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]