of other Americans—because religion.
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