What Ruth Bater Ginsberg’s Passing Means for Gay Rights in America

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death is set to tip the power scales considerably towards conservatives on the Supreme Court.

News Triston Brewer

This article was published on September 28th, 2020

Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

Generational change on the Supreme Court hangs in the balance with the unfortunate death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and now Democrats must play an intense chess match in order to protect the rights of minorities, particularly the LGBTQ+ community. Currently, the Trump administration is rallying behind a conservative replacement that would threaten the advancements made over the last few decades by the queer community and lead to a culture war that could span several years or more. 

Ginsburg was a champion of LGBTQ+ rights, but in November, the Supreme Court will hear a case that could potentially prevent same-sex couples from fostering and adopting children, a decision that many believe violates freedom of religion and free speech.

Another case that is set to be a battle is the 1990 Smith decision that led to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a ruling that has been vehemently opposed by conservatives. If overturned in the neat future, vendors would be able to decline services to LGBTQ+ people because of their religious convictions.

As the Court stands now, Justice Roberts has been a wildcard of sorts, siding with liberal justices unexpectedly on some cases. With another conservative justice on the Court, transgendered rights could be in jeopardy as religious institutions will have more autonomy to deny bathroom access and other hard-earned rights. 

The Ramifications of Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court

As a federal judge for the past three years, what many already anticipate is that Amy Coney Barrett will be a near 180 from the stance undertaken by Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. As Donald Trump’s nominee and at only 48 years old, Barrett  would solidify a long-term legacy that would take the court from 5-4 to 6-3 majority for conservatives. Labeling abortion “immoral”, Barrett has openly expressed her anti-abortion beliefs and it is believed would encroach on current Roe v. Wade state regulations.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett in the Rose Garden on Sept. 26, 2020.

Other contentious cases on the horizon include the stripping away of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which the Trump administration has been attempting to remove for years. The move could result in millions in the queer community and beyond being denied basic healthcare, which is a pressing issue for many citizens in the country. 

With the announcement of Barrett’s nomination in 2017 for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Lambda Legal wrote a letter in opposition of her nomination, citing her overly conservative stance and her public support of stating marriage is explicitly between a man and a woman. The landmark Obergefell v. Hodges case in 2015 established same-sex marriage rights but still today, they are not considered a settled issue and the queer community is still fighting to maintain their security. 

Democrats Must Pack the Court to Return Balance

In order to wrest control back from the GOP, the Democratic party will have their backs to the wall now and must come up with a clear plan in order to preserve the liberties of their constituents. Talks are already underway to pack the Supreme Court with more justices should Democrats maintain power in Congress and win back control of the Senate in November. There is virtually nothing Democrats can do to stop Barrett’s confirmation, but by confirming additional justices to the Supreme Court, they can honor the legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and maintain the legacy she worked for generations to produce. 

What’s to Come

It is a tough road ahead for Democrats and the queer community, but through adversity comes change, and the hard-won protections that have been held dear for so long will prove the mettle of LGBTQ+ members in the coming years. 

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