Justice Anthony Kennedy to Retire from U.S. Supreme Court, Leaving Legacy of Progress for LGBTQ Americans

By Adam Polaski • June 27, 2018 • 2:27 pm

Justice Anthony Kennedy announced today that he is retiring from the U.S. Supreme Court. Kennedy, who has served on the nation’s highest court for 30 years, has played a major role in virtually all of the landmark cases involving LGBTQ equality.

Most notably, he authored the majority opinion in the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case – which extended the freedom to marry to same-sex couples nationwide – and he also authored majority opinions in the historic United States v. Windsor case, which struck down the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, as well the opinions in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down laws criminalizing homosexuality, and Romer v. Evans, which overturned a Colorado law preempting municipalities from passing LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections.

Most recently he authored the majority opinion in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which reaffirmed the importance of LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination laws and denied anti-LGBTQ opponents a constitutional “license to discriminate.”  

Masen Davis, CEO of Freedom for All Americans, said today:

“Justice Kennedy’s powerfully written opinions affirm the dignity of LGBTQ people and remind others that discrimination, no matter how it may be framed, has no place in this nation. We thank Justice Kennedy for his service to our country. … This week, we celebrated the three-year anniversary of the historic Supreme Court ruling which extended the freedom to marry to loving same-sex couples all across the country. We and many LGBTQ Americans and our allies are concerned about the uncertainty of who will sit on the Supreme Court. But support for marriage equality, LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections, and treating transgender people fairly are at all-time highs in this country. We expect that whoever is nominated to replace Justice Kennedy, will respect the law and more importantly, respect full dignity and basic protections for LGBTQ Americans under the law. We urge the President and Congress to appoint an equally-minded justice who sees the law with the same clarity as Justice Kennedy.”

Justice Kennedy’s retirement and the anniversary of the Obergefell ruling is an opportunity to revisit the closing paragraph of his majority opinion. His words in that historic ruling still carry enormous power, three years later:

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eye of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgement of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered.”

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