Supreme Court Ruling in Favor of LGBT Rights Brings New Uncertainty to Trump’s Efforts to Maintain Evangelical Support

A landmark Supreme Court ruling in favor of LGBT workers Monday injected fresh uncertainty into President Trump’s aggressive efforts to maintain the support of evangelical voters for his reelection campaign.

Some conservatives condemned the ruling that federal civil-rights law prohibits employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity, focusing much of their ire on Justice Neil Gorsuch, an appointee of President Trump, who voted with the majority in the 6-3 ruling and wrote the opinion.

The decision comes after the president has seen some erosion in his support among religious voters, according to polls. He has been actively courting those voters, pushing to reopen churches amid the coronavirus pandemic, making visits to religious sites and advancing policies favored by social conservatives.

While some critics suggested the decision could have lasting impact on Mr. Trump’s electoral fortunes, people close to the president contended it was just one ruling and that the president’s record on religious issues would keep him in good standing.

Mr. Trump, who often touts his record on judicial nominations, didn’t criticize the ruling, even though his Justice Department was on the losing side. “They’ve ruled,” he told reporters Monday. “I’ve read the decision and some people were surprised but they’ve ruled and we live with their decision.”

The Trump administration had argued that the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against workers, including in hiring and firing decisions, based on an employee’s sex, doesn’t cover LGBT workers. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, another Trump appointee, issued a dissent.

Conservative groups aligned with the president cast the decision as judicial overreach and evangelical church leaders argued it would affect their religious liberty. “This was not judging, this was legislating—a brute force attack on our constitutional system,” tweeted Carrie Severino, president of the Judicial Crisis Network.

Travis Weber, vice president for policy and government affairs at the Family Research Council, called it a “disappointing ruling,” adding “it’s disappointing to see Justice Gorsuch lead the opinion for the majority. We had supported him, based on his originalist record.”

Some critics looked to the November election, as the president hopes to win a second term against presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. LGBT issues continue to motivate conservatives, as evidenced in recent days when Rep. Denver Riggleman, a first-term Republican congressman from Virginia, lost his bid for renomination to a GOP challenger after conservatives turned against him for officiating a same-sex wedding.

Evangelical radio show host Erick Erickson tweeted: “All those evangelicals who sided with Trump in 2016 to protect them from the cultural currents, just found their excuse to stay home in 2020 thank to Trump’s Supreme Court picks.”

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SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal, Catherine Lucey