Hot on the heels of some alarming pronouncements on same-sex marriage by US Justices Alto and Thomas, more worrying times are predicted for the LGBTQ+ population in the United States as Republican Trump nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed in a 52-48 majority vote to be the newest Justice of The Supreme Court.
Barrett’s election ushers in a Republican majority in the Supreme Court, stoking fears for LGBTQ+ equality, abortion rights and the availability of affordable healthcare.
The news has emboldened those espousing homophobic rhetoric around the world with Poland continuing to show its unwavering support for any discrimination against LGBTQ+ peoples. The far-right organisation ‘Institute Ordo Luris’, with close links to the Polish government, said that the confirmation of Barrett is a “great event” which will permeate further afield, ominously stating that it’ll be bringing “consequences far beyond the US.”
What is stoking the concern?
President Donald Trump hails Barrett’s capabilities as a “mother of school-aged children” who has “captured American hearts” with her traditional values and conservative stance on progressive ideas which readily fit into Trump’s missionary mantras – mantras which overwhelmingly won him the so-called Bible Belt in the 2016 election.
Barrett was on the board of trustees of three private schools which actively barred children from LGBTQ+ households from enrolling.
Barrett and her husband are also members of People of Praise, a fringe Christian group of 1,700 people who often espouse homophobic sentiments.
People of Praise founded the schools in question, which have since been awarded the National Blue Ribbon – a certificate to schools who show”‘academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups” – as long as you’re not from a rainbow family, that is.
The Associated Press spoke to a previous employee of one of the schools, who confirmed the schools’ homophobic policies.
Tom Henry was a senior at Trinity School in Eagan, Minnesota, serving as a student ambassador, when Barrett was an active member of the board.
In early 2017, a lesbian parent asked him whether Trinity was open to gay people and expressed concern about how her child would be treated.
He had been instructed not to answer questions about People of Praise or the schools “politics.”
When asking the board for assistance on how to respond to the prospective student’s parents, he was told, “The next time that happens, you tell them they would not be welcome here,” Henry recounted. “Trans families, gay families, gay students, trans students would not feel welcome at Trinity Schools. The board then said, ‘Do we understand each other?’ ”
The schools’ legitimacy has since been questioned since Barrett’s run for Supreme Court Justice; however, the first amendment protects free exercise of religious beliefs and therefore provides loopholes to discriminate if a so-called religious criterion is met.
If Democratic nominee Joe Biden wins the upcoming presidential election, the Republicans will have control of the Supreme Court and therefore can make amendments to the constitution with less resistance.
Advocators for same-sex marriage noticed the limitations of the same-sex equality act being added to the constitution in 2015, rather than being implemented on a state-by-state basis, by acknowledging that a change in the Supreme Court majority could upend the progress in an instant.
To preserve same-sex marriage rights, LGBTQ+ individuals and allies must now vote wisely in regard to state representation should the position change in the Supreme Court.
OutNewsGlobal spoke to a worried LGBTQ+ citizen Jessica, a social media professional, 28, and a Virginia resident, on the developments.
“The confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett makes me incredibly concerned for the continuation of LGBTQ+ rights here in the US. I think it’s highly likely progress is hindered and reversed.
“Their rights have never been determined by one vote of the highest court in the land. There has been no legal battle for the rights of the cis/straight people I know.”
Jessica brought forward her wedding with her wife after the Trump election in 2016, fearing there would be inevitable consequences to the 2015 constitutional amendments during his tenure.
“They can get married whenever and however they want. For them to try and minimise my rational fear of a legal dismantling of the rights that the LGBT+ community has fought and even died for is insulting.”
Despite the upholding of LGBTQ+ rights upheld in Virginia, Jessica admits that her and her family will consider relocating to state with a more progressive stance.
“My wife and I, despite owning a home here, would likely end up moving to another state with firmer, better directions and recognition of LGBT rights.”
For now, Jessica and her family acknowledge their luck in the postcode lottery, “If we lived even about 20 miles south of where we do, the local politics structure would change drastically. We’re really lucky to be on the outer parts of the DC suburbs.”
The appointment of Barrett is a particularly sour pill to swallow as she was elected after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, creating a vacancy in the already finely poised Supreme Court. Ginsburg, a true advocate for women’s and LGTBQ+ rights was one of the Justices who voted in favour of same-sex marriage recognition being enshrines in the constitution in 2015.
There were moments of solidarity as the roll-call fell to democratic Senator of Hawaii Mazie Hirono, whom lambasted Barrett, “Not once, but twice you used the term ‘sexual preference’ to describe those in the LGBTQ community
“Let me make clear, ‘sexual preference’ is an offensive and outdated term. It is used by the anti-LGBTQ activists to suggest that sexual orientation is a choice. It is not.”
Senator Hirono departed the chamber after appearing to give a thumbs down and declaring “I vote to say, hell no.”
Barrett’s confirmation was the first time in 151 years that a Justice has been confirmed without a single vote from the opposition. Only one republican senator voted against Barrett, once again highlighting how party politics, despite the supposed impartial nature of The Supreme Court, is seemingly more important than the concept of equality for all.