Wheeler Cowperthwaite / Flickr Student waving an LGBT flag at the University of Nevada, Reno's Queer Student Union Day of Silence 5k Run on April 15, 2011. LGBT students discuss their thoughts on the new Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

Wheeler Cowperthwaite / Flickr
Student waving an LGBT flag at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Queer Student Union Day of Silence 5k Run on April 15, 2011. LGBT students and allies discuss their thoughts on the new Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

As Congress swore in federal judge Amy Coney Barrett to become the next Supreme Court judge by a vote of 52 to 48, many Americans questioned whether some monumental court decisions will be overturned including Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges.

Prior to her position as a Supreme Court Justice, Judge Barrett served for approximately three years on the board of private Christian schools that prevented admissions for students of same-sex couples. The board also prevented open LGBT teachers to teach at various schools. 

What is Obergefell v. Hodges?

In a decision of 5-4, on June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court recognized same-sex marriage as constitutional, allowing same-sex marriages throughout the U.S. regardless if the state had banned it or not. 

Surveys conducted by Gallup in 2017 found that about 10 percent of LGBT Americans are married in the United States. 

According to Pew Research Center, around 37 percent of adults favored LGBT marriages in 2009. The percentage rose in 2017 to 62 percent; however, support slightly declined to 61 percent in 2019.

The Concerns

Although Nevada appears to be the first state to put protections on LGBT couples in the Constitution in this election, many expressed concerns the federal courts will overturn Obergefell v. Hodges

When discovering the confirmation of Judge Barrett, University of Nevada student Alayna Loftus felt angry. She fears for her moms’ marriage legality now and what it means for her family in the future. The thought of not attending her future friends’ weddings because of their sexuality frustrates her. 

“The possibility of marriage equality being overturned is nothing short of a nightmare for me and so many other people who deserve the same rights as everyone else,” Loftus said to the Nevada Sagebrush in a Twitter message.

Loftus said if somehow marriage equality gets overturned she will make it her personal mission to have it re-legalized, because she feels no one deserves to have their rights taken away after fighting for them constantly.

“I am the proud daughter of two women and I wouldn’t change it for anything and I would do anything to ensure that their marriage is not taken away from them just because they are two women.” 

Emily Espinosa is a member of the LGBTQ+ community and said the situation terrified her. 

“When a person refuses to answer whether Obergefell v. Hodges was decided correctly or not, the silence speaks louder than anything,” Espinosa said to the Nevada Sagebrush through Twitter. “As this has developed, I worry for my right to marry the one, I love as well as the rights for every member of the queer community whose rights may be infringed on with ACB in her seat.”

She believes the case does have a chance of being overturned and feels Nevada Ballot Question #2 is important, wanting the state to legalize LGBTQ+ marriages before the Supreme Court has a chance of being overturned. 

“A reason often presented in the news as to why this is happening is often surrounding the fact that there was no legislation presented on marriage equality, but rather just quickly passed in SCOTUS,” Espinosa said. 

Espinosa believes people don’t recognize the level of bigotry surrounding the country. She said queer people all over are in constant fear of their rights and safety. 

“This is not new, this is a constant problem and did not end with the passage of Obergefell v. Hodges.”

Besides Amy Coney Barrett’s views towards LGBTQ+ rights, Espinosa said she doesn’t like her because of her stance on the Affordable Care Act and feels she is underqualified for the position. 

“Her nomination could strip health care away from millions of Americans, and it frightens me to have someone of such little empathy on the Supreme Court.”

She said she believes the removal of protections for marriage equality could start a downward slope for LGBTQ+ rights.

“I believe that the Trump Administration’s ban on transgender military members receiving medication was the first step in the downward slope,” Espinosa said. “The President is working to place people of bigoted mindsets into office in order to push back against the passage of queer rights, and that should alarm everyone. While this won’t be the first step, this certainly will not be the last.”

Similarly to others, Faith Thomas described the situation as terrifying. She said she’s on edge all the time due to her identity as a Black LGBTQ+ person.

“With the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, that has taken a toll on me. Add in the fact that queer rights have been under attack as well, imagine what that does to a person. Queer Black, Indigenous and People of Color live in constant fear, it’s always at the back of the minds of those who live with those identities, especially when you live at the intersections of identities. All the people who live at intersections of identities have to worry about simple things … like getting home safe without being hurt or injured in any way.”

Thomas said the situation occurring is due to the fact that the “foundations in which this country is built on is made to benefit only a select few.”

“Sweeping the problem under the rug with an “out of sight and out of mind” mentality will not fix the problem,” Thomas said.  “It will just defer the problem, causing it to grow bigger and bigger. Langston Hughes says it best in his poem, Harlem when he asks what happens to a dream that is deferred. The expectation for society is that if it is not benefitting the ones with power, that they’ll expect it to dry up. However, it is exploding because of being pushed to the side. Being put on the back burner. That is what we’re seeing right now, the result of dreams and promises that have not been fulfilled.”


Taylor Johnson can be reached at tkjohnson@nevada.unr.edu or on Twitter @taylorkendyll