I rarely worried about the end of the world. Until Justice Anthony Kennedy announced that he is retiring from the Supreme Court. President Donald Trump has nominated Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, 53, a conservative federal appeals court judge and former aide to President George W. Bush, to replace Kennedy on the Supreme Court. He worked for independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr when President Bill Clinton was impeached. Since then, Kavanaugh has argued that a sitting president shouldn’t be subject to investigations.
If Kavanaugh is confirmed, the impact would likely be devastating for so many of us – LGBTQ people, women, people of color, children, elders – anyone not male, straight, white and rich. Basic rights, which we’ve too often taken for granted, including the right to marry, vote and have an abortion, could be taken away. And, given Kavanaugh’s views, who could trust that the Supreme Court would protect Robert Mueller in his investigation?
Kennedy, though conservative, often, was a swing vote on the Supreme Court. He voted with the liberals on the court – particularly on landmark LGBTQ and reproductive rights cases. Kavanaugh is way to the right of Kennedy. If he is confirmed, for the first time in decades, conservatives will have the balance of power on the Supreme Court.
Ironically, the Supreme Court has often been off the radar screen for those of us who should have been paying attention. We drank Champagne when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. We worried about the religious right’s opposition to abortion and increasing insistence on their “right” to “religious freedom,” yet we didn’t fear that Roe v. Wade or marriage equality would really be overthrown or gutted.
Now, we’re waking up. Wondering if it’s only a bad dream. Unfortunately, it isn’t a dream.
Kavanaugh would “guarantee 40 more years of Trump’s values on the Supreme Court,” Rachel B. Tiven, CEO of Lambda Legal, said in a statement, “We have reason to fear that Judge Kavanaugh will abuse his power on the Court to protect the wealthy and the powerful while depriving LGBT Americans of our dignity, demeaning our community, and diminishing our status as equal citizens.”
Kavanaugh’s nomination is key to Trump’s plan to strip health care from millions through the courts, Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress said in a statement. “This nomination is also payback for the hardline anti-choice activists who have defended his disgusting misogyny no matter what,” she said.
For years, Republicans and Tea Party members have successfully worked to place conservative judges in the courts from state courts to the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, Democrats and other progressives haven’t been engaged with our country’s courts – from the local level to the Supreme Court. A progressive group, Demand Justice, recently conducted a focus group for 10 Democratic-leaning women. Several of the women didn’t know who Justice Kennedy was, NPR reported.
If Kavanaugh is confirmed, many of us could feel the impact in our lives. My friend Ruth is a straight, retired family nurse practitioner who’s involved with her church. Yet, she worries about the consequences if the Supreme Court rules that health care providers should be permitted to refuse to perform abortions or deny treatment to LGBTQ or other people who they dislike. “It goes against the Hippocratic oath — medical ethics,” she told me, “and it goes against the values of religion.”
I don’t want to demonize people who are pro-life or those who are religious. Religion plays an important role in many of our lives and the issue of abortion is complex. My mother, who was diabetic, had an abortion for health reasons. It was a difficult decision for her, she told me. Some of my relatives are just coming around to support marriage equality. I still love, though I intensely disagree with, the members in my family, who haven’t, and may never, come around.
Even so, I don’t wish to live in a theocracy. I want our Supreme Court to protect the civil rights and reproductive freedom of everyone in our country.
What can we do to prevent this from happening? First, though it’ll be an uphill battle going against nearly insurmountable odds, let’s do all we can to keep Kavanaugh from being confirmed. Second, let’s vote in the 2018 midterms in November for members of Congress who would protect us from Trump’s Supreme Court picks.
Hopefully, justice will prevail.
Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.