Trump judicial pick who said legally 'no difference' between gay marriage opponents, KKK withdraws

Country Mill Farms
Representatives of Country Mill Farms at a city of East Lansing farmers' market. In May 2017, Country Mill filed a lawsuit against East Lansing over the city banning them because of their refusal to host same-sex weddings on their property. |

A judicial appointee of President Donald Trump has withdrawn his nomination following backlash over his treatment of a Christian family-owned farm that opposed same-sex marriage.

Michael Bogren withdrew his nomination to the District Court for the Western District of Michigan in response to opposition from GOP Senators, according to a story by Politico on Tuesday.

Multiple conservative groups, as well as Senate Judiciary Committee Republican members Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, opposed Bogren’s nomination, reported Politico.

Politico labeled the withdrawal a “rare and embarrassing setback for the White House, which has had little trouble getting the GOP-controlled Senate to confirm President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees.”

At issue was Bogren’s involvement in a 2017 lawsuit filed by Country Mill Farms and its owner, Stephen Tennes, against the city of East Lansing, Michigan.

Country Mill argued that East Lansing unlawfully banned the company from taking part in the city’s Farmers’ Market due to the farm owner’s views against gay marriage, influenced by his Catholic beliefs.

"Tennes' Facebook statement professing his religious beliefs about marriage and his decision to only host and participate in only those weddings on his family farm that comport with those beliefs violates no federal, state, or local law or policy," stated the 2017 lawsuit.

"The policy and denial that followed violates Plaintiffs' First and Fourteenth Amendment rights because it regulates Plaintiffs' speech based on its content and viewpoint, creates a religious gerrymander designed to punish Plaintiffs for their religious beliefs, and conditions Plaintiffs' participation in a public benefit — i.e., participation in the Farmer's Market — on the surrender of Plaintiffs' constitutional rights to free speech, free press, the free exercise of religion, and equal protection under the law."

Bogren represented the city in the case, telling the Lansing State Journal at the time that he considered the farm owners to be “discriminators.”

“The message isn’t Catholics need not apply … The message is discriminators need not apply … This is not about religion. This is not about speech,” said Bogren to the State Journal.

In his brief filed on behalf of the city, Bogren compared the Country Mill owner’s beliefs to the Ku Klux Klan’s opposition to interracial marriage.

In September of 2017, months after the suit was filed, U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Maloney of the Western District of Michigan ruled in favor of Country Mill.

In May, during a hearing, Senator Hawley grilled Bogren over his involvement in the case, calling it “extraordinary” that Bogren would compare Catholic beliefs to the KKK.

“I stand by those comparisons,” responded Bogren during the hearing last month, claiming that “From a legal perspective, senator, there is no difference.”

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