In the week since Roe v. Wade has been overturned, reverberations have been felt across America with big questions about what could be next for the legal and political landscape of the United States.
Some have taken notice of Justice Clarence Thomas’ critique of other rulings in his concurring opinion.
“In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” Thomas wrote.
Griswold v. Connecticut ruled in favor of couples being able to purchase contraceptives without government intervention. Lawrence v. Texas brought an end to sodomy laws across America that were often used to target LGBTQ people. Obergefell v. Hodges legalized gay marriage across America.
LGBTQ Georgians are now staring down a future where future Supreme Court rulings could spell a much different American life than they could have conceived even a few years ago — one where an inherent constitutional right to privacy may not be guaranteed, and where the future of marriage across the state is now in question.
Doraville City Council member Stephe Koontz was the first out transgender person to win a contested election in the state of Georgia. She’s been an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ people across the state, but she said that now the future feels more uncertain than ever.
“The basis of the Roe ruling should make all of us very afraid for our own rights,” she said.
She also argued that the ruling could lead to a domino effect for other rulings that have become a typical part of American society. Some legal analysts have argued that if the court calls into question Americans’ right to privacy, the cascading legal ramifications for LGBTQ citizens — whose rights have largely been codified under a constitutional right to privacy — could be in immediate danger.
“This opens the door for overturning not only all the wins for LGBTQ rights we have recently won, but rights society has taken for granted, such as the ability of interracial couples to marry,” she said.
Interracial couples were given the right to marry in the 1967 Loving v. Virginia ruling. Thomas, who is in an interracial marriage, did not mention that case in his concurring opinion.
“If the court picks and chooses which rulings they overturn next, we are no longer a country based on constitutional law,” Koontz argued.
Kit Fay, a set electrician for the film industry here in the state, said they are also worried about the future.
“I don’t see myself or my partner leaving the state if the decision is overturned, but it’s not a fight I savor having to take back up,” they said.
They said they’re now skeptical, like many others are, about the future of LGBTQ marriage in Georgia in the wake of the ruling.
“I have no faith in holding onto my ability to marry if it becomes a state decision instead of a federal one,” they said. “I remember how shocked and excited I felt when marriage equality passed and it has always felt almost too good to be true.”
Obergefell, ruled in 2015, changed the landscape of marriage across America and in states like Georgia where there was previously no right for LGBTQ residents to marry.
At the time, conservatives and evangelical Christians decried the ruling. Former Governor Nathan Deal, a Republican, vetoed a discriminatory religious liberty bill in 2016, and the following year the Public Religion Research Institute found that 52% of Georgians supported same-sex marriage.
Emory professor Mary Dudziak said we are now in a perilous era of the Supreme Court — and their decisions will largely effect the legal landscape across states with conservative-leaning state governments.
“What would happen depends on two different kinds of things: one is what the federal courts are going to do and the other is what’s happening in state legislatures,” she said. “The boundaries of what state legislators can do is set by constitutional law. What happens on the ground is driven by state law in Georgia. A legal change has an effect on setting the terrain on what kinds of state laws would be unconstitutional. Anti-gay marriage laws are invalid under Obergefell. If that’s overruled, Georgia doesn’t have to pass a gay marriage law.”
Ezra Trotman, an activist and artist, said that they hope this will be a moment of rallying for LGBTQ people across the state.
“This is time when we need to let our voices be heard,” they said. “At the end of the day we have to get ourselves together so we can walk to those voting booths.”
This story comes to Reporter Newspapers / Atlanta Intown through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a non-profit newsroom covering the state of Georgia.