The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a jovial homophobe, will make an already toxic electoral season worse. From all indications, there will be no move by the Senate to confirm Obama’s forthcoming nominee, making the Court a central issue in both the primaries and the November election.
Already, the GOP presidential contenders who’ve specialized in pandering to the worst instincts of their party’s social conservative base (primarily though not exclusively Cruz and Rubio, among those left standing) are pledging to put forward, if elected, a nominee who will roll back Obergefell, the ground-breaking decision in favor of marriage equality. But that’s a zero-sum change, since Scalia was the most adamant voice attacking the idea that same-sex couples’ relationships could be worthy of recognition, as he did earlier when he bitterly condenmed overturning the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act. Of course, Court-watchers are also looking to future replacements, including octogenarian liberal stalwart Ruth Bader Ginsburg, among others.
(Chief plaintiff Jim Obergefell takes the high road, tweeting “Thank you for your service to our country, Justice Scalia. Condolences to your family and friends.”)
Obama will likely nominate someone who is unacceptably liberal to the GOP senate but not obviously extreme (“Political calculation also militates in favor of nominating someone whose leftism isn’t obvious,” the Powelineblog predicts). But recognizing the likelihood that the next president is going to make this call, Hillary and Bernie will duke it out over who will push for a hard-core progressive.
Regardless, Obama’s nominee (or Hillary’s, or Bernie’s) will be good on LGBT legal equality while in favor of running roughshod over other liberty rights (second amendment, commercial political speech, freedom from state coercion, religious dissent….).
Meanwhile, many expect the fight will bring a halt to any bipartisan cooperation that Congress might have been able to achieve this year.