If you identify with or support U.S. citizens who don’t fall into the “straight, cisgender” category, you have an opportunity that is not likely to come again in your lifetime. And the rest of your lifetime is about how long the outcome of this opportunity will matter.
With the death of Antonin Scalia, one of the least LGBT-friendly voices on the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) for the past thirty years is silenced. The question is what the next voice will say.
The news lately is full of talk about the debate between those Republicans who insist that Barack Obama should not be allowed to nominate the next justice in his last year of office and those who point to the U.S. Constitution, which says the opposite. But even if it weren’t for this debate—even if Mitch McConnell and his ilk were not trying to skew things their way—the chances of getting an Obama-nominated justice through the review and approval process are slight. Congress, controlled by the McConnells of the world, can reject every candidate put before them.
The chances of filling this open seat falling to the next president are significant. Even more significant are the ramifications.
The U.S. has made a lot of progress in the area of LGBT rights. But there is so very much more to do, and so very much of it is likely to find its way to a SCOTUS hearing, which means that the new voice will have a monumental effect on legal equality. We can’t let the choice of this voice be left to chance.
If you’re still celebrating marriage equality (as I am), great. But here are some sobering facts from the Transgender Law Center:
- Only 41% of the LGBT population lives in states with highly favorable overall policy ratings
- 49% of LGBT population lives in states with very unfavorable overall policy ratings
- Only 36% of LGBT population lives in states that prohibit transgender exclusions in health insurance service coverage
- 63% of LGBT population lives in states that do not have LGBT-inclusive insurance protections
These ratings look at the legal status of LGBT populations in areas such as safe schools, child adoption/fostering, conversion therapy, religious exemption, hate crime, HIV criminalization—the list goes on.
As much as we’ve gained, there’s so much that could be lost. If any of the Republican candidates makes it into the White House, and that individual nominates Scalia’s replacement, the nomination will pass quickly. And the results will be ugly.
Marco Rubio thinks he’s not a bigot just because he would reserve a legal right (marriage) for a special group (heterosexual cisgender), excluding all others, on the basis of his own opinion—thereby not just defining bigotry, but also codifying it. He would not support anti-discrimination laws. He would not support ending conversion therapy and would probably encourage it. He would not support adoption/fostering by LGBT parents. He would appoint judges who would rule against Obergefel v. Hodges. He co-sponsored the First Amendment Defense Act, which discriminates against any household not headed by one man married to one woman. Follow any of these links to see what further hell Rubio would make for LGBT citizens.
Ted (a.k.a. Rafael Eduardo) Cruz thinks marriage equality represents a national crisis, and he has vowed to make reversal of Oberfefel v. Hodges a priority. He has become a magnet for LGBT-hate groups around the nation. He would love to reverse the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He has stated that LGBT rights interfere with the religious rights of Christians, and he will fight to reverse LGBT gains in a kind of holy war. Follow any of these links to see what further hell Cruz would make for LGBT citizens.
Donald Trump has actually reversed some of his positions on LGBT rights and equality since he decided to pander to Evangelical hate mongers, telling them they can trust him to do as they wish on these issues. He supports the First Amendment Defense Act, which discriminates against any household not headed by one man married to one woman. He has refused to state a direct position on issues such as adoption, bullying, and conversion therapy. And 20% of his South Carolina supporters want to ban LGBT citizens from the country. If you can believe anything he says, do a search on his current stance on LGBT issues.
For a quick overview of all candidate positions, see the BallotPedia summary.
If you’re in the enviable position of living in an LGBT-friendly part of the country, please don’t be complacent. The Southern Poverty Law Center shows a marked and frightening rise in hate groups since 1989, including a 14% rise between 2014 and 2015. The SPLC put a picture of Donald Trump on their annual report cover, which should bring the point home to voters.
Make no mistake. Even if Obama manages to seat a new SCOTUS justice, chances are very high that another seat will come open in the next four years. If Obama’s nominations fail, and another seat comes open… you do the math.