The Supreme Court ruling striking down abortion rights on June 24 has sparked a wave of warnings from LGBTQ members of Congress and national gay groups after Justice Clarence Thomas used his concurring opinion to threaten decisions on marriage equality, sodomy and contraception.
Thomas, a longtime foe of LGBTQ rights, expressed his own desire to see the court target the queer community as he called on his fellow judges to “reconsider all substantive due process precedents of this court, including including Griswold, Lawrence and Obergefell”. Griswold v. Connecticut struck down a state law banning contraceptives, Lawrence v. Texas established the right to have same-sex sexual relations and Obergefell v. Hodges brought same-sex marriage nationwide.
In a statement on behalf of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island suggested that the gutting of abortion rights could be the start of a broader attack on other rights.
“If the Supreme Court is prepared to overturn decades of precedent and take away a fundamental constitutional right, no right is safe,” Cicilline said in a written statement.
World Congressman Jones, speaking to Gay City News shortly after the ruling, described the Supreme Court’s ruling as “devastating, but unsurprising.”
“As a person who is both black and openly gay, I do not lose sight that this far-right majority is next in line for the right to gay rights, contraception and marriage equality”, said Jones, who represents Rockland County and parts of Westchester County but now operates in the redesigned 10th congressional district. “He has already dismantled the Voting Rights Act, which was the greatest legislative achievement of the civil rights era.”
Jones argued it’s not too late for lawmakers to act, but he thinks any action needs to be strong and quick rather than incremental. His colleagues in the Democratic Party, he said, “cannot reasonably expect our Republican colleagues in the House or the Senate to protect any of their rights.”
Jones reiterated his existing calls for the Senate to abolish the filibuster and he further called on lawmakers to enshrine abortion rights in federal law. But he also said he was unconvinced that such a law — even if it acquitted the Senate — would hold up at a time when the Supreme Court is made up of a conservative majority.
“In terms of the role of the legislative branch of government, I think the Supreme Court would strike down the Women’s Health Protection Act even if we passed it through the Senate,” Jones said, arguing that the “only real solution” is the expansion of the Supreme Court.
Ritchie Torres, a gay congressman from the Bronx, told Gay City News that he agrees with the approach of expanding the Supreme Court, which he described as “largely appointed by a president who lost the popular vote, then confirmed by a Republican Senate that lost the popular vote”. .”
The House of Representatives, he acknowledged, has already passed abortion rights legislation as well as the Equality Act, which would update federal civil rights law to include LGBTQ protections. But these measures mean little if they fail to make progress in the upper house.
“I call on the Senate to do the same,” he said. “The Senate must follow the lead of the House.”
Another New York lawmaker, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of the Hudson Valley, echoed concerns about the future of the Supreme Court.
“Today’s appalling decision to overturn Roe v. Wade means that women in America will have fewer rights than their mothers,” Maloney said. “Republicans and their activist justices want to roll back our nation and snatch not only reproductive freedoms, but also same-sex marriage and other rights that we have fought so hard for as a nation.”
Many LGBTQ members of Congress outside of New York were equally unhappy with the court’s decision. Congresswoman Angie Craig of Minnesota argued that the government should not interfere in healthcare decisions between doctors and their patients.
“We have seen in this disgusting opinion that they come after a number of other freedoms that we enjoy today in this country, including my own right to [have] a family,” Craig said in a video posted to Twitter.
Lesbian Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but released a written statement denouncing the Supreme Court’s decision.
“The Republicans brought the women back to Wisconsin in 1849 and it is the Republicans who want to keep us there with support for politicians to interfere in the freedoms of women who will now have less rights than their mothers and grandmothers n ‘have had for decades,” Baldwin said.
Bisexual Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who has publicly resisted efforts to dump the filibuster, posted a statement on Twitter saying the decision “endangers the health and well-being of women in Arizona and across America”.
“Throughout my tenure in Congress, I have always supported women’s access to health care, and I will continue to work with anyone to protect women’s ability to make decisions about their future,” Sinema said. .
LGBTQ legal groups rushed to condemn the decision almost immediately. The Human Rights Campaign, which has also played a role in legal battles for LGBTQ rights, said on June 24 that Thomas “had some alarming things to say about Obergefell v. Hodges and Lawrence v. Texas, but he didn’t speak only for himself”.
“Our fight right now is centered on ensuring that people still have access to the abortion and reproductive services they need, but make no mistake: we will not back down in defense of the progress we have made. and the continued fight for full LGBTQ+ equality,” HRC said in a Twitter post following the ruling.
Jennifer Pizer, who is acting legal director of Lambda Legal, a leading LGBTQ legal group, called the ruling “incalculable” and warned that people will die as a result.
“These basic rights to liberty and equality have been fundamental to privacy rights regarding other medical decisions, freedom to use birth control, interracial couples to marry, and transgender rights. , as well as Lambda Legal’s victories in Lawrence v. Texas and Oberfell v. Hodges,” Pizer wrote. “Today’s assurances from the Court that the only freedom at issue is the freedom not to continue a pregnancy, provide little comfort given the now patently hollow assurances offered during the Senate confirmation hearings according to which the right to abortion is a well-established law.”