A lawyer who led the fight against Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate, eventually winning the Hobby Lobby case before the Supreme Court, won confirmation by the Senate on Tuesday to a federal appeals court.
Senators voted 50-47 to confirm Stuart Kyle Duncan to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Only one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, broke with his party to support Mr. Duncan.
Other Democrats voiced opposition to Mr. Duncan as an “unfit ideologue” on abortion and contraception. They also said his defense of state laws requiring photo-ID to vote, among other voting changes, amounted to voter suppression for minorities.
“He has made a career out of fighting to restrict the rights and legal protections of the vulnerable and those who are powerless,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat.
Mr. Duncan has practiced law in Washington, D.C. and worked for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, where he represented Hobby Lobby in its fight against President Obama’s order under the Affordable Care Act that contraception was “preventative care” that must be provided free. The family that owns the craft store corporation objected to providing birth control to its employees in violation of their religion.
The justices sided with him in that case, ordering the government to create an accommodation for closely held corporations whose owners had religious objections to paying for contraception.
Mr. Duncan also represented a school board that sought to prevent transgender students from using the bathroom of their gender identification rather than their biological sex, which drew criticism from liberal advocacy groups.
His nomination has been cheered by the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, which successfully backed Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch’s confirmation, among several of President Trump’s other federal bench picks.
“It is sad that only one Democrat was willing to break ranks and vote for such an impressive nominee; a sign of how extreme Dems have become, and another reason we need more conservative Republicans in the Senate,” said Carrie Severino, chief counsel for the Judicial Crisis Network.
Mr. Duncan is the 15th circuit court judge to be confirmed under Mr. Trump, who faced an unprecedented amount of judicial vacancies when he entered office.