If Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed to the Supreme Court Monday, protections for Black and queer Michiganders are just some of the rights endangered.
MICHIGAN—The Senate is expected to vote Monday on the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the US Supreme Court. Her expected confirmation Monday has Michiganders worried.
A majority of Michiganders recently polled opposed confirming any Supreme Court justice on the eve of an election. The latest issue of Lake Effect magazine, a project of Progress Michigan and Public Policy Polling, found that 51% of the 746 voters surveyed believe the president elected Nov. 3 should be the one to fill the vacancy on the Court.
But process isn’t the only concern Michiganders have about Barrett as nominee.
“Amy Coney Barrett is the most extreme right-wing choice President Trump could have made,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, in a statement provided to The ‘Gander. “The Supreme Court is supposed to be a check and balance on the power of the presidency, but with this nomination Trump is stacking the deck in favor of his own brand of cruelty and right-wing extremism. We are gravely concerned about the impact Barrett will have on cases regarding our environment, LGBTQ rights, compassionate immigration policy, abortion rights, and the ability for working people to build power through unions and collective bargaining.”
Those issues, and others, gravely concern everyday Michiganders as well.
Civil Rights Are on the Line
Alphonso Amos is an activist fighting police brutality in Michigan’s Thumb region. From Port Huron, he organizes protests seeking the protection of Black lives and rights in an era marked by numerous high-profile killings of Black Americans by the police .
He wants a Supreme Court that carries the legacy of cases like Brown v. Board of Education or Loving v. Virginia, a Court where civil rights are protected. And Amos doubts Barrett has the same vision.
“Amy Barret’s record on the appellate court and as a law professor shows that she has been hostile towards civil rights,” Amos told The ‘Gander. “Racial equity remains more of an aspiration than a reality here in the United States, thanks to decades of systemic racism, and a Supreme Court justice such as Barrett would further drive that narrative. I strongly oppose any nomination that is not in line with the vision to improve the quality of life for Black people, that does not consider the horrible outcomes that can come from an extreme conservative agenda.”
Amos pointed to a 2019 case called Smith v. Illinois Department of Transportation in which Barrett found that Terry Smith being called racial epithets by his boss did not create a racially hostile work environment. He asked if that was the viewpoint due the cultural moment in the wake of the murder of George Floyd this summer. Barrett’s opinion in that case shows her leaning on racial issues that may arise to the Court if she’s confirmed.
“We need a Supreme Court justice that supports a vision to push for systems change,” he said. “That vision includes a transformation of the systems of policing and criminal justice, to emphasize community-led approaches to public safety and greater investments in housing, health care, and employment opportunities to build equitable communities for all people.”
But there are other areas of civil rights where Barrett raises Michiganders’ concerns.
LGBTQ Rights Are on the Line
Jon Hoadley is a candidate for Congress, running against Fred Upton (R-Kalamazoo), and currently serving Kalamazoo in the state legislature. He got his start in 2010, when Kalamazoo politics, though, with the OneKalamazoo campaign. That campaign successfully passed a city ordinance banning housing and employment discriminiation against residents on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
Barrett worries him.
“Two current Supreme Court justices have already signaled they would welcome a case to overturn Obergefell, the case that provides nationwide marriage equality,” Hoadley told The ‘Gander. “Judge Barrett has shown she is hostile to LGBTQ equality. With her confirmation, she could be the deciding vote to take away marriage equality.”
Both parties in the Obergefell lawsuit came together to ask the Senate to reject Barrett over her anti-LGBTQ views. With the retirement of LGBTQ rights stalwart Justice Anthony Kennedy and the death of progressive Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the balance of the Court has shifted dramatically on the subject of LGBTQ rights.
But Hoadley encourages Michiganders to act in the most impactful way they can: vote.
“Vote like health care, equality, and choice are on the ballot, because they are,” he said.
Health Care Is on the Line
Dr. Rob Davidson works in a rural West Michigan emergency room. He fought the coronavirus on the front lines, and still does as cases surge in rural Michigan. And he’s deeply troubled by one of the first cases Barrett will hear if she is confirmed Monday. The Court will hear a case on the constitutionality of landmark health insurance reforms Nov. 10.
“Of course the concern is that with the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and now what looks like will be the confirmation of a very conservative Justice whose already expressed that she thinks [the health insurance reforms] are unconstitutional, that [the reforms are] very much at risk,” Davidson said to The ‘Gander.
Barrett has signaled overtly her opposition to landmark health insurance reforms enacted in 2010 that do things like protect Michiganders with pre-existing conditions (including coronavirus survivors) and ensure access to Medicaid for many of Davidson’s patients. And without his patients having access to Medicaid, his hospital is endangered. That’s a result of the Medicaid program covering such a large number of patients coming in for emergency care.
Adecision on that case is expected to come down in early summer of 2021.
“My gosh, what are these people going to do between Nov. 10 and then who currently benefit from the coverage provided under the law?” Davidson asked. “I think it could be devastating, particularly for places like where I work.”
Women’s Autonomy Is on the Line
Stephanie Moore serves on the Kalamazoo County Commission and feels that Judge Barrett doesn’t represent her as a woman, particularly not as a Black woman. She’s concerned about issues ranging from access to health care to the right to choose being under threat with a Barrett confirmation.
“I hope that they do not confirm this woman,” Moore told The ‘Gander. “I hope that she does not get into a role where she can be a deciding factor on if women have access to health care, health care coverage and health care services, and definitely not if women have the right to choose and have the full and final say-so over their own bodies.”
Where in Justice Ginsburg Moore saw an icon of women’s rights and empowerment, in Barrett she said she sees someone disconnected from issues she faces in her daily life, someone who opposes rights and liberties fundamental to her.
“She is no Ruth Bader Ginsburg, nowhere close,” Moore said. “She may come off as nice and polite but that turns into disparity, especially for Black and Indigenous and women of color.”
Like Hoadley, Moore called on Michiganders to turn their discomfort with Barrett’s appointment into action by voting Nov. 3.
“Watching this confirmation process, hearing the things that you’re hearing, should be a major motivator for individuals to vote,” she said. “Sisters, we need each other more than we ever have before, and we need to get out the vote. We have to protect the vote, and we have to vote for leadership that is going to protect all women.”