LGBTQ advocates condemned Donald Trump’s travel ban as “harmful,” “unnecessary,” and “racist” after the Supreme Court upheld the policy in Tuesday ruling.
In a 5-4 decision led by the bench’s conservative faction, the Supreme Court ruled in Trump v. Hawaii that the president’s attempt to halt immigration from five majority Muslim countries is not discriminatory on its face. The list includes Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, while the African nation of Chad was struck from the roster last April.
Chief Justice John Roberts, reversing an earlier ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocking the ban, said the policy falls “squarely” within the Commander-in-Chief’s rights of restricting foreign immigration.
“[Executive Order 13769] is expressly premised on legitimate purposes: preventing entry of nationals who cannot be adequately vetted and inducing other nations to improve their practices,” Roberts wrote in his majority opinion, backed by Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas. “The text says nothing about religion.”
Defenders of the executive order note that the travel ban is not exclusively Muslim. In addition to the five countries listed above, it also restricts entrants from North Korea and Venezuela.
But in a searing dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor held that while the order doesn’t mention the subject of religion explicitly, the president has. Prior to taking office, Trump promised a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims” entering the United States in a December 2016 tweetstorm.
“The majority here completely sets aside the president’s charged statements about Muslims as irrelevant,” Sotomayor wrote.
“That holding erodes the foundational principles of religious tolerance that the court elsewhere has so emphatically protected, and it tells members of minority religions in our country ‘that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community,’” the Obama appointee added.
Sotomayor, who compared the travel ban to Japanese internment camps during World War II, was joined in opposition by liberal justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Elena Kagan.
LGBTQ advocates joined the bench’s left wing in decrying the president’s policy, as well as the decision of SCOTUS conservatives to uphold it.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision to uphold the Muslim ban is a harmful ruling that sanctions the racist policies of the Trump administration, which has attacked LGBTQ people, Muslims, immigrants, and many more vulnerable communities in vile and merciless ways,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President and CEO, in a statement.
“Our unified communities will stand together in firm opposition to this abjectly un-American ruling,” she continued.
“Make no mistake: this is an unnecessary and dangerous ban against Muslims that recklessly puts lives in danger and undermines civil liberties in this country,” added Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow.
“We are disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to uphold what is clearly a xenophobic effort that scapegoats persons of a particular faith, threatens the safety of human beings seeking refuge, encourages violence and discrimination against Muslim Americans, and does nothing to keep all Americans safer,” she claimed in comments shared with INTO.
“Again and again, our courts are being asked whether they will allow the most thinly veiled bigotry to drive policies that hurt people, families, and our values,” said National Center for Trans Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling in a statement. “In this round, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of bigotry.”
“We will continue to stand against this odious Muslim ban in the courts, and against every attempt to target, ban, and harm people and families simply because of who they are,” she continued.
The decision on Trump’s travel ban was handed down on a significant day for the LGBTQ community.
Tuesday marks the three-year anniversary of Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality in a 5-4 decision, and the fifth anniversary of the United States v. Windsor ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act. Meanwhile, it’s also the 14th anniversary of Lawrence v. Texas, in which the court ruled that state sodomy bans are unconstitutional.
In the wake of the “narrow” ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Civil Rights Commission earlier this month, LGBTQ allies said the SCOTUS decision is a reminder that rights can be reversed.
“This decision puts the basic rights of all Americans at risk,” claimed Muslim Advocates Executive Director Farhana Khera in a statement. “It says that even when an administration is clearly anti-Muslim, when it targets Muslims, when it insults Muslims, and when it puts a policy in place that specifically hurts Muslims—that the Court will let it stand.”
“If it can happen to Muslims, it can happen to anyone,” she added.
It must be noted that the Supreme Court did not weigh in on the soundness of the president’s travel ban, but whether Trump has the power to enact such a policy under the Immigration and Nationality Act. The 1965 law states that the POTUS may “suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”
In addition, the legal battle over the president’s travel ban isn’t over. By vacating the earlier decision from the Ninth Circuit Court, Trump v. Hawaii will effectively be sent back to the lower court for reconsideration.
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