The Trump administration has consistently undermined the movement for LGBTQ+ equality. Over the past four years, the administration has opposed the Equality Act, implemented a ban against transgender service members, and engaged in consistent efforts to roll back civil rights protections in housing, health care, education, and the workplace. Now, by nominating Amy Coney Barrett and rushing her confirmation, Trump and Senate leadership are threatening to permanently weaken what has historically been an important venue for achieving LGBTQ+ rights: the U.S. Supreme Court. Here are three things you need to know about Barrett and the danger she poses to the rights of LGBTQ+ people.
1. Her personal views and legal approach are hostile to LGBTQ+ rights.
In 2015, Barrett signed on to a letter defining marriage as the “indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman,” suggesting her opposition to marriage equality and possibly other LGBTQ+ rights as well. She has given a lecture paid for by the Alliance Defending Freedom, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as an anti-LGBTQ+ hate group. She was also vetted for her Supreme Court nomination by prominent anti-LGBTQ+ organizations the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation. In addition to these alarming views and associations, Barrett is a self-proclaimed Constitutional originalist, which means she interprets the Constitution according to its “original public meaning.” This approach requires adhering to the viewpoints of people who have been dead for centuries, inevitably leaving out the rights and interests of women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people.
2. She poses a threat to Obergefell and the future of marriage equality.
President Trump has stated that he would “strongly consider” appointing justices who would repeal Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark marriage equality decision. With Barrett, Trump has likely found that justice. In addition to her belief that marriage is a commitment between a man and a woman, Barrett has shown support for the view that marriage equality “wasn’t for the courts to decide…it was a change that should occur in the state legislatures.” This argument was echoed recently by Justice Alito and Justice Thomas, who wrote that the question of marriage equality should have been decided through the “democratic process.” More ominously, they also wrote that, with Obergefell, the “Court has created a problem that only it can fix.” Barrett has expressed that justices can overturn cases that conflict with their interpretation of the Constitution. And so, if given the opportunity, Barrett would likely join Alito, Thomas, and possibly other conservative Justices in voting to repeal this critical decision.
3. She will not protect the rights of transgender individuals.
Barrett does not recognize the rights of transgender people. When discussing a prominent case concerning the rights of a transgender student, Barrett misgendered the student involved as someone “who is physiologically a boy but identifies as a girl.” She also criticized the view that discrimination against transgender students is illegal sex discrimination, calling that interpretation of Title IX “a huge shift” that “strain[ed] the text of the statute.” In June 2020, the LGBTQ+ community won a huge Supreme Court victory in a trio of employment discrimination cases, including one on behalf of Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman. In these cases, known as Bostock v. Clayton County, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that discrimination against transgender people is illegal sex discrimination under federal workplace civil rights laws. The fact that Barrett does not agree with this interpretation means that, given the opportunity, she will likely vote against following the Supreme Court’s analysis in Bostock to ensure transgender rights in other areas, including the right to use the bathroom and participate in the sports that align with their gender identity.
Amy Coney Barrett poses a threat to the LGBTQ+ rights movement, including marriage equality and transgender rights. In fact, if confirmed, she would have the opportunity to rule against LGBTQ+ rights almost immediately. The day after Election Day, the Court will have oral arguments in a case on whether taxpayer-funded adoption agencies can turn away LGBTQ+ families. Don’t give Barrett the chance to rule on this or any other LGBTQ+ rights case. Tell your senators: Don’t move forward with or consider Barrett’s nomination before inauguration.