By Joe Jones
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
On June 26, 2015, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion for the landmark civil rights case Obergefell v Hodges which ruled that the freedom to marry is granted to same-sex couples by the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This major victory for the LGBTQ community brought marriage equality to all 50 states and is seen as the culmination of decades of struggle and perseverance to gain free treatment and equality under the law.
Appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988, Justice Kennedy has been a pivotal in deciding hot-button issues, acting as a swing vote between the four liberal and four conservative judges on the bench. On some cases, such as Citizens United v FEC and Bush v Gore he sided with the conservative judges, but in other cases regarding abortion rights, he stood with the liberal judges.
Kennedy’s personal principles of personal dignity and liberty have made him an instrumental key to resisting the Trump administration and the GOP’s efforts to push through legislation which could undermine civil liberties for the LGBTQ community, women, and other minorities. This reliance on Kennedy is the reason civil rights groups and advocacy groups are reeling after the news of his retirement from the Supreme Court at the end of July of this year.
Justice Kennedy’s departure from the Court will leave a vacancy, which if Republicans have their way will no doubt attempt to strategically fill with a younger conservative Judge, one who will serve long after Trump is out of office and would greatly tip the scales of major court cases into the hands of the Republican party.
After Justice Antonin Scalia’s untimely passing in February of 2016, President Obama had an opportunity to nominate Merrick Garland to fill Scalia’s spot, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the nomination until after the 2016 election, allowing President Trump to put his own judge, Neil Gorsuch, on the bench. Justice Kennedy’s departure from the Court will leave another vacancy, and give Trump another chance to strategically nominate another younger conservative Judge, one who will serve long after Trump is out of office and would greatly tip the scales of major court cases into the hands of the Republican party.
Liberals and members of the LGBTQ see how the writing on the wall spells out certain doom and may be feeling fearful that everything we have fought so hard for will be taken away from us. And they are right, they should be afraid. But we cannot allow that fear to paralyze us into inaction.
Did we let fear stop us when homosexuality was criminalized? No.
Did we let fear stop us when we were plagued by the AIDS epidemic and our government was watching us die? No.
Did we let fear stop us when the Defense of Marriage Act was passed? No.
Did we let fear stop us when HB2 was passed in North Carolina? No.
Now more than ever we need to ramp up our efforts to resist the Trump regime and stand proud with all of our brothers and sisters whose civil liberties and personal freedoms are at stake. Call your representatives, get out and vote, call out injustices when you see them, and speak up for minority groups when they are being persecuted by your legislators and harassed in public.
Trump and the GOP think they hold all the cards right now, but we still have an ace up our sleeve: hope. If we surrender and lay down and die, we let them win. But, if hold onto hope and we let our passion carry us through, we can change the tide of history and ensure that our rights are protecting and the agenda of those that seek to oppress us will not come to fruition.
Sometimes silence can be louder than sound, and if we give up the fight and remain silent, our silence will equal death. We have accomplished so much as a community that we never thought we could, and never would have if we stayed cynical believing that all hope is lost.
Harvey Milk once said “Hope will never be silent”. Let us use our hope for a brighter, more prosperous tomorrow as our unifying call, as we burn our path through this dark chapter in our battle for equality. Keep living. Keep loving. Keep fighting. Divided we fall, but together we rise.