Last night, the United States of America lost one of it’s biggest legal crusaders of women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was 87 years old, and passed after a decades long fight with various forms of cancer, finally succumbing to Stage 4 metastatic pancreatic cancer. Within hours of her death, the first thought on everyone’s mind was, “Now what?” How do we cope with the loss of the second female justice in history, who has been the lead liberal voice for the past 4 years? The fear felt by many, if not all, AFAB (Assigned Female At Birth) and LGBTQ+ Americans at the loss of Justice Ginsberg has only increased in the past 24 hours. If the Republican-led Senate rushes the appointment process in order to ensure a Trump-appointed Justice gets the seat before the election, there will be a majority Republican Supreme Court. This almost guarantees, based on various statements from Republican Senators last night, that landmark rulings such as Roe V. Wade, will be reconsidered and most likely repealed. Let’s take a look at the hypocrisy of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in response to the replacement of a justice during an election year.
2016, Justice Scalia dies February 13th, aged 79. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Majority Leader, and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Judiciary Committee Chairman state, “Given that we are in the midst of the presidential election process, we believe that the American people should seize the opportunity to weigh in on whom they trust to nominate the next person for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court” (Wadington, USA Today). For the next 270 days until the 2016 election, McConnell blocks attempts for a new Obama nominated justice, Judge Merrick Garland, citing that “the important principle in the middle of this presidential year is that the American people need to weigh in and decide who’s going to make this decision. Not this lame duck president on the way out the door, but the next president” (Wadington, USA Today).
2020, Justice Ginsberg dies September 18th, aged 87. Within hours of her death, Senate Majority Leader McConnell released a statement saying, “Americans re-elected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary. Once again, we will keep our promise. President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate” (Hulse, New York Times). The passing of Justice Ginsberg occurred a mere 47 days before the presidential election, compared to 270 in the case of Justice Scalia. Unlike in 2016, when Obama was leaving office after a second, and final, term, Trump has the possibility to be re-elected. Even if he is not re-elected, a Trump-appointed justice would mean a 6-3 Conservative majority Supreme Court. McConnell is attempting to push the appointment process as quickly as possible to ensure that, no matter what the result of the election, there will be a Republican Senate and Supreme Court.
Let’s break this down. Not only are McConnell’s statements extremely hypocritical, but they also show the lengths to which the Republican Party will go to remain in some form of power. In the 24 hours since Justice Ginsberg passed, multiple conservative commentators and House-candidates, such as Charlie Kirk and Barry Moore (US House Candidate, AL-2) have tweeted about the return to Christian values, and the repeal of Roe V. Wade, a landmark ruling giving women the right to have a legal abortion without government interference. This is very concerning for multiple reasons. For one, the repeal of Roe V. Wade would mean abortion is essentially illegal, but it does not mean abortions will stop. Instead, there will be an increase in medically unsafe abortions, similar to those common throughout the early to mid-1900s. Secondly, the “return to Christian ideals” is not fair to the thousands of Americans who do not subscribe to the Christian faith. This also may mean an increase in religious based discrimination towards non-Christians. Thirdly, with a conservative majority in the Supreme Court, another landmark ruling some conservatives want to see overturned is Obergefell V. Hodges, in which the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal. A return to Christian ideals, to some conservatives, starts with removing the rights of LGBTQ+ people to marry whom they love, regardless of sex. Without the Notorious RBG, there is less of a voice for both AFAB and LGBTQ+ Americans, and with a rushed appointment of a Trump nominated justice, who will almost certainly be conservative, that voice will be silenced. We as a people cannot let this hypocrisy slide, where the rules change depending on what side is in a position of power. If the appointment of a justice prior to an election cycle was unacceptable and up to the people in 2016, it should be up to the people in 2020 as well. Our voices should be heard, not silenced, by McConnell and the Republican Party. Justice Ginsberg deserves better.