In her written questions on May 2, 2018, for the nomination of Peter Phipps as a district court judge, Harris noted his membership in the Knights since 2011 and said the group was "limited only to men."
"The Knights of Columbus state that they '[defend] the right to life of every human being, from the moment of conception to natural death,'" Harris noted, before asking Phipps if, as a member, he "carried out" this mission and would do so on the bench.
"Must you swear an oath in order to join this organization? If so, what is that oath?" Harris asked. "When your group's organizational values conflict with litigants' constitutional rights, how can litigants in your court expect a fair hearing?"
Later in November 2018, Harris brought up the Knights' membership of nominee Paul Matey, who was being considered for the federal Third Circuit appeals court.
She noted that the Knights were a "top contributor" to Proposition 8, the 2008 California ballot initiative to define marriage as between one man and one woman. She asked Matey if he was "aware" of the Knights' stance on marriage and, in reference to same-sex marriage, asked if he believed "the right to marry carries an implicit guarantee that everyone should be able to exercise that right equally?"
Harris also cited Supreme Knight Carl Anderson's 2016 statements against abortion as "a legal regime that has resulted in more than 40 million deaths" and which is "the killing of the innocent on a massive scale." She asked Matey if he was "aware" of that stance and if he agreed with Anderson's statements.
"Do you believe that a fetus is entitled to any protection under the U.S. Constitution?" Harris asked Matey.
After CNA reported Harris' questions to Buescher, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said that "such attacks on the basis of our Catholic faith are hardly new. The Knights of Columbus was formed amid a period of anti-Catholic bigotry."
Harris also grilled nominees over their past statements on sexuality and gender identity. In her questions to Kobes, she brought up a 2017 statement in which he said that the redefinition of marriage was still "brand new" in the U.S. and a "huge shock" to conservatives, and that access to bathrooms by persons of a different biological sex was still a "very difficult" issue for many people.
"What was 'very difficult' about allowing transgender students to express their gender identities?" Harris asked Kobes.
In another case, Harris brought up previous legal briefs written by current Ninth Circuit Appeals Court Judge Daniel Collins; he had previously authored briefs in support of the Little Sisters of the Poor and Hobby Lobby in their cases against the HHS birth control mandate. Collins wrote on behalf of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Harris asked Collins if he believed "that improving women's access to contraception advances equality."
She focused on not only the writings of nominees, but also endorsements of them by other organizations.
In her written questions submitted on May 29, 2019 regarding district court nominee Jason Pilliam, Harris focused on a 2018 endorsement of Pulliam for the Texas Fourth Court of Appeals by the Texas Leadership Institute for Public Advocacy (TLIPA). The group says it rates candidates for office based upon "'non-negotiable' intrinsic moral evils" that include abortion and abortion-inducing drugs, euthanasia, non-traditional marriage, human cloning, and destruction of embryos for research.
"Do you believe that reproductive rights, marriage equality, and the other matters mentioned on TLIPA's website are 'moral evils that have plunged our nation into deep moral crisis'?" she asked.
Regarding the nomination of Eric Murphy to the Sixth Circuit federal appeals court, Harris said in her Oct. 17, 2018 written questions that he signed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of states' decisions to defund Planned Parenthood.
"Did you consider the abortion access of poor women before signing these briefs?" Harris asked.