Supreme Court Justice announces retirement

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Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy
Justice Anthony Kennedy will retire on July 31, 2018

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement on Wednesday. This will give President Donald Trump an opportunity to nominate a second judge to the court. Kennedy was long the swing vote in the Supreme Court. He provided key votes for same-sex marriage, access to abortions and affirmative action. Anthony Kennedy will retire on July 31, 2018.

Speculation has abounded in the wake of the announcement. Many beleive that Trump may appoint a younger and stauncher conservative to the court. If that happens, it will tip the court heavily toward the conservative spectrum. Trump appointed Neil Gorsuch. To do so Republicans changed the rules of the Senate to fast track the conservative judge through approval. Voting to confirm another Trump appointee, whoever that may be, will happen in the fall.

Anthony Kennedy was a swing vote on the court

Kennedy, 81, was appointed in 1988 by Ronald Reagan. Most notably for LGBTs, he wrote the decision for the Court in 2015, Obergefell v. Hodges. That opinion allowed for same-sex marriages nationwide. Though he tended to be more of the swing vote, he did side with his conservative colleagues in voting on Bush v. Gore, the decision that cleared the way for George W. Bush to become president in 2000 after a disputed election. Anthony Kennedy will retire leaving the highest court in the land with two Judges appointed by President Trump.

Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force in 2009
Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force in 2009

“With Kennedy’s retirement, Trump now has the power to appoint a person who will disrespect the Constitution, as he has,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force. “[and] politics [will] determine their decisions. We are going to resist, we are going to tell every member of the United States Senate that we the people must be heard, and we will not let them take our rights away.”

Kennedy’s retirement means both marriage equality and the right to abortion may be in danger

“Justice Kennedy played an historic role in vindicating the constitutional right of same-sex couples to be treated the same as anyone else,” People for the American Way President Michael Keegan said in a statement. “And while he wasn’t a reliable voice for women’s reproductive rights or civil rights, he was willing to stand against some of the far-right’s worst excesses when it came to attacking choice and issued or joined some important civil rights rulings. Most of these were narrow 5-4 rulings that could be reversed by a single vote on the Court. His retirement means both marriage equality and the right to abortion in the United States, as well as key civil rights rulings, are in grave danger. Donald Trump has made clear that, left unchecked, he’ll appoint a Supreme Court Justice who wouldn’t hesitate to toss aside precedent to enact a dangerous and extreme agenda.

Christian Fuscarino is the executive Director of Garden State Equality
Garden State Equality Executive Director Christian Fuscarino

“We are shocked and saddened that a justice who was once the defender of dignity for LGBT people and our families on the court would choose this moment to hang up his robe,” said Rachel B. Tiven, CEO of Lambda Legal. “Lambda Legal has been leading the fight to protect the courts from Trump’s onslaught of anti-LGBT judges. Given everything happening in this country, and the fact that this President has worked to push through his own hateful agenda, the American people have a right to be heard before the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice.”

Locally, Garden State Equality released an email. “With the recently announced retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy fast approaching, our country faces the frightening reality of a second Trump nomination for a Supreme Court Justice,” said Christian Fuscarino, executive director of GSE. “This decision puts so many of our rights at jeopardy, as Trump’s pick will likely solidify a conservative majority amongst our Supreme Court. The senate has already made claims to quickly vote for Justice Kennedy’s successor in the fall.