Justice Kennedy’s Retirement Will Decimate Civil Rights

Moderate conservative and constant “swing vote” Justice Anthony Kennedy announced that he will leave the Supreme Court as of July 31, news that left conservatives cheering and liberals sick to their stomachs.

Kennedy wasn’t a reliable vote in favor of equality — but at least he offered hope. Now, with Republican President Donald Trump poised for a second court nominee in less than two years, that hope has essentially evaporated.

Kennedy, who was appointed in 1988 by Republican President Ronald Reagan, spent much of the latter part of his career on the SCOTUS bench as the linchpin of the court. With court rulings in a highly partisan, evenly divided body often coming down to 5-4 decisions, it was frequently the moderate justice who cast the final deciding vote.

From marriage equality to so-called “religious freedom” arguments to abortion rights, much of our current law is based on the idea of “what would Kennedy think?” In many cases — especially this term when it came to banning Muslims from entering the U.S., allowing states to use racist gerrymandering or dismantling the political and economic power of unions — what Kennedy thought was lockstep with what other GOP politicos believed.

Still, he occasionally offered hope.

Just three years ago, Kennedy helped usher in marriage equality, dealing a massive blow to conservatives desperate to keep marriage “traditional” in order to prevent LGBTQ people from adopting or receiving the economic benefits of a legally recognized union. And in a break from his normal anti-abortion views, Kennedy sided with the majority on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a ruling that stopped red states from attempting to close abortion clinics by demanding medically unnecessary rules in order for the clinics to operate.

While Kennedy was by no means a sure — or even likely — vote for equal rights, there’s no doubt that whomever President Donald Trump nominates will be far, far worse.

“Thank you to Justice Anthony Kennedy for your long career of service on the SCOTUS,” Vice President Mike Pence tweeted shortly after Kennedy’s retirement was announced. “ Trump will nominate a strong conservative, in the tradition of the late Justice Scalia, who will uphold all the God-given liberties enshrined in the Constitution of the United States.”

That “tradition of the late Justice Scalia” clue is one that should scare anyone who believes in equality and freedom from Christian theocracy. Scalia was adamantly anti-federal government, zealously against LGBTQ rights and abortion rights, and obsessively pro-religious conservative. He’s compared same-sex relationships to “bestiality” and “obscenity” and criticized any sexual act outside of legally married couples — including masturbation.

And this is the “tradition” that the next potential Supreme Court justice will be drawn from.

With a new Supreme Court that features Chief Justice John Roberts as the new “swing vote” — a terrifying prospect if there ever was one — we can expect to see any gains that the left has made since the ’60s slowly ebb away. Unions will be decimated — and that process has already started. Trans people will be denied the ability to use the resources they choose or access the health care they require. Gay marriage will only be recognized in certain states, and of course Roe v. Wade will inevitably be overturned.

In a best case scenario, equal rights will be completely dependent upon whichever state a person resides in, and they’ll be recognized by the federal government on a hit-or-miss basis. Meanwhile, “religious liberty“ will make laws subject to the whims of Christians who will be able to opt out by claiming moral opposition.

And that’s only the best outcome. The worst-case scenario is a sudden turn from “states’ rights” to a demand that all states follow federal law — you know, now that the GOP controls the whole country. If that happens, this newly minted religious-right dominated Supreme Court will likely uphold federal bans on abortion and potentially birth control for unmarried couples, limit voting rights, end immigration, reject any challenges to discrimination laws and prop up a growing Christian theocracy.

Kennedy isn’t just leaving the court; he’s abandoning the U.S. population — and now we need to be prepared for what comes next. The big question isn’t what will change with a far-right Supreme Court; it’s how fast that change will come, and if we can do anything to slow it down.

58 comments

Susanne R
Susanne R17 days ago

David F. (continued...)
I will research what appear to be the conspiracy theories you presented after the holiday and will get back to you. It's 5:00 a.m. and I haven't slept yet. I’m guessing that your biggest concern is protecting the second amendment. That's fine. But think about this: the NRA spent $30,000,000, some of which was used to get trump elected, and most of which was used to spread negative stories about Hillary Clinton to keep her from getting elected. When I read about that --and it has been proven true-- I wondered what individual member dues must be in order for them to part with $30,000,000 and still be able to operate. Then I learned that the NRA is under investigation for accepting Russian money to be used towards trump’s campaign. The final results of the investigation haven’t been announced yet, but I’m willing to wait for the truth –as long as it comes from valid sources. Have a wonderful Fourth of July! As I mentioned earlier, I have some work ahead of me, but I will get back to you.

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Susanne R
Susanne R17 days ago

David F: Now I'm REALLY curious about your sources of information! Consider the wide range of sources I've referenced in my posts: Pulitzer prize winning authors and publications; top-ranking military officials; fact-checking organizations; and history books. Yet you haven't presented anything more than "The World According to David." Please, don't ever accuse me of NOT paying attention.

How does one decide that "the biggest scandal in American history is being slowly uncovered, chunk by chunk," if it hasn't been uncovered yet and is therefore not fact? You're jumping the "gun" on this issue, my friend. What your argument sounds like is an accusation made in one of trump's tweets to create a distraction, the one thing he does masterfully, and picked up by what’s left of his staff and defenders, like Fox Entertainment, who will grab any crumb trump drops and roll it through the dirt until it becomes a hill (my dung beetle theory). It has already been proven that the Russians interfered in our 2016 elections, which is one of the most egregious assaults that can made on our democracy, and instead of being outraged and defending our country's electoral integrity, he’s courting the mastermind behind the crime and insulting and alienating our tried-and-true allies whose military has shed blood on our behalf –and vice versa.
(continued...)

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David F
David F18 days ago

Susanne R. you're not paying any attention to the real news for the last six months.

The biggest scandal in American history is being slowly uncovered chunk by chunk. The entire leadership of the Justice Department, FBI, CIA and the president Obama himself, totally in the tank for Democrats and Hillary, illegally protecting her from criminal prosecution.
Almost every week of Obama's administration there was a new scandal, many were major such as the in the top tiers of the IRS pleading the 5th. or the thousands of guns smuggled into Mexico by our Justice Department in Fast and Furious. Our governments bizarre attempt to produce a scandal to discredit the second amendment.
All the Republicans could do was to charge the US Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt of Congress.
The Democrat party's deep state inside of our government, controlled all of the law enforcement, Attorney General and intelligence agencies. Republicans could get nothing done.

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Brian F
Brian F18 days ago

Defending Hillary is really low. The WikiLeaks emails proved that Hillary is a crook who is too close to Wall Street for the 22 million she was paid, and she refused to release the transcripts for the speeches to Goldman Sachs. In addition Hillary supported the Iraq war, the TPP 45 times, worldwide natural gas fracking, Monsanto, and refused to support Glass Steaall, the 1933 banking law to regulate the banks, and refused to support Medicare for all. Like Obama and most Democrats, Hillary is a crook and a liar who sold out to Wall Street, banks, big pharma, and corporations. Bernie Sanders had much larger crowds than Hillary because Bernie Sanders is honest, unlike Hillary. People who defend Hillary are extremely dishonest and should be avoided like the plague.

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Danii P
Danii P18 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Danii P
Danii P18 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Chad A
Chad A19 days ago

Take the courts seriously and vote accordingly.

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Susanne R
Susanne R19 days ago

(continued...)
But it is also largely accurate. We rate this claim Mostly True.

One more item (Source: AJC) Here's some interesting information:

"Congressional investigations have a way of stretching from months to years, but the House committee probe into 2012's Benghazi attack was especially lengthy. At two years and four months, it was longer than Congressional probes into 9/11, Watergate, the JFK assassination and Pearl Harbor."

The Republicans spent more time and money investigating Hillary's emails than they did investigating 9/11, Watergate, the JFK assassination and Pearl Harbor? That's a travesty! It's also an indication of how much they feared HRC and wanted her out of the picture.

Ironically and not surprisingly, the final report finds no new evidence of wrongdoing by Clinton. But the damage had been done. They got what they wanted, and the majority of voters got trump --the ultimate booby prize.

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Susanne R
Susanne R19 days ago

(continued...)
"Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable. But no one would have known that any of that had happened had we not fought to make that happen."

I bet the GOP never let him speak on their behalf again! If you want to "hurt" someone else's campaign, don't do it with taxpayer dollars and under the guise of an official investigation. Also, you keep referring to "fake" news. To make things easier for the readers of your comments, could you please provide us with sources that you deem credible? I've asked so many times, and I get no response. Thank you!

One last thing. According to Politifact: Clinton said, "There have been seven investigations (of Benghazi) led mostly by Republicans in the Congress" that concluded "nobody did anything wrong, but there were changes we could make."

Clinton's number is correct: there were seven previous congressional probes into the Benghazi attack. Saying these committees were led "mostly by Republicans" is also a fair assertion: the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs were the only two committees not led by Republicans. As for her comment that there was no overt wrongdoing, just room for improvement, that's a rosy assessment. But it is also largely accu

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Susanne R
Susanne R19 days ago

David F. - To which Libyan investigation are you referring? It wouldn't be the formal investigation into slave auctions in the country following an exclusive CNN report in November 2017, because that was initiated by the Libyan government (with a lot of outside pressure). It sounds as though you're saying that the Benghazi investigation is still going on. That ended in 2016 --although some Republicans are still desperately hanging on. Why aren't they doing their jobs, instead? Are they using taxpayer funding? Trey Gowdy has moved on and is already doing his attack dog routine on another victim: Rod Rosenstein. A parting gift to trump: find a reason to fire him and appoint a trump puppet to make this whole thing go away? I find it telling that some people can't let go of Benghazi --and I know it's because Hillary was Secy. of State when the attack occurred and was the most likely person to win the 2016 election.

According to Vox (not to be confused with "Fox Entertainment"):
"Democrats see this as naked partisanship. They think Republicans are using the Benghazi investigation as a pretext for a fishing expedition into Clinton's past.

Statements from some Republicans have helped prove their point. In a September 29 appearance on Fox News, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy seemed to admit that the real purpose of the Benghazi committee is to hurt Clinton's presidential campaign:

"Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? B

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