What Justice Kennedy’s Retirement Means For SCOTUS and LGBTQ Rights

Call your Senators. Our rights are at risk and we need to act now before it’s too late.

Photo by Shutterstock

These past few weeks, months, years have been quite bleak when it comes to the news pouring out from the government. Especially if you are a person who has been pushed to the margins by the powers that be and continue to oppress in this country. Well, sadly, this week is no different. When the news came that Justice Kennedy would be stepping down from his Supreme Court position, we all felt our hearts collectively sink into our chests.

In a letter to #45, Kennedy wrote that it was “the highest of honors to serve on this Court” and that his resignation would be effective as of July 31. While Kennedy is a moderate conservative, he has played a key role in passing cases related to same-sex marriage, affirmative action, and abortion rights. In 2015, it was Kennedy who wrote the majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, which passed the nationwide right for gay and lesbian couples to wed. “The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times,” he wrote then. “The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality. This is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation.”

Justice Kennedy.  Photo by PBS

With his seat empty, #45 is free to choose Kennedy’s successor as he sees fit.

There are currently four seats filled by more left-leaning, progressive judges, and it is more than likely that Kennedy’s open seat will be filled a  by a die-hard conservative — meaning that decisions for decades to come will come out in favor of the right and conservative-leaning side.

“Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement will allow President Trump to fill his vacancy with yet another anti-LGBTQ justice with a lifetime appointment,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President, and CEO of GLAAD, in a statement. “If we cannot trust our nation’s top Court, then now is the time for our community to prioritize the permanence and safety of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that protects against discrimination.”

“The fact that the person who has been a voice on LGBTQ rights and an inconsistent supporter of civil rights more generally is now handing over his seat to a president who has shown blatant disregard for the rule of law jeopardizes Justice Kennedy’s legacy and is reckless at this moment in our history,” Sharon McGowan, Chief Strategy Officer and Legal Director for Lambda Legal, told them.

While this decision is ultimately up to the #45’s administration, our Senators *can* do something about it. That means it’s time to call your Senator and talk to them about how vital this issue is. We cannot have #45’s values in our Supreme Court rulings for the next 40+ years. That is beyond unacceptable, it’s honestly terrifying.

Trans advocates and activists have very real fears that this could potentially impact trans people’s ability to access life-saving health care. It could mean that trans people could be legally fired from their jobs for simply being trans. And it could also impact the never-ending bathroom laws for trans folks. While many are also concerned about LGBTQ peoples’ right to marry being taken away, that is unlikely as it is quite difficult to undo a Supreme Court ruling. Those most marginalized in our LGBTQ community — BIPOC, trans women, disabled people, undocumented queer folks — are most at risk if #45 gets his way in this new SCOTUS seat.

However, Senate Democrats seem ready for the fight. Though they have largely let us, their constituents, down in not standing up to much of the Republican garble over the past two years — this is where we really need them to make their voice heard. In a tweet posted on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called out Republican legislators for blocking Garland in 2016 and said they should use their same justifications now.

In another tweet, Schumer added: “People from all across America should realize that their rights and opportunities are threatened and should make their voices heard loudly, clearly and consistently.”

Call your Senators. Make your voice heard. Our rights are at risk and we need to act now before it’s too late.