Editorial: Could Supreme Court LGBT Ruling Impact Christian Right Voting?

Donald Trump, darling of the Christian Right, was elected in large part because he promised them that every day would be Christmas for their political and religious agendas. In return, the Christian Right has been willing to overlook, excuse, and rationalize virtually all of who Donald Trump is, as they have kept their eyes on that prize. But this week, evangelicals had a disappointing and ironic surprise when two of “their” appointed judges sided with the four liberal judges in a 6-3 ruling to protect LGBTQ employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender identity

During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised to advance the Christian Right platforms opposing abortion, same-sex marriage, and LGBTQ rights and protections. And whether Trump actually said as much, he had them convinced that he would “make America great again” largely by making America an evangelical Christian theocracy. He promised the fulfillment of their wishes in large part by his vow to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death with a conservative justice who would protect their values.

Eighty-one percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump in 2016. In the election exit poll, 21 percent of all voters considered Supreme Court appointments to be the most important factor in how they voted. Of those, 56 percent voted for Trump. They wanted conservative judges whom they could count on to make judgments that protected their values, and they put their trust in Trump and the Republicans to appoint the right judges. Trump kept his promise to appoint a Supreme Court justice who they felt had their backs when he appointed Neil M. Gorsuch to replace Scalia.

On Monday, however, Justice Gorsuch, along with Chief Justice John Roberts, sided with the liberal justices in their ruling that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay, lesbian, and transgender employees from discrimination based on sex. It was Justice Gorsuch, in fact, who wrote the majority opinion.

“Today,” Gorsuch said, “we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear.”

The ruling is a victory for the LGBTQ community. Some (though not the religious right) would see it as a hopeful sign on another front, as well: It was a loss for the Trump administration, who had sided with the employers in three cases involving members of the LGBTQ community who had lost their jobs. Consequently, no longer can Trump and the religious right take for granted that all conservative SCOTUS justices are in their pocket and will automatically take the side of the religious right, just because it is the side of the religious right.

As Washington Post columnist Henry Olsen writes, “Now that Gorsuch has proved himself untrustworthy in their eyes, they would be right to question whether Republican assurances meant anything at all.”

The Christian Right’s previous defenses of Trump, even when they have found him otherwise repugnant, have always been based on the fact that his various legislative actions favored them, and more importantly, he got them their judges. Now, however, they’ve discovered that even some conservative judges may disappoint them by basing decisions on legal merits rather than on making Trump supporters happy. What will this mean in the 2020 election for those conservatives and swing voters who voted for Trump on the basis of SCOTUS picks Christian Right-slanted legislation?

Why Supreme Court’s LGBTQ employment discrimination ruling marks a ‘milestone’ | PBS NewsHour  [2020-06-15]

Why evangelical Christians still support President Trump despite controversies | CBS News  [2018-03-28]

Betsy DeVos: Dismantling Civil Rights Policy in Education Since 2017

As U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos has a civil rights record that is either despicable or stellar, depending on whom you ask. Like other members of Trump’s cabinet, one of Betsy DeVos’ chief goals appears to be to systematically reverse Obama-era legislation, as well as other established civil rights policies.

Here are just four out of many of Betsy DeVos’ notable acts regarding civil rights in American schools:

    • At the beginning of her tenure as Education Secretary, DeVos recommended hefty spending cuts to the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. The proposed reductions included cutting approximately 40 jobs, part of a $3.8 million reduction. (Congress, even though it is controlled by DeVos’ party, voted against DeVos’ recommendations and instead increased funding for the agency.)
    • Not long after Betsy DeVos was at the helm, the Office for Civil Rights drafted a memo to agency investigators that proved to be the beginning of a trend in the agency’s loosening approach to civil rights enforcement. The memo told investigators that instead of looking at “systemic bias” when investigating a claim of racial discrimination, they were to make swift (and likely insufficiently researched) judgments on individual cases.
    • The Office for Civil Rights has opted to place less consideration on Obama-era thinking that schools should be held accountable when educational or disciplinary outcomes vary by race. The agency may repeal a directive aimed at school districts to study whether African American students receive more harsh discipline than other students do. The agency also put a two-year delay on a policy that would ensure that students of color are not channeled disproportionately into special education programs. (Why this avoidance, nay, prevention, of fact-finding?)
    • DeVos seeks to diminish federal authority over schools, placing more oversight in the hands of state and local governments. As with the healthcare policies proposed by Congress that hid behind “states’ rights,” this could almost certainly mean disaster for both education in general, and for civil rights. (Would schools in states where the Confederate flag is largely supported make fair and ethical decisions about racial discrimination against their students?)

“We are law enforcement officials, not advocates or social-justice people,” said Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights Kenneth Marcus.

We should all let that sink in. Betsy DeVos’ appointee to help run the civil rights agency of the Department of Education – the office that oversees civil rights violations and was designed to enforce justice in such cases – has said “We are not advocates or social-justice people.”

The Check In: Betsy DeVos’ Rollback of Civil Rights | Late Night with Seth Myers [2018-07-24]

Black congresswoman visibly annoyed as Betsy DeVos struggles to answer basic civil rights questions | The Daily News [2018-05-22]