“We Stand in Truth and Light”: Survivors, Lawmakers and Feminist Leaders Respond to Kavanaugh’s Confirmation

The Senate voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court on Saturday, capping off a tireless, weeks-long battle opposing his nomination that was led by survivors, feminist advocates and women lawmakers. In this moment, however, the leaders who emerged in that fight—including the women who came forward, risking everything, to tell their stories of sexual assault during the confirmation process—are already looking forward.

This fight is far from over. Below are the remarks and statements of survivors and feminist leaders, lawmakers and celebrities released in the wake of Kavanaugh’s nomination. They compel all of us to keep fighting—and to vow to remember in November.

Thousands marched from the Prettyman Court House to the Supreme Court in opposition to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh last week. (Susan Melkisethian / Creative Commons)

Deborah Ramirez:

Thirty-five years ago, the other students in the room chose to laugh and look the other way as sexual violence was perpetrated on me by Brett Kavanaugh. As I watch many of the Senators speak and vote on the floor of the Senate I feel like I’m right back at Yale where half the room is laughing and looking the other way. Only this time, instead of drunk college kids, it is U.S. Senators who are deliberately ignoring his behavior. This is how victims are isolated and silenced.

But I do have corroborating witnesses speaking for me, although they were not allowed to speak to the FBI, and I feel extremely grateful for them and for the overwhelming amount of support that I have received and continue to receive during this extremely difficult and painful time. There may be people with power who are looking the other way, but there are millions more who are standing together, speaking up about personal experiences of sexual violence and taking action to support survivors. This is truly a collective moment of survivors and allies standing together.

Thank you for hearing me, seeing me and believing me. I am grateful for each and
every one of you. We will not be silenced.

We stand in truth and light.

Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority:

We are profoundly disappointed by the Senate’s vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. But we are inspired by the survivors of sexual violence who have built and led a movement that will not be stopped by Kavanaugh, by the Republicans in the Senate, or by the President of the United States.

Tens of thousands of survivors made themselves vulnerable and spoke out against putting an accused sexual predator on the Supreme Court, testifying on the importance of believing survivors. We have a responsibility to them to keep this movement alive in the streets, with policies like a robust and well-funded Violence Against Women Act and at the ballot box.

We are exactly one month out from the election. We will remember who felt that survivors’ lived experiences were not enough. We’ll remember who thought it would be more politically beneficial to cater to the crumbling patriarchy than the brave women who are claiming their voices. We’ll remember who called survivors hysterical, mistaken and liars.

Now we turn this energy into a massive feminist wave on Election Day.

Carol Robles-Román, Co-President and CEO of the ERA Coalition:

With the Senate vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as the next Supreme Court Justice, there are millions of women who now know—again—that the systems in the country do not represent or defend them.

That is why the next battle must be the one to amend the Constitution—to put women in it. The Supreme Court and all justices in this country need a document that is fair and inclusive, and recognizes that the rights of women must be on an equal footing with the rights of men.

This is why we need an Equal Rights Amendment.

Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund:

Today’s vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court comes at the end of a process that has made a mockery of the Senate’s obligation to provide “advice and consent” for Supreme Court nominees, as our Constitution requires. And it begins an era in which the integrity and impartiality of the Supreme Court will be open to question, an era that will last at least as long as Brett Kavanaugh’s tenure as a Justice.

Millions of Americans today see that there are two Americas—one in which ordinary people seeking elevation are held to a high standard of conduct that demands self-control, truthfulness and transparency; and another reserved for those at the highest levels of the legal profession, whose position insulates them from meeting these same standards.

And sadly, millions of sexual assault survivors fear that they must remain silent about the abuse and trauma they have suffered.

These are grievous blows to our democracy, blows that could have been avoided if Senate Republicans had chosen to put country before party in the conduct of this confirmation process. Sadly, they made the opposite choice. Now that Judge Kavanaugh will become an Associate Justice on the Court, we must face with courage and determination the challenges ahead.

We will continue to pursue racial justice and equality. We will continue to demand that our legal system honor the words etched into the edifice of the United States Supreme Court: equal justice under the law. Confronting a more firmly entrenched conservative Supreme Court means that we must be more strategic, more aggressive and even more uncompromising in our demand for justice and equality.

Toni Van Pelt, President of the National Organization for Women:

Donald Trump picked a Supreme Court Justice cast in his own image. Trump chose a bully, a serial liar and a man who treats women with disrespect. These are the qualities that Donald Trump most admires.

NOW was proud to work in coalition with other groups that rose up in opposition to Brett Kavanaugh. For more than 50 years, NOW has been on the frontlines of history, and this effort was nothing short of historic. We have just witnessed the opening moves in a cynical, dangerous strategy.

Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are seeking to perpetuate a toxic culture of male fury designed to hold women back and hold on to power. They are betting they can mobilize a party of angry white men and the women who enable them, energized by the Brett Kavanaugh nomination. They see the midterm elections as their chance to repudiate the #MeToo movement and further marginalize women.

The massive uprising against Brett Kavanaugh, like the Women’s March before it, will go down as a turning point in history. The energy and activism sparked by this nomination will not go away. It is now a permanent force in our politics and society.

NOW is more determined than ever to challenge the culture of anger and fear that produced this nomination. We will take this message to voters in the next election—NOW is going to march, canvass, call and campaign with vigor, energy and enthusiasm like never before.

No More Kavanaughs. No more Trumps. No more McConnells. Enough is Enough.

Dr. Willie Parker, Board Chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health:

We are utterly disappointed that the Senate voted against the health care and well-being of millions of Americans. When Brett Kavanaugh joins the Supreme Court, it will be balanced against the fundamental rights of millions across the country. People of color, low-income families, young people and LGBTQIA people are particularly under threat from attacks on abortion, health care, voting rights, anti-discrimination laws and more.

Medical professionals have a moral obligation to look after the well-being of patients—and it’s more important than ever that we continue to fight for their basic freedoms, including access to abortion.

Marcela Howell, Founder and Executive Director of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda:

Women of color and immigrant women understand that our rights and our lives are at stake as a result of today’s confirmation vote. Judge Kavanaugh has a history of restrictive views on civil rights, safe and legal abortion, access to birth control, workers’ rights and immigrant rights that will be detrimental to Black women. After the credible testimony of Dr. Blasey Ford, the politically partisan and disrespectful rebuttal by Judge Kavanaugh and a sham FBI investigation into sexual assault allegations, we believe that Judge Kavanaugh does not have the temperament or character to serve on the high court.

Make no mistake: Our right to safe, legal abortion and birth control is already under siege. In the first four months of this year, 37 states introduced 347 measures to restrict access to abortion or birth control. Black women, young women, immigrant women—all women of color—are disparately impacted by such restrictions because we have been systematically denied the resources, services and information we need to make important and personal decisions about our reproductive health.

Having confirmed Kavanaugh to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Senate has failed to rise above partisan agendas—and, as a result, has undermined the integrity of the highest court in the land. With Judge Kavanaugh confirmed, we now have the judicial, legislative and executive branches of our government stacked against us.

Now, we have only one option to safeguard our rights and lives: our voting power. We must hold our elected leaders accountable, demand that our rights are respected and replace those who vote against our best interests.

Reverend Katherine H. Ragsdale, Interim President & CEO of the National Abortion Federation:

Today’s vote to confirm President Trump’s anti-woman U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, confirms what we already know: The Trump administration and anti-abortion politicians have zero regard for the real-life experiences of women in America.

We have adamantly opposed Kavanaugh’s nomination because his judicial record and dishonest testimony during his confirmation hearings raised grave concerns about how his future rulings could jeopardize Roe v. Wade and other reproductive rights cases. But there is more at stake than just Roe. The Supreme Court is the final defense against dangerous and unconstitutional attacks on women’s equal protection and basic rights and freedoms.

Abortion providers fought for their patients’ rights before Roe v. Wade, and our members will continue doing so even after Kavanaugh is sworn onto the Supreme Court.

Chris Carson and Virginia Kase, President and CEO of the League of Women Voters:

The decision today will have long-term impacts on the justice system as we know it.

Judge Kavanaugh’s hearing was a spectacle that we had not witnessed in modern day American history. For decades, Supreme Court nomination hearings have been conducted with great transparency, with respectful input from both sides of the aisle and with support beyond a simple majority. That was not the case this time.

Judge Kavanaugh was confirmed by a margin of one, whereas historically Supreme Court nominees have been confirmed by much larger majorities.  Two years ago, the Senate refused to even consider a presidential nominee for the Supreme Court, which is without precedent.  The rancor of these recent departures from established processes has damaged the reputation of the Supreme Court. We must ask: do we need to reform the process? Is it time to change the way the Senate confirms Supreme Court justices? Should the Senate restore the 60-vote threshold for nominees? These are tough questions that the American people will need to grapple with if we’re serious about making democracy work.

For those who feel as though their interests are not being represented by the politicians in Washington today, know that you have the power to change the system. You have the power in your votes. The League’s bedrock remains nonpartisanship and we encourage all voters to use their voice to elect those that reflect your community and personal ideologies, your rights and your voice.

Stephanie Schriock, President of EMILY’s List:

We are disappointed and angry that the Senate chose to confirm an alleged sexual assailant and anti-choice radical to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court. But we will carry that anger into the election. Women will not forget this. We will decide this election, and elections beyond, and we will elect women who will protect our rights.

Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center:

Today our country witnessed an institutional miscarriage of justice. Fifty senators made it monumentally clear that political calculus far outweighs truth, temperament, the voices of survivors and even our democracy.

The decision to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is a career-defining vote for these senators, and it will not be soon forgotten. The vote is a historic mistake, and a dark cloud over the highest court in our country. But an even bigger mistake would be for our senators to overlook the energy, passion, fury and fierce activism this process has unleashed across the country.

We remain grateful to the thousands of survivors who have shared their experiences, and please know that the trauma you shared so generously has changed this country forever. We will not go back. We will urgently continue to defend all of our rights. And when the law is insufficient, we will change the law.

Debra Ness, President of the National Partnership for Women and Families:

Justice Kavanaugh. Those are two words I never wanted to hear. His nomination has generated callous disregard for women and survivors of sexual abuse.

It. Is. Disgusting. But let me tell you one more thing: I am not demoralized by the appalling actions of these senators today. I am feeling determined. And hopeful.

We fought, day and night, against this confirmation—and I’m incredibly grateful for this amazing community of National Partnership supporters who sent emails, signed petitions, called their senators, attended rallies and marches and so much more.

We have affirmed the courage of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Our movement is nothing if not reinvigorated. The floodgates of advocacy are now wide open.

Women everywhere are watching. We are paying attention. We will not be quiet. We are not going back. Women will keep on fighting—and we will take our outrage and our energy to the ballot box.

Karli Wallace Thompson, the lead of Democracy for America’s #StopKavanaugh campaign:

Over the course of the last few weeks, Brett Kavanaugh has lied repeatedly to the U.S. Senate, proven himself to be temperamentally unfit for a position on any court and faced extremely credible accusations of sexual assault and misconduct.

Forcing Brett Kavanaugh on to the Supreme Court was a generational mistake for Republicans, one we are committed to ensuring they pay for at the ballot box for years to come.

The vote for the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh was a vote against survivors of sexual violence, a vote for the continued devolution of our country’s political institutions and a vote that we will work to ensure is written into the political epitaph of every Senator cruel and grossly partisan enough to cast it.

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney:

After Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony last week, it was clear that he was unfit to serve on the Supreme Court. His blatant display of partisanship was astonishing. He seemed more like a candidate on the campaign trail than a nominee for our nation’s highest court.

At the end of the day, this confirmation process was a job interview, albeit for one of the nation’s most powerful roles. In a job interview the most important question to ask is: “is this the best person for the job?” It is disturbing that the majority of the Senate is planning to say yes.

If they cared about ascertaining the truth, Senate Republicans and the White House would’ve asked the FBI to reopen their investigation into Judge Kavanaugh’s conduct weeks ago and they wouldn’t have put restrictions on this recent sham of an investigation. I’m not surprised by reports that say nothing new was found. You can’t find what you weren’t looking for. Republicans didn’t want the truth. They wanted political cover. It’s clear they didn’t want anything to be found and limited the scope of the investigation to achieve that end and, in turn, final confirmation.

I’m disturbed and disappointed by this likely final outcome not only for these reasons, but also because of Judge Kavanaugh’s previous rulings and opinions on key issues including women’s rights and healthcare. His confirmation will not stop my determination to make sure all women have access to good and complete reproductive healthcare, to make healthcare a right and not a privilege all across this country and to hold President Trump accountable for his actions.

We may not be able to vote for the members of the Supreme Court, but we can change the document they are interpreting. We need to amend the U.S. Constitution to include the Equal Rights Amendment, which will protect women and mandate gender equality.

The fight lives on.

Carmen Rios is the Digital Editor at Ms. and Contributing Editor and Co-Founder of Argot Magazine; her work has also appeared at BuzzFeed, Bitch, Mic, MEL, Everyday Feminism and Autostraddle, where she was previously Community Director and Feminism Editor. Like everyone else in LA, she once had a podcast; unlike everyone else, she stays pretty zen in traffic. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.

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