How a Supreme Court decision could determine the 2020 presidential election


My husband, Jason, asked an intriguing question on our daily Facebook Livestream this week. What will the forthcoming Supreme Court ruling on LGBT nondiscrimination mean for this November’s election? Could it play a significant role in who wins the presidency? 

The answer is yes. Here are two possibilities.

First, the Court rules for nondiscrimination. That is a major victory for the LGBT community. But, in that case, Donald Trump may have found the issue that he needs to rally the religious right, including the 11% most pollsters say have stopped supporting him. Evangelicals will jump on it with their cries of religious freedom, while conservative Republicans will have an issue to distract from the havoc they wreaked with their response to the coronavirus. To give you an idea of what it might look like, think of the war against marriage equality. In 2004, George W. Bush made marriage equality a central issue. Several states had marriage equality questions on their ballots, and that drove conservative turnout and swung the election to Bush.

But what about if the Supreme Court denies us our civil rights by stating that discrimination against us is OK? The community would be galvanized for the election like we’ve never before seen. More importantly, if the Court does rule against our equality, it will likely be based on the need for legislation. Translation: Congress needs to pass the Equality Act. Nancy Pelosi’s House of Representatives has already done so. Mitch McConnell’s Senate has not. He refuses to allow the Equality Act to have a hearing or come up for a vote in committee, and he most certainly won’t bring it up on the Senate floor. He’s simply put our rights in his pocket to die.

The Supreme Court prefers that Congress pass laws rather than having their rulings set legal precedents. Their job should only be to interpret, which allows the Court to preserve the image of being nonpolitical. So the second scenario is the one I would say is more likely and maybe even the best scenario in the long run.

Whether short term and long term, one thing is certain: it’s time for new leadership. The Republicans got one thing right. Control the Senate, control the country. Not only can you stop laws, but you can also pick the judges, or, to be polite, control them. Two Supreme Court judges approved by Mitch Mcconnell are ruling on our rights this year. Next year, we need judges approved by a Democratic Senate, because those are the ones we know we can count on to secure our fundamental civil rights.