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Impact

Majority Say Trump’s Supreme Court Pick Would Overturn Marriage Equality If Given Opportunity

A wide majority of Americans believe that President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee would overturn same-sex marriage if given the opportunity.

On July 9, Trump announced the selection of D.C. Circuit Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the seat vacated by retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. A new report from the Public Religion Research Institute shows that 51 percent of Americans say the conservative judge would repeal Obergefell v. Hodges if a challenge to the 2015 ruling reached the Supreme Court.

Just 21 percent of respondents to a PRRI survey claim Kavanaugh is likely to uphold the decision, while 26 percent are unsure.

Although Kavanaugh rarely weighed in on the subject of LGBTQ rights during his decade on the D.C. bench, his nomination was backed by conservative lobby groups like the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society. An independent analysis of his legal rulings from Judicial Common Space showed Kavanaugh would fall to the right of every sitting justice except for Clarence Thomas.

LGBTQ advocates say a judge with his record on the Supreme Court could imperil the future of equality.

Kennedy, a moderate conservative, often served as a deciding vote in key LGBTQ rights cases. He authored the majority opinions in Obergefell and Lawrence v. Texas, the latter of which struck down state anti-sodomy laws. Both of those were 5-4 decisions, making these historic victories particularly vulnerable under a Supreme Court with Kavanaugh on the bench.

That’s why more than 62 LGBTQ advocacy groups have opposed the judge’s confirmation — including AIDS United, Equality Federation, Family Equality Council, GLAAD, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Center for Trans Equality, The Trevor Project, and Transgender Law Center.

In a July letter, Lambda Legal warned the stakes surrounding Kavanaugh’s nomination “could not be higher.”

“It is not an exaggeration to say that key protections that enable LGBTQ individuals to participate as equal members of our society are at stake,” the national advocacy organization claimed. “Judge Kavanaugh’s record demonstrates that if he were confirmed to the Supreme Court, he would provide the fifth and decisive vote to undermine many of our core rights and legal protections.”

Lambda Legal noted he has a history of ruling “against individuals and in favor of the wealthy and the powerful.

“Judge Kavanaugh has not served as a neutral and fair-minded jurist,” the LGBTQ group concluded. “He has instead been a narrow-minded ideologue who cannot be trusted with the grave responsibility of administering impartial and equal justice under the law.”

While Americans agree that Kavanaugh’s record is a threat to LGBTQ rights if confirmed to the court, the vast majority of individuals say they do not support reversing Obergefell. According to PRRI, more than six in 10 (62 percent) of respondents to the survey believe marriage equality should be upheld, while just 28 percent argue the SCOTUS ruling should be overturned.

Three years after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages in all 50 states, the ruling remains popular with broad groups of Americans — including 81 percent of religiously unaffiliated people, 78 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of Independents, and 66 percent of Catholics.

Republicans and white evangelical Protestants were among the few groups who dissented. Nearly half of conservatives (49 percent) support overturning Obergefell, as do 52 percent of white evangelicals.

Trump pledged to fulfill his base’s wishes while campaigning for the presidency in 2016. During an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, he vowed to “strongly consider”  appointing “judges on the bench that maybe could change things,” calling marriage equality a states’ rights issue.

These arguments remain theoretical — for now — as Kavanaugh has yet to be confirmed to the court. His confirmation, though, is all but assured with a U.S. Senate where Republicans boast majority control.

Read the full PRRI report here.

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