In our current political climate, progressives have been grabbing onto every crumb of good news like a life raft. This week, the LGBT community was dealt a colossal crumb.
A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled for the first time that the sex-discrimination clause under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes discrimination based on sexual orientation. While we wish the ruling was broader to also include gender identity, this was a landmark decision, the highest court to ever deliver such a finding.
The finding sets up what will likely be a battle of LGB rights in the U.S. Supreme Court. It also emphasizes the significance of the judiciary’s role in the next four (hopefully fewer) years.
At a time when the Trump administration is rolling back LGBT protections left and right, the appellate court’s ruling sends a message that civil rights aren’t to be subjected to partisan politics. Trump and his band of alt-righters have the potential to run roughshod over the progress that has been made toward LGBT equality in recent years. And with a Republican-controlled Congress, they will likely face little opposition on that front.
The judiciary, then, is a key component of the checks-and-balances setup on which our country was founded. So far, this branch has been integral in slowing the damage the Trump administration promised to inflict. Most notable, federal courts — in a series of rulings — have knocked down the two incarnations of Trump’s Muslim travel bans. Last month, a federal judge allowed a lawsuit to move forward that was filed by anti-Trump protesters who contend the then-candidate’s vitriolic speech incited violence against them.
One of Trump’s many alarming messages in the past three months is that, as president, his word is law. He’s proffered this in subtle ways and also more overtly; he actually told a reporter in an interview last month, “I’m president and you’re not.”
He may be president, but last we checked, he wasn’t coronated king. Checks and balances have long been a fabric of our federal government. And now more than ever, we can see why.