Opinion » News

Out in the Bay: Election 2020 + SCOTUS: A queer view

by Eric Jansen

Doug Emhoff and his wife, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, joined President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, during their victory speech November 7 in Wilmington, Delaware. Photo: Courtesy CBS
Doug Emhoff and his wife, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, joined President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, during their victory speech November 7 in Wilmington, Delaware. Photo: Courtesy CBS  

We've heard plenty of straight analysis on our nail-biting national election, so now a queer take from Lisa Keen, national politics and legal affairs correspondent for the Bay Area Reporter and eight other LGBTQ newspapers nationwide.

What do the results mean for LGBTQ rights? How quickly can the Biden-Harris administration reinstate protections President Donald Trump took away? Can the Equality Act, which would require nationwide LGBTQ housing, employment and other protections, finally become law? How do Georgia's U.S. Senate runoff elections factor in?

Keen answered these questions and more on Out in the Bay radio and podcast this week and gave insights on the first LGBTQ U.S. Supreme Court case heard by new Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett last week.

The biggest question is control of the Senate, which Keen says is "almost as important as who controls the White House." With a Democrat-controlled Senate she says a top priority for LGBTQ rights would be to pass the Equality Act.

But Democrats are unlikely to control unless they win two runoff elections in Georgia, set for January 5. If Democrats win both, the Senate would be 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking ties on evenly split votes.

Although close, Keen thinks it's doable. The races are tight, resources are pouring in from across the country and "Georgia is extremely well-organized right now for the Democrats," she said. "It's going to be huge."

Keen called the U.S. Supreme Court's new 6-3 conservative majority a "very serious" threat to LGBTQ rights. She listened to oral arguments November 4 in Fulton v. Philadelphia, and says she and other LGBTQ court watchers found Barrett's and other justices' questions and comments concerning.

In the case, Catholic Social Services alleges faith-based discrimination because Philadelphia ceased using CSS as a foster placement agency after learning that CSS refused, on religious grounds, to place children with same-sex couples.

If the high court rules that CSS "should be able to continue receiving city money even though they violate the city ordinance against sexual orientation discrimination," said Keen, "it's gonna blow open a lot of holes in a lot of city and state human rights ordinances" that prohibit discrimination on many grounds, not just sexual orientation or gender.

Keen said she doubts Biden would try to expand the number of SCOTUS judges to restore the high court's balance as some progressives have suggested, because she sees Biden as being "more cautious and concerned about uniting the country instead of inflaming an already dangerously divided country."

He couldn't do so anyway if Republicans retain Senate control, she said, and that takes us back to Georgia.

Hear more from Lisa Keen on this week's Out in the Bay-Queer Radio from San Francisco. The program re-airs at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, November 14, on KSFP Radio, 102.5 FM in San Francisco only, and is available anytime on Out in the Bay's website. Out in the Bay now also airs at 10 p.m. Tuesdays on KALW 91.7 FM.

Eric Jansen is primary host and managing producer of Out in the Bay-Queer Radio from San Francisco. Learn more and listen at http://www.outinthebay.org

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.

Comments on Facebook