Civil Rights Advocates Look Ahead After Barrett’s Confirmation
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In the face of an even more conservative Supreme Court, civil rights advocates remain committed to the fight for equality. “Right now, we have to get out the vote,” one said.

With her confirmation Monday night in a 52-48 vote by the Senate, Judge Amy Coney Barrett became the third Supreme Court justice successfully appointed by President Donald Trump. Her place as the newest associate justice on the high court gives conservatives an iron-clad majority that will affect every facet of American life for years to come.

Barrett—who has only served as a circuit judge for three years and has never tried a case or argued an appeal—will fill the vacancy left by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Barrett’s ultra-conservative political ideologies are polar opposite of those of her predecessor, whose final wish was for her replacement to be nominated and confirmed after the presidential election. 

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After decades on the bench, Justice Ginsburg was aware of the ways another Supreme Court nominee put forth by President Trump could threaten a wide array of human rights and protections on many issues: same-sex marriage, climate change, birth control, abortion, immigration, and health care—to name a few.

After a nighttime swearing-in ceremony on the White House lawn and the administration of the judicial oath on Tuesday, Barrett will be eligible to begin working on Supreme Court cases right away. 

The Court will be vital in making decisions on election-related issues—and have already weighed in on some issues. On Monday, a divided court decided that mail-in ballots in Wisconsin could only be counted if they are received by Election Day. As of Oct. 19, data from the state Elections Commission shows Wisconsin voters had returned more than 863,000 absentee ballots. 

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And just one week after the election, the nine justices are set to hear a GOP-spearheaded challenge against the Affordable Care Act—which insures tens of millions of Americans. 

Many social justice and civil rights organizations had urged the Senate to oppose Barrett’s confirmation since PresidentTrump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed forward with the nomination process just days after Justice Ginsburg’s death. Though the severity of Barrett’s confirmation isn’t understated, the work for equality perseveres. 

Here’s how three organizations are playing a crucial role in that fight.

National Organization For Women (NOW)

Founded in 1966, NOW promotes feminist ideals through grassroots activism in order to protect equal rights for all women politically, socially, and economically—and that includes the reproductive rights and justice. There are currently chapters in all 50 states with hundreds of thousands of members working to uphold progressive principles that lead societal change.

Barrett has consistently exhibited opposition to reproductive rights, and is staunchly anti-choice. She once referred to Roe v. Wade as an “erroneous decision.” 

“The National Organization for Women and our members will not let any roadblocks get in the way of our mission of working towards equality for all and uplifting our feminist principles,” Christian Nunes, president of NOW, told COURIER, making a specific reference to Barrett’s confirmation.

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Nunes believes voting is the first thing Americans need to do to ensure politicians with progressive policies are elected. The Supreme Court may hold a conservative majority, but Democrats could regain control over the Republican-led Senate once the results of the Nov. 3 election are tabulated, she pointed out.

“Right now, we have to get out the vote,” Nunes said. “Not only is this the most consequential election of our time from a presidential standpoint, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that we must flip the Senate and elect representatives that uplift the voices of women, the LGBTQIA community, immigrants, the working class, BIPOC Americans, and all those whose rights will be at risk under a conservative-led Supreme Court.”

Nunes believes that focusing on coming together to protect the civil rights of disenfranchised communities and remaining dedicated to activism should always be a common goal. “As a grassroots organization, we have members on the ground across the country who see how policies, even at the hyper-local level, have an immense impact on women’s daily lives,” she said. “This is why we mobilize to push forward an intersectional feminist agenda, and work towards defending the constitutional rights of all those communities who are under attack.”  

A sign at the No Confirmation Until Inauguration Rally at the Supreme Court says, “Don’t confirm Trump’s anti-choice handmaid.” Image via Shutterstock

Color Of Change

Color Of Change is the largest online racial justice organization in the US. Currently, there are 7 million members creating and working on campaigns to challenge systems of inequality to champion the needs of the Black community.

“What we know is that we are gonna be dealing with the court where the majority of the justices were appointed by people who were not elected by the majority of Americans,” Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, told COURIER. “As a result, we’re going to have folks that will be willing to put their hands on the scale of a vision for America that is not inclusive, that does not respect what is possible when all of us have opportunities, and so that means that we’re going to have to fight to change laws.”

RELATED: Judge Amy Coney Barrett Has Been ‘Stunningly Hostile’ to Civil Rights, Critics Say

Color of Change is committed to combating racism and injustice regardless of who’s on the Supreme Court. The organization’s past and active campaigns have carried much weight in holding power accountable in 2020, particularly when it comes to police violence and the institutions that enable it.

“We’re gonna have to fight to change culture and we’re gonna have to continue to fight to win elections so that we can ensure that the courts are more representative,” Robinson said. 

As for the future of the Supreme Court, Robinson believes the conservative majority will face major opposition from new generations of Americans who are vocal about identifying structural inequality. 

“The country is changing and evolving,” Robinson said. “I think as more decisions come out of this court, it will increasingly lose its credibility and build the case for a true level of reform and change.” 

National Center For Lesbian Rights (NCLR)

NCLR was the first national LGBTQ legal organization founded by women, and is committed to racial and economic justice for vulnerable communities in the US. Today, NCLR is a public interest law firm advocating for equitable public policies affecting the LGBTQ community. They also provide free legal assistance to LGBTQ people and their legal advocates, and conduct community education.

While many people across the country may be feeling disheartened over the confirmation of Barrett, Minter focuses on the facts.

“While there can be no doubt that a Supreme Court packed with conservative justices poses a threat to LGBTQ people and other vulnerable groups, it is also true that most cases never reach the Supreme Court,” Shannon Minter, the legal director of NCLR, told COURIER. “Not all conservative justices agree on every issue affecting our community.”

He pointed to the recent example of Justice Neil Gorsuch and Chief Justice Roberts voting in favor of LGBTQ plaintiffs in Bostock v. Clayton County, ruling that federal laws protect LGBTQ employees from being fired because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

RELATED: US Supreme Court Nominee Amy Coney Barrett Sat on Board at Private School with Anti-Gay Rules

Although Barrett has an anti-LGBTQ record—she has defended the Supreme Court’s dissenters on the landmark marriage equality case of Obergefell v. Hodges, and questioned whether Title IX protections should extend to transgender Americans—Minter said NCLR is undeterred in its work.

“We will never stop advocating for freedom and equality for LGBTQ people both in and out of the courts, and we will continue to win important judicial victories,” Minter said. “As we have seen time after time, events that initially seem like devastating losses—such as the Supreme Court’s 1986 decision upholding laws that criminalize same-sex intimacy in Bowers v. Hardwick or the passage of Prop 8 in California in 2008, which temporarily reversed marriage equality in that state—often end up galvanizing public opinion in our favor.”

He added: “In the long run, truth and fairness are on our side, and as long as we can keep educating the public about the realities of our lives, we will keep making progress.”