Donald Trump’s selection of Judge Amy Coney Barrett for a potential Supreme Court seat is sparking fear and concern among members of the LGBTQ community.
Barrett, a former Notre Dame law professor and Catholic who clerked for former conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, is likely to be confirmed as the successor to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the court’s liberal lions, who died last week at age 87.
At a Saturday announcement, Trump called Barrett a woman of “towering intellect” and “unyielding loyalty to the Constitution” who would rule “based solely on the fair reading of the law” — buzzwords designed to signal to shore up support among Republicans and conservatives in an election year where the president lags in most public polls.
“I looked and I studied and you are very eminently qualified for this job,” Trump said. “You are going to be fantastic.”
Social conservatives are giddy at the prospect of Barrett on the nation’s highest court, many believing she will be the crucial vote to overturn the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade, a decision that Barrett has previously criticized, calling the high court’s finding of a right to privacy “erroneous.”
They also believe she will be a reliable vote against LGBTQ rights — having previously criticized the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing marriage equality and the idea that anti-transgender discrimination is a form of sex discrimination — and will overturn laws they disagree with, such as the Affordable Care Act. The court is slated to hear yet another lawsuit challenging the health care law shortly after November’s election.
As soon as the Barrett pick was announced, re-energized conservatives went on offense, attacking Democrats and liberals worried about Barrett’s religious beliefs and the influence they play in her decision-making, accusing them of “anti-Catholic bigotry.”
Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, a socially conservative organization with a history of anti-LGBTQ positions and rhetoric, praised Barrett’s nomination while accusing the Left of seeking to impose a “religious test” on a qualified female jurist in a piece on the group’s website.
“Barrett shot down the accusation that her faith would dictate her decisions as a judge,” Perkins said of answers that Barrett gave during confirmation hearings in 2017 when she was nominated to her current position on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. “Judge Barrett clearly understands her duty will be to decide the cases before her. In her own words, ‘I think one of the great traditions in this country is that judges participate in the law, participate in the decision of cases and rule even when they disagree with the outcome.’
“Anti-Christian bigotry is no new phenomenon on the radical Left, but it has become more and more pervasive in recent years as the Christian faith has been pushed out of public life,” Perkins concluded. “People of all faiths should stand together against the Left when it attacks a woman as accomplished as Amy Coney Barrett for the simple fact of her Catholic religious beliefs.”
Mat Staver, the founder and chairman of the right-wing legal firm Liberty Counsel, praised Trump’s selection of Barrett.
“Amy Coney Barrett is the right choice for the U.S. Supreme Court because she applies the intent and text of the Constitution to the statutes she reviews,” Staver said in a statement. “A judge should be a neutral interpreter of the Constitution who knows what it means to interpret and apply the law rather than an activist legislator who tries to create the law.”
Carter Snead, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame who has known Barrett for more than a decade, defended Barrett’s intellect and her “generosity of spirit” in an op-ed in The Washington Post, saying that liberals wary of Barrett’s nomination have nothing to fear.
“She genuinely seeks to understand others’ arguments and does not regard them as mere obstacles to be overcome on the way to reaching a preferred conclusion,” he wrote. “Time and again, I have seen her gently reframe a colleague’s arguments to make them stronger, even when she disagreed with them. And she is not afraid to change her own mind in the search for the truth, as I have seen in several of our faculty seminars. Such open-mindedness is exactly what we want of our judges — and what we can expect Barrett to bring to the Supreme Court, because that is who she has always been.”
But despite Snead’s insistence that Barrett will be a fair-minded jurist, LGBTQ groups have come out strongly against her nomination, arguing she is a results-focused ideologue who wishes to impose her own personal religious and political beliefs on the nation through her position as a judge.
The Human Rights Campaign has launched a “We Dissent” campaign asking supporters to sign a pledge opposing Republican efforts to fill the seat before the next Congress, and to name Barrett as Ginsburg’s successor.
The campaign alleges that Barrett’s “hostility” to certain marginalized groups calls into question her ability to be impartial, thus making her unqualified for a seat on the nation’s highest court.
“The last four years have been an assault on the rights and dignity of LGBTQ people across the country, led by Donald Trump, Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell’s prioritization of power over people,” Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “While people are suffering across the country, instead of offering aid, Trump and McConnell are rushing through a Supreme Court justice — a justice who could deal a fatal blow to people maintaining their basic health care in the middle of a pandemic.
“The President has dramatically altered the judiciary to try to dismantle hard-fought rights and progress secured over decades — LGBTQ rights, voting rights, reproductive rights and more,” David added. “Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell has sycophantically installed Trump’s extreme judicial nominees and is now seeking to push the balance of the Supreme Court even further to the fringes. If she is nominated and confirmed, Coney Barrett would work to dismantle all that Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought for during her extraordinary career.
“An appointment of this magnitude must be made by the president inaugurated in January. The Human Rights Campaign fervently opposes Coney Barrett’s nomination, and this sham process.”
GLAAD recently released a digital ad featuring Barrett and two other prospective Supreme Court nominees being considered by Trump, Barbara Lagoa of the 11th Circuit and Allison Jones Rushing of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
In the video, GLAAD includes audio clips of people talking about Barrett and the other nominees, casting Barrett as “a superstar of the religious right,” about whom there is “no doubt” in terms of how she would rule on any given issue.
The video also includes a quote from an Axios article alleging that “the idea for a revised list [of Trump nominees] took on increased urgency after the court rules in two major cases in June — one prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity.” It concludes with the words: “You be the judge. Don’t sit this one out.”
“If confirmed, Amy Coney Barrett will be a vote to undermine hard-won rights critical to all LGBTQ people, women and immigrants,” Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of the LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD, said in a statement. “Health care, reproductive rights, our legal rights to marry who we love or not be fired for who we are, are all at risk.
“Anti-LGBTQ activists supporting Barrett are wrongly claiming she is being targeted for her religion, when the focus is on her record,” Ellis added. “Barrett has voted against access to abortion, she has spoken out against LGBTQ rights, she would be the deciding vote to take away health care for millions in the middle of a deadly, out-of-control pandemic. Confirming Barrett will drag America backwards. We cannot allow her to represent President Trump’s bigotry and bullying at the Supreme Court for decades to come.”
Lambda Legal, meanwhile, has portrayed Barrett as someone who would dismantle every existing protection for LGBTQ people or people with HIV, calling Senate Republicans’ promise to fill the seat a “power grab.”
“If confirmed, Judge Amy Coney Barrett will unleash a Supreme Court majority that is hostile to all of our basic civil rights, and the impact will be felt for decades,” Kevin Jennings, the CEO of Lambda Legal, said in a statement. “Judge Barrett’s personal belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, coupled with her unwillingness to affirm that the Supreme Court’s decision making marriage equality the law of the land is settled law, should sound the alarm for anyone who cares about LGBTQ people and their families.
“However, her cramped so-called ‘originalist’ view of the Constitution threatens the civil rights of not just LGBTQ people but a host of others, including women and people of color, who have relied on the courts to make progress in the fight for equality and justice.”
Rea Carey, the executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, echoed other LGBTQ and left-leaning organizations by calling for the Senate to delay a vote on a Supreme Court nomination until 2021, when the victor of the 2020 presidential election and a new Senate can confirm a successor to Ginsburg.
“We expected the Supreme Court nominee to be someone that will work to dismantle the rights of LGBTQ and other marginalized communities for decades, block reproductive and voting rights, threaten healthcare access for millions and more,” Carey said in a statement. “We were right.”
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!