It’s only Day One of a new term for the Supreme Court of the U.S., but LGBTQ advocates and legal experts are already sounding the alarm.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr., both conservative members of the court, published an opinion this Monday, October 5, criticizing Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark 2015 Supreme Court case that legalized marriage equality nationwide. Both Justices described the ruling as an attack on “religious liberty interests explicitly protected by the First Amendment”—and characterized two of America’s most notorious homophobes, Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis and Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, as victims.
#BREAKING: On day one of the new Supreme Court term, two Justices (Thomas & Alito) wrote an opinion criticizing marriage equality & calling Kim Davis (the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples) a victim.
— Lambda Legal (@LambdaLegal) October 5, 2020
Davis came up because the court declined to hear another case involving her. The ultra-religious county clerk infamously refused to issue a marriage license to a gay couple in her jurisdiction post-Obergefell, which spiraled into an LGBTQ discrimination legal battle spanning multiple years.
“This petition provides a stark reminder of the consequences of Obergefell,” Thomas and Alito wrote, never mind that Davis’ case was not a direct challenge to Obergefell.
“…the Court has created a problem only it can fix,” they added. “Until then, Obergefell will continue to have ’ruinous consequences for religious liberty.'”
In a series of tweets breaking down the opinion, ACLU attorney Chase Strangio said the right-wing Justices’ brazenness is “a threat to even the most basic expectation of legal protection.” (Strangio, a trans man himself, was part of the legal team that won a landmark Supreme Court case affirming federal workplace discrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans this June.)
“What we can expect is the continued erosion of legal protections gained over the past century,” Strangio added. “And even if you, like me, are critical of movement priorities like marriage equality or formal systems like non-discrimination law, these threats will impact everything.”
HRC also described Thomas and Alito’s targeted language as “[a renewal of] their war on LGBTQ rights and marriage equality, as the court hangs in their balance.”
A thread explaining what happened at SCOTUS today with respect to LGBTQ rights, what the implications are and what comes next.
— Chase Strangio (@chasestrangio) October 5, 2020
The disconcerting opinion comes on the heels of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a trailblazing liberal Justice. As NewNowNext reported last week, President Donald Trump ignored Ginsburg’s dying wish and nominated a conservative judge to fill her spot: Amy Coney Barrett, a pro-life, anti-marriage equality judge and law professor from Louisiana.
“Republicans and the Supreme Court are gleefully coming for marriage equality,” Lambda Legal tweeted Monday, “and they think that Trump’s SCOTUS nominee Amy Coney Barrett gives them the opportunity to do it.”