Open Letter

Dear Justice Anthony Kennedy: Please don’t retire now. Pretty please.

Dear Justice Kennedy,

We know that Supreme Court justices traditionally announce their departure from the bench when the Court ends its term in late June. Fresh off their victory at the appointment of Neil Gorsuch–the only victory that Republicans can claim despite controlling two branches of government–they began speculating that you would be the next justice to step down. We don’t need to remind you that June also marks the second anniversary of Obergefell v. Hodges, your masterpiece ruling in favor of marriage freedom.

President Trump, in his typical hamfisted way, has spoken openly about the rumors, while Sen. Charles Grassley, the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters this spring that “I would expect a resignation this summer,” pointing to you in everything but name. Some of your former clerks suggest that you won’t stay on the Court much longer as well.

At 80 years of age, and with nearly 30 years on the Court, you have served the nation well and deserve a restful retirement. But sometimes our wishes and our duties to the nation and the constitution are in conflict. We would suggest that this is one of those times.

You’ve contributed many opinions over the years, but there is no doubt that your greatest legacy will be your advancement of LGBTQ equality, of which you are rightfully proud. Never has the Court had a more eloquent and fervent advocate protecting the rights of sexual minorities. The four landmark rulings of the past 25 years are all owed to you. First came Romer v. Evans, the challenge to an antigay ballot measure in Colorado. In that 1996 case, you wrote banning nondiscrimination measures was “inexplicable by anything but animus,” incredibly powerful words from a Court that ten years earlier had upheld sodomy laws. Then came your ruling on those very same sodomy laws, which the majority struck down in 2003. In that opinion, you wrote that the law protects adults, including gay adults, who are engaged in sexual acts in the privacy of their own homes. These opinions, which followed major shifts in public opinion, were made all the more poignant by the fact that you were appointed by a Republican and were considered a conservative Catholic legal scholar.

Those two opinions alone changed the landscape for us, giving us legal protections that we never had before. But they were just the start. Then came the marriage rulings. First, you wrote the majority opinion striking down the odious Defense of Marriage Act, and then two years later came back with the eloquent majority opinion that made marriage legal once and for all. We are hoping it is the final word on marriage equality.

As you know better than anyone, your retirement would put many of those gains in jeopardy. The list of your potential replacements makes your late colleague Antonin Scalia look like Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The very animus that you decried in your first major gay ruling is still alive and well among your fellow judges. Most of your rulings were 5-4 decisions. Your departure would tip the Court in the direction of the dissenters, making them the majority. Also, remember the undemocratic way the Republican Party is recreating its majority. We know you rise above partisanship, and are secretly appalled that the Senate blocked President Obama’s extremely well qualified appointee who was then replaced by a Trump appointee–despite the fact that Trump won far fewer votes not just than Obama but Hillary Clinton as well. This court stacking could take years to undo.

So we ask you: Please don’t go. Not in the middle of a Trumpian constitutional crisis. Not yet, at least. We ask you to at least wait until after the midterm election when we have fighting chance of a Senate majority that will block any closed minded appointees. Your presence on the Court is the only thing that guarantees our rights remain whole, and that progress continues apace. The type of conservative judge who would replace you may not be able to overturn your rulings outright, but he or she will pick away at them, limiting and eroding them at every possible turn. The generosity of spirit and common decency that your rulings reflected likely will not be found in your successor. The extreme GOP ideological vetting process for that person will guarantee a sterling record of antigay rulings.

We know it’s asking a lot. But we’re not just thinking of ourselves. We’re thinking of your legacy. Waiting a few more years to ensure that it lasts seems a fair request.

We respectfully hope that you agree.

Write your own open letter to Anthony Kennedy in comments below. Queerty and its sister site, LGBTQ Nation, will bundle the letters together and personally deliver them to the Supreme Court in time for the second anniversary of marriage equality June 26.

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23 Comments

  • MacAdvisor

    I am less worried about Kennedy resigning than I am about Ginsburg dying.

    • dave_elliott

      Kennedy will resign AND most likely, Ginsburg will die. The Bernie-or-Bust liberals have really shot themselves in the foot this time. We’re looking at a hard-right Supreme Court for the next 30 years. That’s why even Republicans who hate Trump still voted for him. It will be decades before we can recover from what the crazy Bernie supporters and Green Party people have done to us. Within the next few years, all gay rights will be rolled back and its all the fault of the far-left who mistakenly thought that Hillary is some kind of Conservative. She would have put gay-rights supporting liberals in the Court.

    • 1EqualityUSA

      I have faith in our Constitution. It surpasses mere justices, politicians, and religious people.

    • captainburrito

      1EqualityUSA
      I think it would correct itself in time but 30 years is probably more than my remaining lifespan.

  • spiritedrandy

    Dear Justice Kennedy,

    I honor your service to the people of the United States. I respect your vision of a society that gives all persons dignity, even when that is uncomfortable to others. I am moved by your compassion to the vulnerable as a necessary component of justice. I honor your courage even when you know your decisions will engender criticism. Your four seminal LGBT rights opinions have sketched a vision of a nation that embraces dignity and equality. That legacy will endure forever. I ask that you continue to build on that legacy for as long as possible.

    Thank you for “listening,”

    Randy Marks
    Retired FTC Attorney
    Takoma Park, Maryland

  • JessPH

    Dear Anthony Kennedy, if you’re considering retiring because of poor health, please be aware that I’m willing to give you one of my kidneys if that is what it takes to make you healthy. On a serious note, please don’t retire and let someone clearly rejected by American voters last election pick another Supreme Court Justice. Any Trump appointee who can hold office beyond Trump’s stay in the White House would be catastrophic.

    Jess Lopez
    Honolulu, HI

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  • Kieran

    Dear Justice Kennedy,
    Thank you for casting the deciding vote that guaranteed marriage equality for millions of American citizens who happen to be gay. You could easily have voted No, but you chose to open the door to marriage rights and equality for people born with a homosexual orientation. You will go down in history as a Civil Rights trailblazer, and it will be noted that you were appointed by President Reagan.

    Despite the bigoted stereotypes by some, you proved that being a conservative, republican, and Catholic doesn’t mean you have to automatically be a homophobe and enemy of gay people. Some of us need to learn that lesson, especially now in the age of Trump.

    • 1EqualityUSA

      I wonder how Neil Gorsuch is going to rule on Friedrich V California Teachers. Scalia was weeks away from a ruling that would make Union dues optional. Labor will be screwed by the GOP like never before. Religious liberty, hmmm. Voting protection, ooh. yeah.

    • Kangol

      As importantly, Anthony Kennedy wrote the deciding opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, striking down ALL sodomy laws, homosexual and heterosexual, across the United States. That was arguably even more important than marriage equality, since it decriminalized and equalized same-sexual acts, which people perform regardless of their sexual identity, or whether they are married or not. Even more liberal than Kennedy, though, were David Souter, appointed by George H. W. Bush, and Sandra Day O’Connor (also Roman Catholic), appointed by Ronald Reagan. Trump’s pick, however, is far to the right of anyone on the court, except perhaps Clarence Thomas.

      If you want to write Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy and have him pay attention, you should send your comments to the actual Supreme Court offices: Supreme Court of the United States, 1 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20543. I’m sure Justice Kennedy’s staff will read them if they’re reasonable.

  • Billysees

    The article was heartwarming to read and full of sincerity. But whatever Justice Kennedy does, it will be the best he can do. We’re super-grateful for his work on our behalf. And let’s not forget David Souter either.

    1EqualityUSA wrote —
    I have faith in our Constitution. It surpasses mere justices, politicians, and religious people.

    Good comment too, but I would eliminate the word ‘mere’. It almost sounds a bit insulting. All friends of the LGBT Community are not mere friends.

    Here’s a reminder of why marriage equality is for keeps —

    No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

    Justice Anthony Kennedy
    June 26, 2015

  • MediaGuy

    Goodbye to the wishy washy Justice Kenedy and good riddance. Maybe now with Kennedy going to the old folks home and Ginsburg dropping dead, (she already IS dead, just hasn’t fallen over yet), we can get rid of Roe v Wade, the most violent decision in the courts history which destroyed the human rights of the fetus and the reproductive rights of men. What trash this decision was. Then, after President Trump’s re election, he will get to appoint at least one if not two more judges. It will become known as the Trump Court. Yea for our side. Suffer bitches suffer. You’re welcome.

    • 1EqualityUSA

      laughable

    • ChrisK

      Mo Bro or Media Guy. Wtf are you even doing on this site besides being a giant asshole.

    • captainburrito

      So after replacing Kennedy and Ginsburg, the only other likely replacement is Breyer. Who hell is the 4th you have in mind? The 2 remaining liberals are young and replacing any of the conservatives does not change much as neither Alito or Thomas are wishy washy.

      Getting rid of Roe vs Wade would lead to a surge in support for Democrats. For Republicans to deliver too many gifts will be their undoing.

  • o.codone

    @Equity. I don’t follow you, what’s laughable? The guy makes a good point about what Trump may be able to do to the Supreme Court. If that makes you nervous, and you have nervous laughter, then I get it. That WOULD make liberals nervous, I agree. Otherwise, it would appear that your laughter is inappropriate to the content. I don’t see anything to laugh at.

    • ChrisK

      Laughable because shithead is more concerned about a fetus then actual civil rights of the people here. Conservatives only care till it’s born.

      Trump picking out more justices should make anyone with a thinking mind nervous.

    • MediaGuy

      @ChrisK. You said: “… concerned about a fetus *then* actual civil rights…”. I used to ridicule you’re spelling and grammar, but now I no you can’t make any corrections b/c you are functionally illiterate. What school did you go to, Appalachia High? You apparently learned NOTHING. Now I actually feel bad for biting your ass off previously b/c you REALLY don’t no the difference between correct and illiterate.

      Let me suggest (again) that you talk to your cell phone and let Siri spell the words for you. Than, copy the words to the comment section and stop making an azz out of yourself on Queerty. When your trying to be a snarky bitch and make cutting/critical comments, but you spell everything wrong, jeesh, you can hear (all 4) Queerty readers cringing, sighing and stifling a giggle. Maybe have your mother proofread your comments before you post. Just call up the stairs. Haahhaaa. You a hot mess Jethro, a hot mess. You better pick up the pace because otherwise you’ll be making possum sandwiches at the deli for the rest of your damn life, I mean, you’ll never get an actual job. OMG.

    • 1EqualityUSA

      You said: “… concerned about a fetus *then* actual civil rights…”. I used to ridicule you’re spelling and grammar, but now I no you can’t make any corrections b/c you are functionally illiterate. What school did you go to, Appalachia High? You apparently learned NOTHING. Now I actually feel bad for biting your ass off previously b/c you REALLY don’t no the difference between correct and illiterate.

      Let me suggest (again) that you talk to your cell phone and let Siri spell the words for you. Than, copy the words to the comment section and stop making an azz out of yourself on Queerty. When your trying to be a snarky bitch and make cutting/critical comments, but you spell everything wrong, jeesh, you can hear (all 4) Queerty readers cringing, sighing and stifling a giggle. Maybe have your mother proofread your comments before you post. Just call up the stairs. Haahhaaa. You a hot mess Jethro, a hot mess. You better pick up the pace because otherwise you’ll be making possum sandwiches at the deli for the rest of your damn life, I mean, you’ll never get an actual job. OMG.

    • 1EqualityUSA

      Media guy, you made four mistakes and accidentally omitted a comma.

    • o.codone

      @Equity. Know sh*it Sherlock. I can tell your a genius to. You and ChrisK, fu*cking Einsteins.

    • 1EqualityUSA

      Rather be us than miserable you.

  • captainburrito

    If the Dems somehow manage a majority in 2018 in the Senate, they’ll have to keep blocking till at least 2020 as I’m not sure Trump will ever present a moderate.

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