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Trump’s nominee to lead civil rights unit defended an anti-LGBT law

Eric Dreiband
Eric Dreiband has been appointed by President Trump to head up the Justice Department's civil rights division. Photo: C-SPAN/Screenshot

President Donald Trump appointed a Washington, D.C. lawyer, Eric Dreiband to lead the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

Dreiband not only argued on behalf of the University of North Carolina in support of House Bill 2, a law that limited bathroom use for transgender people and invalidated nondiscrimination ordinances passed by cities in the state offering protections to the LGBTQ community.

He also represented companies in discrimination cases, including R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in an age discrimination case, as well as Bloomberg in a pregnancy discrimination case.

Related: Jeff Sessions pledges to fight anti-trans violence at hate crimes summit

The choice is drawing criticism from advocates, including Vanita Gupta, who heads up the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and who was a leader of the civil rights division under Barack Obama.

“Whoever leads the ‘crown jewel’ of the Justice Department must have deep relationships with stakeholders and marginalized communities, and have a deep, abiding faith in our nation’s civil rights laws,” Gupta said in a statement. “They must respect the laws that touch everyone, rights that people have literally died for. They must respect the role of what has been called the conscience of the federal government. In all those regards, Eric Dreiband is woefully unqualified to lead the Civil Rights Division.”

She isn’t the only one who is less than impressed by Dreiband’s past.

“Our preliminary review of Mr. Dreiband’s record suggests that he brings little to no experience in the critical areas of voting rights, policing reform or criminal justice generally,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told Politico. “Millions of Americans gripped by the rise in racially-motivated hate crimes, voter suppression and an unfair criminal justice system are watching.”

The ACLU also signaled its concern over the appointment.

“Dreiband has made a career going against women and LGBT rights. As a lawyer for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under President George W. Bush, Dreiband testified before Congress against legislation that would prevent wage discrimination,” it said in a statement. “As a private attorney, Dreiband represented organizations seeking religious exemptions to avoid providing contraceptive coverage for women in the workplace. He also argued on behalf of the University of North Carolina in support of a law that discriminates against trans people.”

The ACLU added that it will “watch Dreiband closely, and urge senators to ask the tough questions during his confirmation process.”

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