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Published: Tuesday, Oct. 27th, 2020

What Justice Amy Coney Barrett's Confirmation Means for the Future of Same-Sex Marriage

AP Photo / Alex Brandon

Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court late last night during a midnight ceremony that looked more like a Rosecrutian initiation ceremony than transparent democratic process, securing a 6-3 conservative majority on the court. Her confirmation has many progressive and minority groups anxious about the months and years ahead. There is widespread worry that Barrett could tip the vote towards rolling back protections for same-sex marriages - along with many pressing and divided issues like contraceptive access, abortion access, and Medicaid and healthcare access.

 

Whenever AMM weighs in on political matters, there’s a vocal minority within our community demanding that we “stay out of politics.” We don’t tell our ministers how to vote, we don’t donate to politicians or political organizations, and we don’t lobby. However, we do have a conscience and it requires us to speak out on behalf of the oppressed. Few moments in history are as urgent as today, as we head to the polls in a world that looks and feels like it's coming apart at the seams. Barrett’s confirmation is a reminder that our raison d'etre, marriage equality, remains front and center. It is for this reason that we are raising our voices here.  

 

Here’s a look back on just a few of Justice Barrett’s previous comments and actions regarding same-sex marriages, and what her confirmation might mean for marriage equality moving forward.

 

  • Beginning in 2011, Barrett was paid five times for training and lectures she delivered to law students as part of the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, an organization funded by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), as reported by The Guardian. ADF is a notably anti-LGBTQ+ organization that has been named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The CEO and general counsel of ADF, Michael Farris, also attended the Rose Garden party for Barrett’s nomination in October of this year. Barrett has said that she didn’t research ADF before speaking at the events, but their opposition to same-sex marriage is published on their website here, and also here

 

  • Beginning in 2015, Barrett served for three years on the board for Trinity Schools, Inc., an anti-gay collective of three private Christian schools that do not allow enrollment of LGBTQ+ students, or permit employment of openly LGBTQ+ educators. The group is also affiliated with People of Praise, an insular religious community with strict views on marriage. PBS’s Newshour has reported that former employees and students of the Trinity schools describe the group’s views on homosexuality and marriage as such: “Homosexuality is an abomination against God, sex should occur only within marriage and marriage should only be between a man and a woman.”

 

  • In 2015, Barrett signed a letter titled “"Letter to Synod Fathers from Catholic Women", which states: “We give witness that the Church’s teachings... on the meaning of human sexuality, the significance of sexual difference and the complementarity of men and women...and on marriage and family founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman...” (You can read the full letter on the Ethics & Public Policy Center’s website, a religious “institute dedicated to applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy.”) Here, Barrett agrees that she views marriage as a commitment that should only be made between men and women, in firm opposition to same-sex marriages. 

 

  • In 2016, Barrett gave a lecture discussing, among other topics, transgender protections and same-sex marriage. Regarding same-sex marriage, she suggested that the question should not be one for the Supreme Court, but instead left up to individual states. As the Human Rights Campaign has reported, Barrett said: "[Chief Justice Roberts, in his dissent] said, those who want same-sex marriage, you have every right to lobby in state legislatures to make that happen, but the dissent’s view was that it wasn’t for the court to decide... So I think Obergefell, and what we’re talking about for the future of the court, it’s really a who decides question."

 

 

Demetrius Freeman / Pool via AP

 

What does Barrett’s confirmation mean for the future of same-sex marriage?

 

It’s too soon to say. But Barrett’s views on a Supreme Court Justice’s weighing of legal precedent make her past statements and actions, and her suggestion that marriage equality be decided by the states rather than by federal and Constitutional protections against discrimination, all the more alarming.

 

Regarding legal precedent, Barrett has said that she would follow her own interpretation of the Constitution when deciding cases, rather than past precedent. As reported by BBC, she wrote in a 2013 Texas Law Review article: 

"Does the Court act lawlessly - or at least questionably - when it overrules precedent? I tend to agree with those who say that a justice's duty is to the Constitution and that it is thus more legitimate for her to enforce her best understanding of the Constitution rather than a precedent she thinks is clearly in conflict with it."

 

This potential disregard for previous Court rulings is viewed by many as especially threatening to the future of same-sex marriages, considering that two conservative Justices, Justices Thomas and Alito, released a screed earlier this month stating that they would overturn Obergefell vs Hodges if presented with an opportunity to do so. 

 

But Barrett has said during her confirmation hearings this month, as reported by Forbes, that challenges to Obergefell vs Hodges would likely be struck down by district courts before reaching the Supreme Court. She went on to say that she would “never discriminate on the basis of sexual preference.” Intended to defend her position, the comment only increased unease for many,  due to the long anti-gay history of viewing sexuality as a “preference” or choice, not to mention that the term “sexual preference” also ignores gender expression and the concerns facing transgender Americans and their families.

 

For now, Justice Barrett’s confirmation poses many unanswered questions for members of the LGBTQ+ community and their families and friends. 

 

We stand resolutely with our ministers and our LGBTQ+ couples and community, as fellow citizens and humans, who are equal and deserving of equal rights, protections, and opportunities, and a future free from hatred and judgement. Discrimination based on gender, sexuality, race, ability, and background should never be the law of the land. To read more about the ethical underpinnings of AMM, check out our theological doctrine.

 

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