It's the Supreme Court, Stupid!

By Marc Paige

No community has more at stake in this presidential election than the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. In Barack Obama, we have a Democratic candidate who has embraced full equality for LGBT people. We have a Republican candidate in Mitt Romney who is against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), was against ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT), and is against marriage equality or civil unions for gay couples.

In Romney's vice-presidential pick Paul Ryan, we have a man who not only voted against ending DADT, but also voted against allowing gay people to adopt in the District of Columbia. Paul Ryan has told the president of Focus on the Family that a Romney/Ryan administration "will protect traditional marriage and the rule of law and we will provide the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) the proper defense in the courts that it deserves." It doesn't get clearer, or meaner, than that.

The most profound and lasting legacy for any president tends to be their lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS). The Romney campaign has turned to Robert Bork to lead a committee devoted to finding his SCOTUS nominees. Bork is a radically conservative former judge who's own appointment to the Supreme Court by President Reagan was blocked by the Senate in 1987. Romney's choice of Bork as co-chair of his Justice Advisory Committee wasn't merely a dog whistle to the extreme right; it was a bullhorn.

Robert Bork is rabidly anti-gay. In making the case for a Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution to block gay marriage, Bork writes, "Compassion, if nothing else, should urge us to avoid the consequences of making homosexuality seem a normal and acceptable choice for the young." Bork warns that if same-sex marriage passes, "I think we'll become much more accommodating to man-boy associations, polygamists and so forth." When Romney announced Bork as his advisor on court appointments, he said of Bork, "I wish he were already on the Supreme Court."

The next president will almost certainly need to replace at least one justice, liberal-leaning Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who at 79 and a cancer patient, is very likely to retire within the next four years. Obama already has a history of SCOTUS appointments with Justices Sotomayor and Kagan. Bill Keller writes in the New York Times that for his part, Romney "is committed to filling any Supreme court vacancies with Scalias."

Twenty-six years ago Antonin Scalia was confirmed to a lifetime seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, as a legacy of the Reagan presidency. As a Supreme Court Justice, Scalia voted in 2003 to uphold state laws criminalizing gay sex. He says the Constitution does not protect the privacy of consenting adults in their own homes, and believes states are entitled to pass laws singling out LGBT people for discrimination. At a book signing earlier this month, Scalia was scornful over the idea that equal protection applies to gay people. "Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state."

LGBT Americans are on the cusp of achieving the full equality under the law sought for decades. The nation is also only one Supreme Court appointment away from overturning Roe v. Wade, and ending hopes for federal marriage rights for gay couples for a generation. The Romney/Ryan ticket is committed to the latter.

The 2012 Republican Party platform is clear in its hatred for LGBT people. The responsibility for drafting the document's language on gay issue was given to Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), a man who calls gay-rights activists vile pawns of Satan. In 2010 Perkins attacked Obama when the President denounced proposed legislation in Uganda that would punish homosexual "repeat offenders" with death.

Predictably, the Republican platform calls for an anti-gay amendment to the Constitution, and criticizes President Obama for not defending DOMA and for ending DADT. But the GOP document also berates the U.S. for advocating an end to foreign anti-gay laws as well: "The effectiveness of our foreign aid has been limited by the cultural agenda of the current Administration, attempting to impose on foreign countries, especially the peoples of Africa, legalized abortion and the homosexual rights agenda...We will reverse this tragic course." The New York Times accurately calls this platform "more aggressive in it's opposition...to gay rights than any in memory."

Under a second Obama/Biden term, the forward movement on LGBT equality of the last four years will continue. Under a Romney presidency, this progress will end. A Romney shaped SCOTUS will stop LGBT equality, especially on marriage rights, not only for four years, but for a generation. Anyone who says otherwise is either uninformed, or lying.

Now go vote as if your life depends on it. In many ways, it does.

Marc Paige is a writer, gay activist, and HIV/AIDS Prevention Educator

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