VOICES: New Supreme Court brings concerns of biases

Category:  Opinions
Friday, November 20th, 2020 at 12:06 PM

Just over a month after Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, a new Supreme Court justice was sworn in to take her place.  

Filling this seat held by Ginsburg is very critical. Ginsburg helped pave the way for many women’s rights victories in the Court, and helped to push feminism and equality ahead. She pushed that gender equality was a constitutional right in U.S. v. Virginia in 1996. She also signed on for Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, which ruled same-sex marriage to be a right in all 50 states. 

New Justice Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in on Monday, Oct. 26. The biggest criticism I have seen: in 2016, when Barack Obama was still in office, he was told not to bother nominating a new justice as it was in an election year. The Senate would not confirm, led by Mitch McConnell. Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump was able to nominate and appoint someone a month before an election he lost. Several politicians spoke out against this, including Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. It didn’t matter. 

When I think of a judge, I think of someone who listens to all the people, all the sides of a story, and makes decisions without a bias. Barrett has certain biases that she won't let go of. It’s worrying as Barrett has very strong views based on her religion, and I find it hard to believe that someone who feels so strongly can let go of their religious views to make decisions.  

A common thing I have seen people posting and sharing are her beliefs on abortion and LGBTQ rights. Roe v. Wade led to women being able to get an abortion without excessive restrictions from the government, and Obergefell v. Hodges legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Trump has said that Barrett would be part of the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. However, with Trump losing the election and former Vice President Joe Biden having different views on abortion, there is a chance this won’t be something that is brought up to the court to be overruled.  

LGBTQ rights are very personal to me. It’s only been five years since same-sex marriage was ruled as a right nationwide, and there’s concerns it will be overturned with this nomination. At the moment it’s only speculation, but the concern comes from Barrett’s conservative religious views. She even signed a letter sent to the Synod Fathers in Christ saying that marriage and family is “founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman.” 

With Biden now being the president-elect, I have less concerns about Barrett and these rulings as Biden supports both of these things. He was part of the administration that legalized same-sex marriage. So, I feel it’s unlikely to be reversed. However, that doesn’t stop all my concerns with Barrett.  

Something Barrett has called herself is an “originalist.” Barrett explained that her personal definition of this term is: “I interpret the constitution as a law, that I interpret its text as text and I understand it to have the meaning that it had at the time people ratified it.” 

The problem I see is the Constitution was ratified on Sept. 17, 1787. So, thinking back on that time and thinking of what the Constitution would be at the time, this doesn’t help Barrett very much. She’s a woman and managed to vote and be in these high legal positions. In 1787, with the Constitution and the mindset at the time, she never would have ascended in the same fashion. 

I would not call myself an originalist because I’m a woman and not straight. Those groups weren’t properly considered when that document was written and ratified. Not to mention people of color weren’t considered equal. The Constitution was ratified in a time with people and technology that is vastly different than it is now, which is why new laws and rights are needed as we evolve. 

This makes me worry about Barrett’s choices despite Biden being in office. The court rules on many things, and I worry her very original views will clash with what Biden and many American people want. Her decisions, if they are really based on originalism, could affect many lives. 

 Someone in such high power should not base all their views on a document written over 200 years ago. A judge needs to ease up on their biases, listen to what everyone says and think of those whose lives depend on these choices. They should be making decisions that benefit and help people and the country. 

Emma McNeeley is the News Editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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