A recent story in Politico asserts that the Republican Party has essentially given up its opposition to marriage equality and is becoming more moderate on LGBTQ issues.
“Party leaders still exhibit strong opposition to transgender rights and the top legislative priorities of the LGBTQ community,” the story asserted. “But on the most prominent battlefield of the past few decades, same-sex marriage, they’ve all but conceded defeat.”
The implication is that even conservatives are coming around on LGBTQ rights. Sorry, but I’m not convinced. Yes, conservatives may have accepted the reality that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld marriage equality six years ago in Obergefell v. Hodges, but that doesn’t mean they’re surrendering or aren’t still working to undermine or overturn that ruling. Christian nationalists simply hold too much sway in the GOP for that type of disengagement.
Consider where we are right now. Obergefell may not be as healthy as it looks. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said the marriage equality ruling was settled law – but he also said he would be willing to put justices on the Supreme Court who don’t support that ruling, and that’s exactly what he did. As a result, there is likely a working majority on the court right now that does not support the core findings of Obergefell.
In addition, the high court is, thanks again to Trump, moving toward an extreme definition of religious freedom that, if fully adopted at some point in the future, could enshrine all manner of discrimination toward LGBTQ Americans.
Add to this the fact that LGBTQ rights across the board suffered sustained assault during the Trump years, and the picture looks far less rosy. To appease his Christian nationalist base, Trump put into place numerous policies and regulatory changes that eroded hard-fought rights for members of the LGBTQ community. President Joe Biden has overturned many of them, but they could be put back in place by a future conservative administration.
Thus, same-sex couples could find themselves in a situation where they have the right to marry but see their rights in many other contexts slipping away. They might face barriers to receiving health care, service in secular businesses or face difficulty in adopting children because a Trumpified Supreme Court allows religious belief to be used to justify discrimination and harm.
We also need to consider what’s going on in the states, where a raft of mean-spirited bills attacking the rights of the transgender community have been introduced by conservative lawmakers, with some already becoming law.
Sure, a small number of GOP officials have said positive things about LGBTQ rights and issued tweets for Pride Month. Measured against what conservative legislators have done to the courts and the laws they seek to pass in the states, that is cold comfort indeed.