The Senate on Wednesday confirmed former Nevada and Montana solicitor general Lawrence VanDyke as a judge for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals following a contentious process that included attacks on him for his traditional views on sexuality and marriage.
The 51-44 vote came mostly along party lines, with one Republican, moderate Susan Collins of Maine, voting with the Democrats against VanDyke.
“I am thrilled to see that Lawrence VanDyke has been confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit,” said Hiram Sasser, general counsel at First Liberty Institute, a law firm specializing in religious liberty cases. “… There are few better legal minds in the country today.”
Carrie Severino, chief counsel at the Judicial Crisis Network, tweeted: “The President and his Senate allies have answered the call of the American people, who have made it clear through the democratic process that they want judges who adhere to the Constitution and don’t impose an agenda from the bench. That is exactly what they are getting.”
VanDyke, a Harvard law school graduate who most recently has served as an assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s environmental and natural resources division, is the 50th Trump-nominated appellate judge to be confirmed.
In October, Van Dyke teared up while defending himself before the Senate Judiciary Committee against an “unqualified” rating by the American Bar Association. The ABA charged that VanDyke gave answers during an ABA interview indicating he would bring unfair bias into cases involving LGBTQ individuals.
VanDyke told Missouri GOP Sen. Josh Hawley during the hearing: “No, I did not say that. I do not believe that. It is a fundamental belief of mine that all people are created in the image of God. They should all be treated with dignity and respect, senator.”
According to Hawley, the ABA lawyer who interviewed VanDyke once contributed money to a political campaign opponent of VanDyke’s, leading his supporters to speculate the ABA’s unqualified rating was part of an ideological smear campaign.
VanDyke’s confirmation follows that of Patrick Bumatay, another Trump nominee to the 9th Circuit who was confirmed Tuesday by a 53-40 vote. Bumatay, who is openly gay, has been viewed as a conservative jurist with endorsements from former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Some Christian conservatives noted concern with Bumatay. According to a WhiteHouse.gov press release, Bumatay is a member of the Tom Homann LGBT Law Association, which has advocated for gay rights laws. Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, lead sponsor of the pro-LGBTQ Equality Act, voted against Bumatay’s confirmation.