Metro Weekly

LGBTQ advocates: Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation a “sham” and “power grab”

Conservative jurist's confirmation creates a 6-3 conservative majority that critics say could threaten LGBTQ rights

Amy Coney Barrett – Photo: Rachel Malehorn, via Wikimedia.

On Monday night, the U.S. Senate confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court by a vote of 52-48, giving Donald Trump his third successful appointee to the nation’s highest court and cementing in a 6-3 conservative majority for the foreseeable future.

LGBTQ advocates have slammed Senate Republicans for rushing to confirm Barrett, who has a “troubling anti-LGBTQ record,” describing the process as a “sham” and a “power grab.”

With Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) the only Republican voting no, and no Democrats supporting her, Barrett becomes the first Supreme Court Justice to be confirmed with only one-party support since the 19th century.

Democrats objected to Barrett’s confirmation, which was pushed through by a Republican-led Senate within a month of when President Donald Trump first nominated the 48-year-old appeals court judge.

Many accused Republicans of hypocrisy for pushing through a Supreme Court nomination during an election year, citing Republicans’ refusal to hold hearings for Merrick Garland, a federal judge nominated by former President Barack Obama in 2016 to replace Antonin Scalia.

But Republicans pushed back, arguing that the refusal to consider a Supreme Court nominee during an election year only applies when the party controlling the Senate is different from the party controlling the White House.

Democrats countered that Obama’s nomination of Garland took place months before the 2016 election, whereas Barrett was being pushed through just eight days before the next federal election on Nov. 3 — the closest to an election that a justice on the high court has ever been confirmed.

Barrett’s confirmation was slammed by LGBTQ advocates, who see the newest justice as a Trojan horse who is determined to use her position to roll back any progressive or liberal laws, and reverse decisions on hot-button social issues like access to abortion, same-sex marriage, or nondiscrimination laws.

“Despite Amy Coney Barrett’s troubling anti-LGBTQ record and rhetoric, Senate Republicans rushed through the fastest Supreme Court confirmation process in modern history. This was a power grab, plain and simple, and voters must hold these Senators — and Donald Trump —  accountable at the polls,” Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement.

“The process was a sham, the hearings were fast-tracked, and once again, Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump have chosen power over people,” David added. “We must reject this bald power grab and elect officials — especially in the White House and the U.S. Senate — who will ensure our judicial branch lives up to its potential. Voters should hold Sens. Daines, Ernst, Gardner, Graham, McSally, Sullivan and Tillis accountable at the ballot box. Our democracy and our lives depend on it.”

Speaking at a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony at the White House on Monday night, Barrett promised to act “independently of both the political branches and of my own preferences,” promising to rule on the merits of a case rather than her own personal beliefs.

But many LGBTQ advocates point to past statements she made criticizing the Obergefell v. Hodges decision that legalized marriage equality, and her skepticism that transgender Americans deserve protection under federal civil rights statutes, contending that those criticisms are reflections of her personal opinions.

Mat Staver, the founder and chairman of the conservative legal firm Liberty Counsel, celebrated Barrett’s confirmation, praising her views as an “originalist” who will interpret laws according to the plain meaning of the text.

“Justice Amy Coney Barrett will bring irrefutable character, education, and experience to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Staver said in a statement. “She will serve our nation well as an originalist who applies the intent and text of the Constitution and the laws she reviews.”

See also: Support for marriage equality reaches an all-time high

Calling Barrett’s confirmation “alarming for LGBTQ people and for all Americans whose fundamental rights should never be up for debate,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis cast doubt on Barrett’s ability to be impartial.

“Barrett’s time at a school that discriminated against LGBTQ families and hurt LGBTQ youth is disturbing and should disqualify her from the Court. Her stated views against marriage equality, rulings against access to abortion, and her public criticism of the Affordable Care Act are out of step with fair-minded Americans and threaten the progress our country has made to become a stronger and more equitable home for all,” Ellis said in a statement. “Her record against LGBTQ famiies and rights has no place in American life, let alone the highest court in the land. The rush to confirm her in this unprecedented way will undermine Judge Barrett’s credibility throughout her time on the court, and will be another point of evaluation for voters witnessing this process during an out-of-control pandemic, economic crisis and as millions are casting ballots.”

Kevin Jennings, the CEO of Lambda Legal, called Barrett’s confirmation a “dark day for our justice system and American democracy.”

“The Supreme Court of the United States, the court of last resort for justice in our country, should not be up for a power grab, but that is exactly what happened today,” Jennings said in a statement. “Amy Coney Barrett deeply alarmed us during her confirmation hearings when she refused to say whether she believed cases that are the backbone of the legal rights of LGBTQ people — such as Lambda Legal’s landmark case, Lawrence v. Texas, which decriminalized same-sex intimacy, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage — were correctly decided. We fear that all the progress we have made in recent years is now at risk.”

Related: Trump SCOTUS nominee Amy Coney Barrett would “dismantle” LGBTQ rights

Jesse Milan, Jr., the president and CEO of AIDS United, lamented Barrett’s confirmation, noting that she is “very likely” to provide the key vote striking down the Affordable Care Act in a case slated to come before the court on Nov. 10. Such a decision would leave hundreds of thousands of people struggling to find health insurance coverage in the middle of a pandemic — including many people living with HIV, which, as a pre-existing condition, would likely make them uninsurable.

“Justice Barrett’s ascent to the court is a frightening blow to HIV-related care in the United States,” Milan said in a statement. “Those of us living with HIV are right to be worried. Protections for those of us with pre-existing conditions would vanish. Credits that help to make health insurance affordable would disappear. The expansion to Medicaid would be rolled back. Particularly, anything done to Medicaid has a huge impact on people living with HIV.”

Medicaid is estimated to cover 42% of all people living with HIV in the United States. 

Milan also expressed concerns that Barrett’s hostility to abortion would lead her to revisit and reverse the decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, a case involving a married couple’s ability to use birth control that established a constitutional right to privacy, which in turn serves as the legal basis for a slew of cases ranging from the ability to obtain an abortion to the ability to engage in same-sex relations to marriage equality.

“Justice Barrett’s railroaded confirmation is an affront to American democracy. As a lawyer, I’m offended. As a LGBTQ person, I’m worried. And as a person living with HIV, I’m afraid with  Justice Barrett on the Supreme Court,” Milan added. “We need Congress and voters to stand ready to fix whatever damage she might do to our health care and our rights.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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