Marriage equality hanging by a one-vote thread in the U.S. Supreme Court

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Neil Gorsuch
Neil Gorsuch

Anti-LGBT activists are now bragging in meetings and online that they need just one more vote to overturn marriage equality. After Senate Republicans filled the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court with Neil Gorsuch by changing procedural rules in the Senate to push through a vote with the slim Republican majority, conservatives are jubilant. The nine-person court now has regained the narrow 5-4 divide that led to the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges same-sex marriage decision.

Justice Gorsuch is a strict “originalist” and is likely to reject arguments that interpret the U.S. Constitution as affording protections for LGBT rights. He may upset the balance between liberals and conservatives on the court, worrying LGBT activists.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 84, Anthony Kennedy, 80, and 78-year-old Stephen Breyer are approaching retirement from the court. LGBT activists say it is likely just one vote short of reinstating traditional” marriage in the country. The Gorsuch appointment has not been met with enthusiasm from any LGBT activists; they expect an uphill battle in the Supreme Court over LGBT discrimination laws.

Sarah Kate Ellis from GLAAD.
Sarah Kate Ellis from GLAAD.

“Republicans in the Senate just destroyed a steadfast American tradition for the purpose of confirming a person to the U.S. Supreme Court who will most certainly vote in opposition to the safety and well-being of the LGBTQ community,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, of the media-monitoring organization GLAAD, in an email. “With his history of siding against transgender Americans and arguing against marriage equality, Neil Gorsuch is yet another reprehensible pawn in the Trump Administration’s goal of erasing the LGBTQ community from the fabric of America.”

Human Rights Campaign head Chad Griffin
Human Rights Campaign head Chad Griffin

“We are deeply disappointed by the Senate Republicans’ decision to pave the way for the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, who throughout his career has dismissed the role of the courts in protecting individual and civil rights,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “He does not believe the Constitution protects marriage rights for same-sex couples. He has twice ruled in cases that undermined equality for transgender people. In his Senate testimony, he repeatedly dodged answers about the fundamental equality of LGBTQ people.”

Meanwhile, anti-gay activists have started making excuses for poor turnout at some of the more recent anti-gay marriage rallies. After just a small handful showed up in Washington D.C. last June, Brian Brown of The National Organization for Marriage insisted they were at home “grieving” for marriage. He said, “We expected that the crowd would be smaller than past marches because people are still grieving from the U.S. Supreme Court’s illegitimate decision redefining marriage. But continuing the March for Marriage gives supporters of marriage an important event to rally around and come to realize that they are not alone in supporting marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”