With a high-level new appointment, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has gone “all in” on efforts to legitimize anti-LGBT discrimination under the guise of religious freedom, according to LGBT advocacy group Equality Texas.
Paxton’s office announced Jeff Mateer’s new role as first assistant attorney general on Wednesday. Mateer comes from Plano’s First Liberty (previously the Liberty Institute), where he spent six years as general counsel. First Liberty bills itself as the nation’s largest legal organization dedicated to protecting religious freedom. Mateer will replace Chip Roy, who has joined a Super PAC supporting the presidential campaign of his former boss, Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
First Liberty frequently represents individuals and businesses accused of anti-LGBT discrimination in high-profile cases, including an Oregon bakery that was fined by the state for refusing to provide a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
“This is most definitely an indication that we are doubling down on efforts to find a way to discriminate against LGBT people,” Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said. “That’s the bottom line goal.”
Neither Mateer nor a representative from the AG’s office immediately responded to requests for comment.
Mateer is well known among LGBT advocates as a staunch opponent of equal rights.
In December 2014, Mateer threatened to sue the city of Plano when council members approved an ordinance prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination. Last summer, he penned a Dallas Morning News column defending Paxton’s legal opinion encouraging county clerks and justices of the peace to defy the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage.
And speaking at the “Freedom 2015” religious liberties conference in November, Mateer alleged that Christians are under attack in America.
“Probably the most frightening to me is, it’s not just those left-wing groups and left-wing media,” Mateer said. “Unfortunately, it’s our own government, and it starts at the top with the president of the United States, but it doesn’t stop with him. It’s city councils. It’s governors. It’s state attorneys general. It’s administrative agencies who’ve been sold a bill of goods, or they have their own agenda, which is to purge any religious influence from our society, and we’re seeing that in case after case.”
“Jeff is one of the finest lawyers in our state and he will serve the people and General Paxton well,” Texas Values wrote on Facebook.