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Amy Coney Barrett confirmed to US Supreme Court

Amy Coney Barrett confirmed to US Supreme Court

  • Same-sex couples are already rushing to marry in fear justices may now attack marriage equality.
Amy Coney Barrett

Amy Coney Barrett has been sworn in as a justice of the US Supreme Court after the Senate confirmed her appointment yesterday evening (26 October).

President Donald Trump’s decision to nominate the right-wing judge has swung the court decisively to the right. Conservatives now have a six-three majority on the bench.

Some presidents don’t get to nominate a Supreme Court justice during their term. However Trump has now nominated three, having previously selected Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Meanwhile many fear Barrett won’t just change the balance of the court but also undermine the legacy of her predecessor – the liberal champion Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September. 

Indeed, some LGBT+ people are so worried about her stance against same-sex marriage they are rushing to wed before it’s too late.

One queer pastor in St Louis, Missouri joined with local businesses to offer four days of free weddings to help the community.

Promise of independence

Barrett won the Senate confirmation in a 52 to 48 majority vote. The Republicans currently have a majority in the Senate – although they may lose that majority in the election on 3 November.

The only Republican to vote against Barrett was Susan Collins of Maine, who is in a close reelection race. All the Democrats voted against her.

Trump was quick to celebrate the victory, sticking close to Barrett while she was sworn in. He hosted the ceremony in the White House’s Rose Garden.

At the ceremony the new Supreme Court justice promised to maintain judicial independence, saying:

‘The oath that I have solemnly taken tonight means at its core that I will do my job without any fear or favor and that I will do so independently of both the political branches and of my own preferences.

‘I love the constitution and the democratic republic that it establishes and I will devote myself to preserving it.’

‘A vote to turn back the clock’

However this is unlikely to reassure many Americans.

Barrett opposes abortion rights and has criticized the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that legalized marriage equality.

She also says sex discrimination law does not protect transgender people.

During the Senate confirmation process, it emerged that she had been a trustee of Trinity Schools, the operators of three private Christian schools with anti-LGBT+ policies. Some of her children also attended the schools.

The schools are linked to right-wing Christian group People of Praise which both Barrett and her husband Jesse Barrett are members of. The group also believes wives should obey their husbands.

One of the Democrats speaking against confirming Barrett was Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who had run for the party’s presidential nomination earlier this year.

Warren said: ‘It is a vote to turn back the clock on reproductive freedom, to endanger dreamers and immigrants, to let climate change rampage unchecked, to imperil efforts to address systemic racism, to place workers’ rights, voting rights, LGBTQ rights, gun violence prevention, all at risk.’

‘Celebrate love and be joyful’

In fact, LGBT+ issues may come up relatively soon for the court. The justices are due to hear a case on whether private organizations with government contracts have to obey anti-discrimination laws.

There are currently no cases before the court reflecting on same-sex marriage.

However conservatives know they would now have the numbers they need to challenge the 2015 ruling. Whether they will do so, given that 70% of Americans now back marriage equality, is an open question.

Barrett evaded questions during the confirmation hearings on how she will vote on such issues.

However, others are not taking anything for granted.

Tori Jameson is a non-binary, queer, sex-positive pastor serving LGBT+ people of faith in St Louis, Missouri. They organized swift ceremonies to allow couples to wed ‘while [they] still have the chance’.

Jameson said: ‘She has made statements against Roe, against immigration. I worry about our rights being rolled back if she gets in. But I don’t have a lot of political power. I’m just a community pastor.

‘We are going to take care of our own. You can be hateful, but there is an opportunity here to celebrate love and be joyful.’

Florists, bakers, photographers and others joined in the four days of free wedding ceremonies, allowing 16 couples to tie the knot.

‘Go get married now’

Meanwhile comedian Fortune Feimster said the threat Barrett posed was an extra incentive to speed up her wedding to longtime partner Jacquelyn Smith.

She told People: ‘I’m not going to lie, there were some nerves about the Supreme Court. After Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, all these people started talking about gay marriage again.

‘On the first day of their session, two of the justices brought up gay marriage. I think I had posted something on Instagram, something like, “Oh man, this is nerve-racking as a gay person.” Especially because we were planning to get married.

‘All these people were like, “Go get married now.”

‘Who knows what will happen? Hopefully, marriage equality is here to stay. But we wanted to be more proactive and get married while we know we can. It definitely got the ball rolling for us a lot faster.’


Meanwhile campaigners have also responded to Barrett’s confirmation.

Kevin Jennings, CEO of Lambda Legal, said:

‘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.

‘Party politics may have prevailed today, but Lambda Legal will continue to fight; our communities can count on that.’

Moreover, GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis described Barrett’s confirmation as ‘alarming’ for LGBT+ people. She added:

‘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.

‘Her record against LGBTQ families and rights has no place in American life, let alone the highest court in the land.’

‘This was a power grab’

In addition, campaigners criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for rushing the process.

In 2016, McConnell refused to allow a vote on President Barack Obama’s choice of Merrick Garland to replace the late Antonin Scalia. He argued the American people should exercise their will first. Yet that was eight months before an election.

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said:

‘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.

‘The process was a sham, the hearings were fast-tracked, and once again, Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump have chosen power over people.

‘We must reject this bald power grab and elect officials — especially in the White House and the US Senate — who will ensure our judicial branch lives up to its potential. Our democracy and our lives depend on it.’

Likewise, Imani Rupert-Gordon, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said: 

‘Rushing this nomination through in the middle of a presidential election was fundamentally wrong and a travesty of the process of appointing Supreme Court justices.’

Meanwhile, if the election result is close enough to lead to a legal challenge, Barrett may soon be helping to decide the outcome.