If there was any doubt that a government-led backlash against the LGBTQ+ community was gaining force, it was made plain when the U.S. Supreme Court reversed itself (Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization) and ruled that Roe v. Wade was unconstitutional after nearly 50 years of being the law of the land. What had been the slow burn of an anti-transgender movement pursued by local and state governments to cynically attack and undermine LGBTQ+ identity has been aided and abetted by the federal government.
In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that the due process clause and the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment guaranteed a fundamental right to marriage to same-sex couples. Having lost that battle, right-wing activists switched tactics and began campaigns that specifically targeted trans people over bathroom access, appropriate pronouns, health care and sports participation. The persecution of the most vulnerable among us is really a proxy war against all LGBTQ+ people.
Overturning Roe v. Wade is just the initial foundation stone for building a legal bulwark that will reverse most LGBTQ+ rights achieved so far. But we don’t have long to wait, because the outlawing of abortion services will immediately affect trans men, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming people, who are often excluded from the reproductive rights conversation.
In his majority opinion in Dobbs, Justice Samuel Alito maintained that the right to an abortion was part of the right to privacy – neither of them are included in the Constitution. This calls into question the stability of a previous landmark case from 1965, Griswold v. Connecticut, which protects the right to marital privacy as well as the use of contraceptives, which is among the decisions that undergirds Roe and created the “inferred right to privacy.”
The inferred right to privacy has served as the foundation for other landmark Supreme Court decisions, including Loving v. Virginia in 1967, which legalized interracial marriage; Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, which legalized same-sex sexual activity; and Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, which legalized same-sex marriage.
In his concurring opinion in Dobbs, Justice Clarence Thomas invited future challenges to some of these privacy rights when he wrote, “For that reason, in future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.”
It is irrefutable that the extreme right is clear-eyed about its goals to reverse our civil rights. It starts with forbidding discussion or acknowledgment of LGBTQ+ people in schools, targeting trans youth, harassing drag queen storytime sessions and will lead to dismantling the legal framework that makes our intimate relationships and marriages illegal again.
So what’s to be done? We can only rely on the lessons of history and fight back because no one is going to save us but ourselves.
Indeed, the business community has been unusually quiet in the wake of Dobbs, perhaps cowed by the retaliation meted out on The Walt Disney Co. by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for protesting anti-LGBTQ+ laws there.
We must assume that our rights are not guaranteed and constant vigilance is required to safeguard them. It will take organizing and overwhelming participation in the electoral process.
We must support related causes and communities. We cannot let ourselves be divided by insufficient support for trans people, especially from within the LGBTQ+ community.
Now, as at Stonewall, it’s gender-nonconforming people who bear the brunt of abuse and yet have the courage to lead the rebellion. We cannot be complacent. We must set aside our differences and support each other to go forward together.
We must match force for force because the other side has a big red target on all of our backs and they’ve got a roadmap.
It’s time to turn the parade into a protest, the party into a riot.