Loading your audio article

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ judicial pick for an Orlando-area appellate court worked for a Christian legal group that has challenged discrimination protections for the LGBTQ+ community and defended a Kentucky clerk who refused to sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

Roger Gannam joined the Maitland-based Liberty Counsel in 2014, a group with a mission of “restoring the culture by advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the family.”

Gannam will fill the judicial vacancy on the Sixth District Court of Appeal created when DeSantis elevated Judge Meredith Sasso to the Florida Supreme Court. The court’s jurisdiction includes Orange and Osceola counties.

The Southern Poverty Law Center labeled the Liberty Counsel a hate group for its views on the LGBTQ+ community. The Liberty Counsel vigorously disputes that designation.

Top Videos - President Biden Asks Congress for $21B in Ukraine Aidmenu
Auto (225p)
Subtitles Off
Subtitles EN

At the Liberty Counsel, Gannam worked on high-profile cases involving conflicts between LGBTQ+ and religious rights. He represented Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk who defied a federal court order and said she could not sign same-sex marriage licenses “under God’s authority.”

He opposed Jacksonville’s human rights ordinance, which added sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s anti-discrimination laws.

In a 2015 guest column, Gannam wrote the ordinance would lead to discrimination against “people of faith” if they refuse “to endorse and promote someone else’s same-sex wedding” and took issue with provisions dealing with gender identity.

“Most insidiously, male predators will use the legal cover of female ‘identity’ to gain unchallenged access to women-only bathrooms and dressing rooms,” he wrote in the column that appeared in the Florida Times Union.

Equality Florida, the state’s gay rights advocacy group, slammed DeSantis’ pick in a statement, calling it a “slap in the face to anyone who believes in freedom and equality for all.”

“Ron DeSantis is using his power to transform the court with right-wing extremists who support his bigoted agenda,” said Carlos Guillermo Smith, Equality Florida’s senior policy adviser and a former state representative who is running for the Florida Senate.

Gannam’s work includes a legal challenge to bans on so-called conversion therapy, which seeks to convert LGBTQ+ people to heterosexuality. He served on Liberty Counsel’s team that won a U.S. Supreme Court ruling against Boston for refusing to fly a Christian flag outside City Hall.

He could not be reached for comment Friday. During an interview in May with the Judicial Nominating Commission, Gannam said he would be impartial as a judge, despite his advocacy work.

“I look at all people as being created in God’s image,” he said. “They are all owed my impartiality. No one because of what they believe would find themselves any more or less valuable to me. … I’m committed to getting the law right. That’s true no matter who it is before me.”

Gannam also applied for the Supreme Court vacancy.

A graduate of the University of Florida’s law school, Gannam joined Liberty Counsel as senior litigation counsel in 2014 and became assistant vice president of Legal Affairs. Before joining Liberty Counsel, he was a partner at the Jacksonville law firm Lindell & Farson.

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver praised the pick.

“Since 2014, Roger has been a vital member of Liberty Counsel’s legal team,” Staver said in a prepared statement. “Roger is committed to the rule of law.”

The Sixth District Court of Appeal could play a role in DeSantis’ legal battle with Disney if his tourism district’s state lawsuit against the entertainment giant is appealed.