ACLU Responds to Justice Thomas and Alito, Looks Ahead to Nov. 4 Case

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday October 7, 2020

ACLU Responds to Justice Thomas and Alito, Looks Ahead to Nov. 4 Case
  (Source:Getty Images)

In response to an upcoming Nov. 4 case, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has issued a statement rebuking comments by Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito and their apparent desire to reverse equal rights for same-sex couples:

"It is appalling that five years after the historic decision in Obergefell, two justices still consider same-sex couples less worthy of marriage than other couples. When you do a job on behalf of the government — as an employee or a contractor — there is no license to discriminate or turn people away because they do not meet religious criteria." said James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union LGBT & HIV Project in the statement.

"Our government could not function if everyone doing the government's business got to pick their own rules," continued Esseks."That's exactly what's at stake in a case that will be argued on Nov. 4 — Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. We will fight against any attempts to open the door to legalized discrimination against LGBTQ people."

In Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, the Supreme Court will hear a case where private agencies hired by the government and funded by public tax dollars will claim their right "to deny services to people who are LGBTQ, Jewish, Muslim, or Mormon." The case stems from Catholic Social Services, an organization hired by the City of Philadelphia to place children in foster care, stating they would not accept same-sex couples as foster parents. CSS claims the city has violated religious exemptions that allow for the organization to discriminate against same-sex couples. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the city, and CSS has filed for the Supreme Court to hear the case.

As reported by EDGE, Thomas' and Alito's comments also appear to stem from an appeal filed by Kim Davis, the former county clerk in Kentucky who repeatedly refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, thereby denying their right to legally marry under the law. As a government official, Davis flouted the law her job required her to uphold, and claimed that issuing marriage licenses was a violation of religious liberty. As a consequence of the backlash Davis faced, she was branded a martyr by anti-LGBTQ Evangelical figures such as Texas Senator Ted Cruz and former Arkansas governor and GOP talking head Mike Huckabee — who held a rally in 2015 in support of a beleaguered Davis.

When the Supreme Court rejected Davis' appeal, Thomas asserted that any right to marriage for same-sex couples "is found nowhere in the text" of the Constitution. And thus, according to the Justice, the Court's ruling in favor of marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges "enables courts and governments to brand religious adherents who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman as bigots."

Justice Thomas does not, however, acknowledge the duty of government employees in upholding the law of the land — such as issuing marriage licenses. Thomas referred to Davis as "one of the first victims" of the Court's "cavalier treatment of religion... she will not be the last" and that the Supreme Court is the only avenue by which to "fix" the problem.

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.

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