Donald Trump may be on his way out the door tomorrow, but the damage he’s done to same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ rights will haunt the nation for years to come. From the “no cake for you” ruling to the ongoing battle between Fulton vs. Philadelphia, this administration’s attack on the community could cause long-lasting damage. Read on for the full story.
Same-Sex Marriage & Other LGBTQ Rights Are Devolving, Thanks to Trump’s Legacy of Hate
Over the last four years, the Trump administration has attacked same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ rights from every angle. Within months of taking office, he banned transgender people from the military. Then he came for LGBTQ workplace rights, healthcare rights, and even their cake rights.
Bit by bit, piece by piece, the self-proclaimed “most pro-gay president in American history” tried to dismantle years of progress. Some of his efforts to reverse LGBTQ rights thankfully failed miserably. Unfortunately, in way too many cases, he succeeded.
The 2018 Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado case is among the most cited examples of the Supreme Court elevating “religious beliefs” above civil rights during Trump’s time in office. Justices ruled in favor of allowing the bakery to discriminate against same-sex couples. While the ruling was definitely a crushing blow to gay rights, its scope was limited specifically to that cake shop. In other words, although it set a precedent, it didn’t outright change or dismantle all anti-discrimination laws nationwide.
However, one case currently pending before the court- Fulton vs. Philadelphia-could have national ramifications for years to come. The case hit the nation’s highest court just one day after Trump lost the presidential election to Joe Biden (although the results of that election wouldn’t be announced until days later). If you need a refresher in this monumental case, here’s a quick rundown.
- Bethany Christian Service, a publicly funded foster care agency in Philadelphia, told a same-sex couple to go somewhere else because they have a policy against placing kids with same-sex couples.
- The reporter who broke that story found out that Catholic Social Services- also publicly funded- has a similar policy.
- After the Philadelphia Inquirer ran the story, the city suspended CSS’ contract. The Bethany Christian Service opted to allow same-sex couples as foster care parents to keep their contract.
- CSS sued. The Third Court sided with Philadelphia. Now, the case is before the Supreme Court.
At the heart of the case lies one very important question: can one claim “religious freedom” as an excuse to deny others their basic civil rights?
What happens if the Supreme Court rules in favor of religious rights over civil rights?
As Thomas H. Prol, the first openly gay president of the New Jersey State Bar Association, wrote on Law.com,
Though the dispute concerns religiously affiliated organizations who subscribe to anti-LGBT beliefs, if such a right to discriminate is authorized by the court, it will almost certainly be seized on by other businesses and commercial vendors who claim to have personal religious objections to serving same-sex couples. Fulton follows the much-discussed opinion in Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado, 584 U.S. ___ (2018), that actually created more questions than it answered when it utilized a technical issue to rule—without actually ruling—in favor of a Colorado bakeshop that refused to bake a gay couple’s wedding cake.
Should the court rule in favor of CSS, Prol explains that Justices Alito and Thomas could use it as a vehicle to advance their own agenda- dismantling Obergefell v. Hodges piece by piece. The precedent set by such a ruling could even call other rulings into question. For example, if a Catholic foster care agency wins the right to discriminate against same-sex couples, then why couldn’t an employer claim “religious freedom” and discriminate against LGBTQ workers?
If they succeed in overruling the settled precedent in Employment Division and authorizing the minority of the nation’s population with anti-LGBT beliefs to lawfully discriminate against the LGBT community based on religion, it could significantly set back those rights. It would likely be interpreted to carve out a swath for commercial establishments to almost literally hang out a sign saying, “We don’t serve your kind here” as they cite personal religious beliefs grounded in condemnation of LGBT people and perhaps others.
In other words, such a ruling could deliver a fatal blow to same-sex marriage rights and all other LGBTQ rights, and it all started with the Trump administration. The damage he caused by installing ultra-conservative justices won’t end once he leaves office. In fact, it could haunt our country well into our children- and even our grandchildren’s- generation. I highly recommend reading that article by Prol. As a lawyer, he’s better equipped to explain the full ramifications of these cases.
What do you think about the devolution of same-sex marriage rights under Trump? What legacy do you think he’s leaving behind? Share below.