Tags: Gay Marriage | Supreme Court | Supreme Court | Anthony Kennedy | gay rights | marriage

Justice Kennedy Has History of Being Key Voice on Gay Rights

Justice Kennedy Has History of Being Key Voice on Gay Rights
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Monday, 27 April 2015 09:27 AM

Justice Anthony Kennedy will once again be at the center of the gay rights issue as the Supreme Court begins hearing oral arguments Tuesday on whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to wed.

The 78-year-old Republican appointee has often been the swing vote in 5-4 gay rights decisions and has written the majority opinion in the three major cases before the court over the past two decades.

But The Los Angeles Times reports that when Kennedy was appointed to an appeals court in Sacramento in 1980, it appeared at first that he would not be supporting gays in their fight for equality.

Kennedy, a Catholic then aged 44, upheld the Navy's decision to discharge three service members for "homosexual acts." But at the time it almost went unnoticed that in his opinion Kennedy had shown reservations about criminalizing gay sex.

"To many persons, the regulations [labeling homosexuals as unfit] may seem unwise," Kennedy wrote for the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, adding that apart from the "unique" military agenda, the Constitution may well protect "consensual private homosexual conduct."

In 1984, after Robert Bork's nomination for the Supreme Court was blocked, then President Ronald Reagan turned to a young lawyer he had known in Sacramento, Anthony Kennedy.

"It turned out to be a pivotal moment in the nation's struggle over gay rights," writes the Times' David Savage.

"Justice Kennedy has been given many labels in his 27 years on the high court. Conservative. Moderate. Swing vote. Internationalist. Zealous defender of free speech and free spending in politics.

"But almost no one foresaw that (he) would turn out to be the Supreme Court's most important voice on gay rights, writing every major decision over the last two decades. Now he is poised to be the crucial vote in deciding whether gay marriage will be a constitutional right nationwide."

According to the Times, Kennedy's friends and former law clerks claim that the reason the justice appears to be a moderate on the gay rights issue is that his opinions appear to reflect the belief that the Constitution protects "dignity" and "decency," an ideology that links him to liberals.

In 2013, Kennedy was the deciding vote in striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal benefits to gay couples who legally married in their home states.

Kennedy called the marriage of plaintiffs Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer "worthy of dignity in the community equal to all other marriages," and he wrote that Congress had wrongly interfered "with the equal dignity of same-sex marriages."

Although his opinion did not stipulate that every state must allow same-sex marriages, it signaled a torrent of decisions nationwide striking down state bans against gay marriage, the Times reported.

Now once again Kennedy may well be the pivotal vote in deciding whether same-sex couples have equal rights to unions between a man and a woman.

The Supreme Court is expected to make its ruling on the landmark case in June.

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Justice Anthony Kennedy is once again at the center of the gay rights issue as the Supreme Court begins hearing oral arguments Tuesday on whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to wed.
Supreme Court, Anthony Kennedy, gay rights, marriage
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2015-27-27
Monday, 27 April 2015 09:27 AM
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