Written by: Eva Zhu, Opinions Editor
Senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) Anthony Kennedy, 81, will be retiring on July 31, after 30 years. Although he is a Republican appointed by former president Ronald Reagan, and was unreliable on many issues, he did hold more liberal views regarding some things, including abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, and Obamacare. His retirement could possibly end progressive America as we know it.
In the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Kennedy cast the swing vote needed to uphold the clauses affirmed by Roe v. Wade (1973), which gave women full autonomy during the first trimester of the pregnancy. This allowed the right to abortion to be protected under the Fourteenth Amendment. If Kennedy hadn’t been there to save the day, married women would have needed their husbands’ approval to obtain abortions.
Kennedy believed that the right to marry should be held as a fundamental liberty for everyone and was one of the only conservatives in SCOTUS to wholeheartedly support and champion gay marriage. He authored the majority ruling for landmark LGBTQ+ rulings Romer v. Evans (1996), Lawrence v. Texas (2003), Windsor v. the United States (2013), and the 2015 case Obergefell v. Hodges to legalize gay marriage. In the issued ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges, he said:
“It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves . . . They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
Without a doubt, this is his greatest legacy. Without him, Americans would still be fighting for the right to marry who they love.
In June of 2012, Kennedy graced the cover of TIME, aptly named on the cover as “The Decider,” as he often broke the 4–4 tie reached by the other eight justices.
In the wake of Kennedy’s impending retirement, President Donald Trump is promising “to pick one that’s going to be there for 40 years, 45 years.” If his previous SCOTUS pick Neil Gorsuch is anything to judge by, America is going to be in deep shit. During his confirmation hearing, he was unable to provide sufficient answers to any of the questions posed by US Senators. Nevertheless, he was voted in 54–45. In true conservative fashion, Gorsuch has voted for the Muslim ban, in favour of the homophobic Colorado baker, against abortion rights, and against union fees.
Americans should definitely be scared for the future, especially if Trump’s SCOTUS pick gets voted into the empty seat by Senate. If Mitch McConnell keeps the promise he made in 2016 to delay the vote until after the midterm elections in November, then we might not have to be as afraid. If not, then we can expect a 5–4 conservative to liberal ruling on cases regarding LGBTQ+ rights, abortions, challenges to capital punishment, and race-based affirmative action.
If Trump’s next SCOTUS pick is confirmed into office, then Americans should start shining their battle armour. The United States will no longer have Kennedy to cast swing votes, which could very well mean the end of Roe v. Wade in the next year or two.
One of Trump’s campaign promises was to overturn the ruling. Once overturned, women in 22 states will lose their right to an abortion. That’s the worst-case scenario. The best-case scenario would be for every state to legalize “no questions asked” abortion, but this is Trump’s America we’re talking about. The most likely scenario, as Huffington Post points out, is that Republicans probably won’t overturn Roe v. Wade entirely, but may pass a 20-week ban in all states.
We can also expect future rulings to favour religious freedom over the well-being of the LGBTQ+ community. Down the line, homophobic bakers might become the least of our worries.
If Senate approves Trump’s next SCOTUS pick after the untimely retirement of Anthony Kennedy, then the lives of American citizens will be put in danger — especially women, incarcerated populations, and those in the LGBTQ+ community — and progressiveness will only exist as a minority in the Supreme Court for decades to come.