Updated: Dec 1, 2020
By Yashavi Prakash
Image via The Atlantic
On September 18, 2020, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat at the Supreme Court was left open for the first time in nearly 30 years. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a pioneer who always pushed for justice and equality without compromising for what was more comfortable for naysayers and cynical conservatives. She made major strides in helping women achieve equal pay, she worked to preserve the right of a woman having full body autonomy, and she was a key vote and voice in granting same-sex marriages. She grabbed everyone’s attention with her words, and her courage and intellect earned her respect among colleagues on all ends of the political spectrum. She was a brilliant force whose passing left a huge question for the judicial community: how can we fill Justice Ginsburg’s shoes for future generations?
Within the next few days of her passing, President Trump chose Amy Coney Barrett, a judge with a strong conservative judicial record, as a potential SCOTUS nominee. This decision caused an uproar across the nation as strong supporters of Justice Ginsburg quickly rejected the decision to nominate Amy Coney Barrett, and women and members of the LGBTQ+ community grew concerned for their personal rights and freedoms. Fear was instilled in many around the country, and the judicial community began to reframe their original question to now ask: is it possible to fill Justice Ginsburg’s shoes for future women and members of the LGBTQ+ community? What has Amy Coney Barrett stood for?
Abortion Rights and Birth Control
Barrett’s record strongly suggests that she is interested in overturning Roe v Wade. Since 2017, she’s voted in one specific abortion case: Box v Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky Inc. In this case, she wrote a dissent to allow a law to take effect that required parental notification for minors seeking an abortion. A decision like this would have been harmful to any one of the 350,000 minors who are pregnant each year (82% of which were unintended), as the law wouldn’t have acknowledged the fact that keeping the pregnancies could result in physical abuse or forced removal from their own house. Forced government intrusion into personal matters like teen pregnancy and abortion has the potential to leave many of these minors in incredibly vulnerable situations; the passing of such law without acknowledging this would have most certainly been deemed as reckless and incredibly harmful. Her judicial advocacy would suggest that, as a judge, she has been more focused on completely outlawing abortion; oftentimes, without considering the serious implications these abortion-restricting laws would have on the women seeking abortions.
On multiple occasions, Barrett expressed hostility towards transgender individuals, especially in terms of respecting transgender individuals and their equality under the law. While speaking at the JU Public Policy Institute, she said that Title IX protections “do not extend to transgender Americans, claiming it’s a strain on the text”. This view puts her at odds with the majority view in the June 2020 victory Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia that allowed Title VII protections extended to cover sexual orientation and gender identity, and made it illegal for employers to discriminate on those grounds. While discussing the decisions on cases concerning the rights of transgender individuals, Barrett misgendered the person involved describing the individual as someone who is “physiologically a boy but identifies as a girl.”
Full Marriage Equality and LGBTQ+ Rights
Barrett’s strong ties with anti-LGBTQ+ organizations raises great concern about the security and preservation of LGBTQ+ rights in this country. While speaking at the JU Public Policy Institute, she spoke in defense of the dissenters of the landmark marriage equality case Obergefell v Hodges (the same group who has funded these lectures) “questioning the role of the court in deciding the case”.
Today, Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed as a sitting member of the Supreme Court of the United States, and she will decide many cases that will decide a variety of social issues. Currently, the pending decision of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia is one that concerns “the healthcare security of tens of millions of people, including a disproportionate number of LGBTQ people”, as the Human Rights Campaign reported in a recent press release. This case considers whether governments must allow taxpayer-funded organizations to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people when providing them with crucial services. As the Human Rights Campaign wrote, “a ruling hostile to equality in this case could have staggering consequences for American social safety net programs” including services for veterans, people experiencing homelessness, runaway youth, and many other vulnerable groups.
As I wrote earlier, her hostility towards the most marginalized and vulnerable groups in society raises concerns among many political figures, judicial figures, and common citizens, as they question the new justice’s ability to judge this crucial case from a completely impartial view.
It’s becoming increasingly evident that Barrett has no intention to fill RBG’s shoes as a champion for equality for women and members of the LGBTQ+ community; instead, it’s becoming clear that her SCOTUS debut will primarily concern solidifying and restoring conservative ideals in the Supreme Court.
Written by writer Yashavi Prakash