Trump could destroy pro-LGBT majority on US Supreme Court this summer
Anti-LGBT activists are gearing up for the rumoured retirement of a Supreme Court justice – which could put the narrow majority on LGBT issues at risk.
Trump-nominated Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch took up his seat on the highest court in the US this month – after Republicans changed Senate rules to push through his confirmation without the required number of votes.
With conservative Justice Gorsuch filling the seat of late conservative justice Antonin Scalia, the nine-person US Supreme Court retained the narrow 5-4 divide on LGBT rights protections that led to the 2015 Obergefell v Hodges same-sex marriage decision.
However, anti-LGBT activists are hopeful that they can turn the tide on the court, amid rumours that a liberal-voting justice is about to vacate their seat.
Three of the justices who sided with equal marriage – 84-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 80-year-old Anthony Kennedy and 78-year-old Stephen Breyer – are rumoured to be approaching retirement.
Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, hinted he expects a Supreme Court justice to retire soon, saying: “I would expect a resignation this summer”.
Following the hint, anti-LGBT activists are gearing up for a battle, hopeful to convince Trump to appoint a conservative to fill the vacant liberal seat, and swinging the court’s balance.
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In a mailout calling for donations, the National Organisation for Marriage said it was planning a lobbying campaign on the issue.
The group’s President Brian Brown wrote: “We need to be ready at a moment’s notice to spring into action to urge the appointment of a strong constitutionalist to the Court, someone who will have the courage to vote to reverse the illegitimate, anti-constitutional Obergefell ruling that redefined marriage.”
He added: “With Justice Gorsuch on the Court, we are likely just one vote away from restoring marriage to our nation’s laws.
“Whenever the next opening on the Court occurs, NOM will be there fighting for a conservative justice just as we did in fighting to secure the confirmation of Justice Gorsuch.”
Much of the speculation surrounds Justice Kennedy, a Bush appointee and the court’s often-crucial swing vote, who has hinted he will retire in the summer.
Following 2014’s equal marriage verdict, LGBT activists had been hopeful that the court would prove an avenue for a string of LGBT issues.
The court is expected to eventually hear a case regarding discrimination protections for transgender children in schools, while lower courts are divided on whether civil rights protections extend to LGBT people, signalling scope for Supreme Court review.
Issues relating to ‘religious freedom’ following the equal marriage ruling may also end up back before the court, and a shift of just one seat would likely alter the verdict.