With election day approaching, the consequences of a Trump reelection or a Biden presidency are bound to have an effect on the U.S. Supreme Court that will last for decades to come. As the highest court in the land, it’s often in the national spotlight when ruling on cases such as absentee ballots during COVID-19 and discrimination against LGBTQ+ workers.
Even though a C-SPAN poll from 2018 shows that 91% of Americans believe the Supreme Court “has an impact on their daily lives as citizens,” the effect of the 2020 elections on the court have not been the subject of much media attention.
Before you cast your ballot on election day, here are some key takeaways of how a Biden or Trump victory will affect your rights as a U.S. citizen.
In the case of a Trump victory…
Since President Trump is running for reelection, it’s important to review how his administration has previously dealt with rulings by the Court and the two Supreme Court Justices he has added. The President’s first addition to the Supreme Court was former federal appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch in 2017.
While President Trump hailed Gorsuch as possessing “outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, [and] tremendous discipline,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) publicly questioned the judge’s ability “to vigorously defend the Constitution from abuses of the executive branch and protect the constitutionally enshrined rights of all Americans.”
Filling the seat made vacant by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Gorsuch had previously served on a federal appeals court for over a decade. In the case of Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius (2013), Gorsuch ruled that for-profit corporations such as Hobby Lobby were not required to provide their employees with “contraceptive coverage as part of their employer-sponsored health insurance plans” if the employer felt that contraceptives did not align with their religious beliefs.
In July of 2018, President Trump announced that his second nominee, this time to fill retired Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat, was another long-time conservative, Brett Kavanaugh. During the confirmation process, Kavanaugh ignited controversy when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford accused the nominee of sexual assault when they were both in high school. On the day Dr. Ford testified about the assault in front of the Senate Judicial Committee, a second woman, Deborah Ramirez, came forward about having been sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh in university.
On the topic of women’s reproductive rights, Kavanaugh has stated his belief that “the [United States] Government has permissible interests in favoring fetal life… and refraining from facilitating abortion.” This statement has prompted concerns that Kavanaugh will use his position on the Supreme Court to try to overturn Roe v. Wade (1973).
In the case of a Biden victory…
While President Trump’s nominations to the Supreme Court have been consistently white men, former Vice President Biden has pledged to nominate the first black woman to the court if elected President.
"I'm looking forward to making sure there's a Black woman on the Supreme Court, to make sure we in fact get every representation," Biden said at the February 25th Democratic Presidential Debate in North Carolina, according to CNN. During his tenure as a United States Senator for Delaware, Biden oversaw Supreme Court nominations as a Senate Judiciary Committee chairman and has long hinted at his intention to increase the level of diversity on the court.
Five years after the Supreme Court overturned the ban on gay marriage in the U.S. in the case Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), plaintiff and lawyer Jim Obergefell announced his support for Biden. In a joint statement with LGBTQ+ activist Judith Kasen-Windsor, Obergefell stated that part of the case’s success was “because of an ally in the White House, Joe Biden.” [bf_image id="q5k2dd-9zn580-92am7e"] As election day draws closer, it’s crucial to remember the role the Supreme Court plays in the lives of every American. With the untimely death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a longtime advocate for social justice, political commentators fear that President Trump will use the opportunity to fill the Justice’s vacant seat for personal gain. Additionally, Justice Ginsburg's death leaves Justice Stephen Breyer as one of the last liberal Supreme Court Justices, giving conservatives a 7-2 majority.
A noted critic of the current President, Justice Ginsburg commented in 2016 about the long term repercussions of Trump’s presidency, saying “For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be -- I don’t even want to contemplate that.”
Photos: Her Campus Media Library