by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A major new Supreme Court decision on gay rights could demoralize social conservatives ahead of the presidential election and deflate a key argument for why they should turn out to support President Trump in November.
The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 could be used to bar employment discrimination against gay and transgender workers, with Republican-appointed Chief Justice John Roberts joining the 6-3 majority and Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first high court appointment, writing the opinion.
Widely hailed as a breakthrough for LGBT rights, social conservatives countered that the decision changed the meaning of the statute and would have widespread repercussions for religious liberty. A major reason evangelical Christians and other religious conservatives turned out to vote for Trump in 2016 was his promise to nominate conservative judges, especially to Antonin Scalia’s then-vacant Supreme Court seat, who would protect their religious freedoms and values.
Trump appointed Gorsuch to fill Scalia’s seat. “The decision itself is unfortunate, and Justice Gorsuch’s role in the result is even more unfortunate,” said Travis Weber, vice president for policy and government affairs at the conservative Family Research Council.
“If this case makes anything clear, it is that the bargain that has been offered to religious conservatives for years now is a bad one. It’s time to reject it,” Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “The bargain has never been explicitly articulated, but religious conservatives know what it is. The bargain is that you go along with the party establishment, you support their policies and priorities — or at least keep your mouth shut about it—and, in return, the establishment will put some judges on the bench who supposedly will protect your constitutional rights to freedom of worship, to freedom of exercise.”