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    First Monday in October 2017

    SFBT_MarriageEquality_1On the first Monday in October, the U.S. Supreme Court commenced a new term. To mark the occasion, Marriage Equality USA sent each of the five Justices who voted in fa­vor of nationwide marriage equal­ity last term a beautiful Rainbow Flag upon which attendees at this summer’s San Francisco Pride Cel­ebration wrote personal messages thanking the Justices for upholding the Constitution.

    Although the Court may likely de­cide important cases this term re­garding issues such as women’s re­productive health, voting rights, and affirmative action, we find ourselves contemplating not only the upcom­ing term, but also the first Monday in October 2017. When that Su­preme Court term begins two years from now, a new President will re­side in the Oval Office, and she or he could already have appointed at least one Supreme Court Justice. A single vote on the Court has decided many recent landmark decisions, and the next President will likely have a profound role in shaping fu­ture decisions that will have huge effects on the LGBT people and all Americans.

    The Court’s landmark marriage equality decisions—the 2013 Windsor decision that struck down DOMA, and the 2015 Obergefell de­cision that established nationwide marriage equality—were both 5–4 decisions with Justice Anthony Ken­nedy writing the majority decision. In future years, the Court may well address other key issues facing LGBT people, including 1) whether the Constitution more broadly pro­tects against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the same way it guards against discrimination based on race or gender; 2) whether laws that authorize discrimination against LGBT people under the guise of a claim of religious belief are permis­sible; and 3) whether federal laws that prohibit gender discrimina­tion in employment and public ac­commodations, such as Title VII, include protection against sexual orientation and gender identity dis­crimination.

    We as voters and participants in the political process can profoundly af­fect these Court decision that greatly influence our lives by ensuring that the next President is someone who appoints Justices who will uphold the Constitution as the Court did in the Windsor and Obergefell marriage equality decisions. In 1987, a broad coalition of individuals and groups who valued civil rights and liberties organized tirelessly to successfully defeat President Ronald Reagan’s appointment of Robert Bork, an ex­treme conservative deeply opposed to LGBT equality. The person who became a Justice instead was none other than Anthony Kennedy.

    In the 2000 Presidential election, many people bought into the false message that Al Gore and George W. Bush essentially did not differ because, among other things, Bush was a “compassionate conserva­tive.” Of course, the two differed in many ways, none more clearly than their perspective on the Supreme Court. During the campaign, Bush declared his admiration for arch conservatives Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, while Gore looked to former Justice Thurgood Marshall.

    Justice Marshall appreciated the Constitution’s role in protecting individual liberty and equality per­haps more than any other Justice in history, and argued Brown v. Board of Education when he was an attorney. As President, Bush appointed Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, both staunch conser­vatives, who voted against marriage equality. Roberts and Alito have also provided key votes in many harmful Supreme Court decisions over the last decade, such as Citizens United, which has opened the flood­gates to unlimited money pouring into election campaigns.

    The 2016 Presidential candidates have expressed starkly different po­sitions on the Supreme Court. For­mer Secretary of State Hillary Clin­ton in her September speech to the Human Rights Campaign warned: “The next president may get three Supreme Court justice appoint­ments. We could lose the Supreme Court, and then there’d be a whole new litigation strategy coming from those who oppose marriage equal­ity.” Senator Bernie Sanders has made a commitment to overturning Citizens United a “litmus test” for any person he nominated for the Court, noting that the decision was “under­mining American democracy” and that “billionaires” should not “be allowed to buy politicians.”