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Why Anthony Kennedy’s Retirement Is A Blow To The LGBT Community

Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement; here’s what it means for the future of LGBT rights…
 
On Wednesday, June 27th, Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement as the Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS). The 81-year old’s departure will be effective as of July 31st of this year, after serving 30 years with the highest federal court of the U.S.
 
Some of us may be asking questions such as: … “Who is he, and why should we care?”
 
The answer to these questions is much more important than we think.
 
Kennedy was sworn in to SCOTUS on February 18, 1988 by then-President Ronald Regan. Despite being appointed by a Republican, his ideology has been difficult to define, which is seen through his history as the swing vote in a series of the Court’s 5-4 or 6-3 decisions.
 
Kennedy’s influence throughout the U.S. has a legacy that resonates especially within the LGBT community. As the longest serving member of the Supreme Court, Kennedy has played a significant role in nearly every case regarding LGBT equality.
 
Since his time as a judge during the early 1980’s, Kennedy suggested that homosexuality was protected constitutionally. After being appointed as Associate Justice, he wrote a series of majority opinions, which established U.S. law protecting the LGBT community.
 
One of Kennedy’s first major acts supporting LGBT rights was 1996’s Romer v. Evans. In this 6-3 decision, it was decided by the Associate Justice to invoke the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, which invalidated a Colorado Constitution decision to deny homosexuals the right to address claims of discrimination.
 
June 2013 saw another major case protecting LGBT rights with United States v. Windsor. The 5-4 decision saw Kennedy end the federal ban on same-sex marriage, declaring:
 
“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”
 
Kennedy’s most famous act pushing for LGBT equality was the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges’s 5-4 decision, ending state bans on same-sex marriages across the U.S. In his closing statement to the Court, Associate Justice wrote:
 
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were,” which has now become a commonly used quote by couples in marriage vows.
 
With Kennedy’s resignation, his successor will be selected by President Donald Trump. The decision is expected to give conservatives a majority in the Supreme Court; posing some challenges for the future of the U.S.’ LGBT community.
 
LGBT advocacy group NOVA Pride’s president and executive director, Brian Reach, addressed his concerns for the future of LGBT rights in the U.S.
 
“We share in the concerns of many in our community regarding the future in light of Kennedy’s departure, but remain hopeful that those currently in power will nominate a replacement that views justice through a constitutional lens, without interference from political or religious ideology,” said Reach, mentioning also that he is not supportive of all Kennedy’s votes, but admires his stance for LGBT rights.
 
Michael Farris, CEO and General Counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF)- a group well known for their anti-LGBT stance- also issued a statement regarding the next Associate Justice, declaring:
 
“ADF looks forward to the president’s nomination of a person to replace Justice Kennedy on the Supreme Court who will uphold the First Amendment and the original public meaning of the Constitution.” The post also commends Kennedy for his defence of free speech, but disagrees with some of his other decisions.
 
Some names speculated to replace Kennedy are Judge Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania, Judge William Pryor of Alabama and Judge Brett Kavanaugh, of the Federal Appeals Court in Washington.
 

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