Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is retiring.
Kennedy, a Reagan appointee, confirmed long-held speculation he would be stepping down at the end of his term in a Wednesday letter to colleagues. In a message tweeted by Bloomberg Law reporter Kimberly Robinson, he told his fellow justices: “It has been the greatest honor and privilege to serve our nation in the federal judiciary for 43 years, 30 of those years on the Supreme Court.”
His decision will be effective on July 31 this year.
The moderate conservative authored many of the Supreme Court’s key verdicts on LGBTQ rights, including the Lawrence v. Texas ruling striking down state sodomy bans and the Obergefell v. Hodges decision legalizing marriage equality in the United States.
More recently, Kennedy penned the 7-2 majority opinion in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in which justices ruled that federal entities in Colorado illustrated anti-religious bias in weighing a discrimination claim against Christian baker Jack Phillips, who turned away a same-sex couple in 2012.
Kennedy’s decision notably punted on many of the key aspects of that case, like whether Phillips had the right to discriminate in the name of religion, while upholding the right of LGBTQ people to protection in public accommodations.
The Supreme Court vacancy will give President Donald Trump a second seat to fill with a conservative justice.
Before tapping conservative Neil Gorsuch to the bench in 2017, Trump vowed to appoint justices in the “mold of [Antonin] Scalia,” who vehemently opposed LGBTQ equality in his two decades on the courts. Since joining the Supreme Court last year, Gorsuch — who opposed same-sex marriage in his 2004 dissertation — has sided against every queer and trans issue that has come before the bench.
Currently, the Supreme Court is a five to four split between conservatives and liberals, with Kennedy occasionally joining the liberal members of the bench.
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