President Joe Biden acknowledged that the potential decision in Dobbs would have consequences for other civil and human rights issues.
President Joe Biden was asked on Tuesday to comment about the leaked draft of a Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization that would strike down the ruling in Roe vs. Wade that affirmed the right to abortion in the United States. Biden said that such a decision would mark a "fundamental shift in American jurisprudence" concerning the right to privacy and would have far-reaching implications.
Biden's comment highlighted ongoing efforts by Republicans and the conservative movement against equal rights.
The draft of a ruling by the court's conservative majority, authored by Justice Samuel Alito and verified as authentic by Chief Justice John Roberts, says that the landmark Supreme Court decision enshrining the right to an abortion "must be overruled."
"If this decision holds, it's really quite a radical decision," Biden said:
And again, the underlying premise, and again, I've not had a chance to thoroughly go into the report — decision — but it basically says all the decisions to be made in your private life — who you marry, whether or not you decide to conceive a child or not, whether or not you can have an abortion, a range of other decisions, how you raise your child, what does this do? Does this mean that in Florida they can decide they're going to pass a law saying that same-sex marriage is not permissible, it's against the law in Florida?
Biden's acknowledgment that the potential decision in Dobbs would have consequences for other civil and human rights issues reflects actions already taken by conservatives in all branches of government.
The conservative justices currently sitting on the court have indicated their interest in chipping away at marriage equality, which was decided in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015.
In 2020, Justices Alito and Clarence Thomas attacked Obergefell in a joint statement, alleging that court had asserted a "a novel constitutional right over the religious liberty interests explicitly protected in the First Amendment, and by doing so undemocratically, the court has created a problem that only it can fix. Until then, Obergefell will continue to have ruinous consequences for religious liberty."
Additionally, Justice Amy Coney Barrett in 2012 signed a letter with the conservative Beckett Fund expressing opposition to the Affordable Care Act on "religious liberty" grounds. The letter noted that marriage and family was "founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman."
The Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people in a multitude of areas including housing, health care, and employment, passed the House in February 2021. All of the Democratic representatives voted in favor of the measure, but only three Republican representatives — Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and John Katko and Tom Reed of New York — voted in favor as well. All 206 votes opposing the legislation came from Republicans.
Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, one of those Republicans, who has a long history of opposition to LGBTQ rights, is currently running for a U.S. Senate seat in her home state.
Florida, which Biden singled out in his comments, has been the focus of national attention since Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis began advocating for the passage of the state's "Parental Rights in Education" bill, widely known as the "Don't Say Gay" legislation. The law, which was passed by Florida's Republican-led Legislature, prohibits classroom instruction on gender and sexual orientation below the fourth grade.
The bill faced opposition from parents and educators who pointed out that the vague wording of the legislation could prohibit students from even acknowledging that they have two parents of the same sex or teachers from mentioning their same-sex partners, among other prohibitions.
After DeSantis signed the bill into law, it was criticized by the Walt Disney Company, which released a statement affirming its position that the law should be repealed or struck down in court.
In retaliation, DeSantis signed legislation that stripped Disney of its self-governing authority, which had given the company the right to govern the 25,000 acres of land where its theme parks are located. If fully implemented, the actions could cost Florida taxpayers millions of dollars because Disney's debts as a district authority would be transferred to local governments.
Biden reiterated his previous call for Roe's protections to be enshrined in federal law. Legislation that would codify abortion rights, called the Women's Health Protection Act, passed the House in September 2021 with only Democratic votes.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said that a vote on the bill will be scheduled in the Senate, but it does not appear to have enough votes to assure passage, even if the Senate filibuster were to be eliminated.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.