It’s only been a few years since gays won the freedom to marry in the United States, and while it seems unthinkable, yes, we could lose it just as fast. The marriage equality victory of the Obergefell case is fragile and vulnerable to attack from conservative Republicans — never more so than now, with the rabidly anti-gay National Organization for Marriage throwing its full weight behind Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
During the marriage equality battles of the last few years, NOM emerged as one of the leading organizers behind the anti-equality forces that sought to stop queer people from marrying. Their funding sources are shadowy and vague, and their tactics are underhanded. (One leaked memo showed they hoped to use incendiary racial rhetoric to drive a wedge between civil rights groups.)
Despite losing at the Supreme Court level, and despite a precipitous drop in public support over time, NOM still hasn’t gone away, and the organization hasn’t lost sight of its objective to stop queer people from living the lives of their choosing.
As soon as Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to fill Kennedy’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, NOM saw its opportunity to undo marriage equality. NOM began blasting its members with repeated emails urging them to donate money and pressure Republicans to force through Kavanaugh’s confirmation no matter what.
NOM’s reasons for supporting Brett Kavanaugh are clear, calling him a “conservative and constitutionalist.” Alarmingly, National Organization for Marriage leadership wrote, “I am convinced that such a judge would never allow something like gay ‘marriage’ to stand.”
In other words, NOM’s plan is to force through an anti-LGBT justice and then bring a lawsuit challenging marriage equality so that it can be overturned.
Wait, can they really do that?
Not immediately, but over time there’s a chance it could happen. The Supreme Court has been known to reverse decisions. In fact, the United States decriminalized homosexuality in 2004 with just such a reversal, after the high court initially upheld criminalization in the 1980s.
It’s impossible to know exactly how Kavanaugh would rule on marriage equality, but it’s hard to be optimistic. He served in the Bush White House at a time when the Republican administration was working on numerous initiatives to harm LGBTQ Americans. At the time, Republicans were plotting to stop hate crime laws from taking effect; they opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”; and they secretly funded speaking engagements and appearances by anti-gay talking heads.
Kavanaugh’s role in all that is unclear, in part because he’s kept a large volume of documents hidden away thanks to cover provided by congressional Republicans. We still don’t know the extent of his involvement in those initiatives — just that he has something to hide.
But as Kavanaugh’s nomination falls apart under scrutiny and allegations of sexual assault, NOM has grown more desperate than ever, sending out even more pleas to its mailing list to donate money. If the vote can be delayed by just a few weeks, it’s possible that Democrats could re-take Congress, preventing an extreme nominee from being placed on the court.
The power to nominate a Supreme Court justice still rests with Donald Trump, of course. But if Democrats can hold back the worst of any potential nominees, we might just be able to frustrate NOM’s attempts to revoke the freedom to marry from gays and lesbians across the country.
What do you think of the National Organization for Marriage and its attempts to end marriage equality?
Featured image by Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
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