In 2012, Daniel Downer had a fever he couldn’t shake and a stomach in constant revolt. He was terrified, but he kept hoping a few more Tylenol might take care of it. Finally, Daniel worked up the courage to get tested. A few weeks later, he was diagnosed as HIV-positive.
In the time since, Daniel has been able to survive and thrive in large part because the Affordable Care Act ensured access to the care he needed. If Daniel’s diagnosis had occurred a few years earlier, he could have been denied health care coverage because he was HIV-positive. But today, thanks to the ACA, insurance companies are prohibited from discriminating against Daniel and millions of other LGBTQ people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, or discriminating against people with a “preexisting condition” such as HIV.
Today, Daniel is healthy, his HIV is undetectable, and he has become a powerful advocate in his community, establishing the Bros in Convo Initiative, an organization that creates a safe space for black bisexual, gay, and queer youth at risk for or living with HIV while empowering them to live their best and healthiest lives. But once again the security of his health care and his future is at stake.
For Daniel and millions of others, their future now hinges on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court and his dangerous opposition to the ACA. Kavanaugh’s threat to the ACA isn’t merely speculation — it’s a promise spelled out in black and white in his judicial record. In 2011, Kavanaugh wrote a dissent in Seven-Sky v. Holder opposing a decision to uphold the ACA. In 2015, Kavanaugh wrote in another dissenting opinion that his court should take another look at an earlier ruling that he believed had erred in upholding the ACA. And, of course, Kavanaugh was nominated by Donald Trump, who has promised to repeal the ACA more than 68 times and says that opposition to the ACA is part of his litmus test for judicial nominees.
Kavanaugh’s nomination is a serious threat to the ACA, but that is far from the only threat he poses to our community and our welfare.
Millions of LGBTQ Americans could soon find themselves turned away from businesses, hospitals, housing, and emergency shelters if Kavanaugh applies his previous, expansive interpretations of religious freedom to sanction a license to discriminate against our community. In 31 states, Americans already lack express protections against these types of discrimination. Kavanaugh could roll back protections even further nationwide.
But his dangerous record doesn’t stop there. Kavanaugh has suggested that Roe v. Wade was incorrectly decided, jeopardizing women’s fundamental reproductive rights. He has claimed that banning deadly assault weapons, like those used at Pulse nightclub, would be unconstitutional. And he has claimed that a president can refuse to enforce a law based on nothing but his or her own whims.
These are not the careful, deliberate opinions of a fair-minded jurist nominated for our nation’s highest court. These are the opinions of someone animated by a political ideology well outside America’s mainstream.
It is now up to the Senate to act — and whether Kavanaugh’s nomination succeeds hinges on whether bipartisan leaders will put aside political point-scoring to protect the rights of millions of Americans.
For LGBTQ people, the urgency of our fight against Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination is not abstract. It is literally about millions of people having a right to live their lives free from discrimination and with access to affordable health care. It’s about protecting young people across America who may not know they are HIV-positive, or who have just begun seeking treatment. It’s about the countless transgender people who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect — not labeled as having a “preexisting condition” simply because of who they are. It’s about the tens of millions who could be turned away from a business, a workplace, or a health care provider because of who they are. It’s about affirming and protecting the equal dignity of same-sex couples and their families across our country.
For generations, anti-LGBTQ extremists have attempted to use our courts as an instrument of oppression against the LGBTQ community. Now, for the second time in two years, they have handpicked one of their own to sit on the nation’s highest court.
And we know they won’t stop here. This administration will continue to attack and undermine our most basic rights. If we are successful in defeating Kavanaugh, Donald Trump will put forth another nominee. Moreover, other justices could step down, leaving this president further opportunities to fill the bench with extreme justices. That’s why we as a community and a nation must give our all for the next 100 days to support candidates who support us. We must elect a sane, pro-equality majority to Congress that will defeat judicial nominees like Kavanaugh at all levels of the federal bench.
If we fail, people like Daniel will be forced to pay the price.