By Ricardo Almodovar
As we recognize LGBTQ+ History Month, I’d like to offer my thoughts regarding current events.
First, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the passing of the great Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was key in passing some of the most historic rulings impacting the LGBTQ+ community. May her memory be a blessing.
Regardless of your stance or ideology, federal courts play an important part in almost every aspect of our lives, including whether the LGBTQ+ community is protected from discrimination or not. From the district courts to the Supreme Court, the U.S. judicial system shapes what kind of country we live in through law and policy and often impacts the American people as much, if not more, than the legislative or the executive branches of the U.S. government.
As an openly gay man, I am concerned about Ginsburg’s successor, new Justice Amy Coney Barrett, because she could well be called upon to decide if my employer can fire me or if my landlord can evict me simply based on my sexual orientation.
The LGBTQ+ community, throughout history, has faced discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations in Pennsylvania and across the country. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these problems. We also know this isn’t the first crisis in the LGBTQ+ community.
In the 1970s, the AIDS epidemic crippled the LGBTQ+ community as social conditions made them vulnerable to infection given rates of poverty, homelessness, and other social factors. Let’s be clear that LGBTQ+ people are not biologically more susceptible to COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS, but the environment LGBTQ+ people live in have contributed to health disparities across the spectrum.
In addition to the AIDS crisis, the LGBTQ+ community faced laws that targeted and criminalized homosexual behavior through “sodomy laws.”
Activists organized relentlessly and the U.S. Supreme Court finally overturned those laws. This isn’t the only victory when it comes to a Supreme Court decision.
Earlier this year, in a 6-3 decision the Supreme Court ruled in favor of LGBTQ+ protections from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations under an extension of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
And in 2015, the Supreme Court ruled marriage equality legal in all 50 states in Obergefell v. Hodges. Because same-sex marriages weren’t recognized in parts of the country, power of attorney, wills, and legal documents were denied to the surviving party regardless of how long they’d been together.
This month, marriage equality came to the forefront as Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas called to overturn the 2015 marriage equality decision.
During Barrett’s confirmation hearing, the new justice used the term sexual preference suggesting that being LGBTQ+ is a choice, when in fact it is not and that term has long been outdated. Not to mention, Barrett’s willing erasure of the trans community is alarming. She is clearly detached from mainstream culture and her views are dangerous to American democracy.
The Supreme Court doesn’t only impact the LGBTQ+ community. That seat may also decide the fate of the Affordable Care Act also known as Obamacare. Health care coverage for over 20 million Americans is on the line and the Supreme Court could have the final say whether to repeal the ACA or not.
When it comes to the elections, that seat may also be the deciding factor in this year’s verdict as millions of Americans vote by mail. If your county’s board of elections isn’t able to count all the ballots in time, we may end up throwing away millions of votes impacting the results one way or the other.
Amid a pandemic and the constant bombardment of information — and in many cases disinformation — the American people will have a hard time at the ballot box.
Barrett was chosen because powerful interests know she’s on their side. She has aligned herself with such organizations as Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative anti-gay Christian nonprofit whose aim is “religious freedom, sanctity of life, and marriage and family.”
In addition, the Federalist Society and the Judicial Crisis Network, backed by conservative, corporate interests have dumped massive amounts of funding to control the courts.
If a Supreme Court justice is backed by these special interests, do you think they would rule in favor of the American people? How much more difficult would it be to sue when these same corporations have caused harm to people and/or the environment?
Barrett puts the wealthy and powerful first. And she will have no problem stripping healthcare access from millions of people, denying Americans’ voting rights and rolling back protections in the LGBTQ+ community.
Ricardo Almodovar writes on behalf of the advocacy group We The People PA.