Dalila Ali Rajah
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SCOTUS Nom Ketanji Brown Jackson Has Nearly Flaw-Free LGBTQ+ Record

Ketanji Brown Jackson

President Joseph R. Biden made good on a central campaign pledge on Friday. Biden announced on Twitter that he was nominating D.C Court of Appeals Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to sit on the United States Supreme Court. If confirmed, Jackson would be the first Black woman to sit on the high court.”

"I'm proud to announce that I am nominating Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the Supreme Court,” Biden wrote. “Currently serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, she is one of our nation's brightest legal minds and will be an exceptional Justice."

Jackson, a 51-year-old Harvard College and Harvard Law School graduate, now heads to the Senate for meetings with lawmakers as she prepares for confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

The nominee has not issued any controversial rulings as they pertain to LGBTQ+ issues, but she did sit on the board of a suburban Washington, D.C., Baptist school whose website explicitly stated hostility toward LGBTQ+ people and abortion rights. The school, which has closed permanently, was the Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Md.

In March of last year, while Jackson was being considered for her current job on the D.C. Court of Appeals, the conservative Washington Examiner reported that Jackson “served on the board of a Maryland school that opposes gay marriage and abortion.”

On a page titled “What We Believe,” the now-shuttered school said it was imparting “Christian character” to its students. Christian character, according to an archive of the now-defunct website for the school, meant opposing “racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography.” 

Jackson could face questions for her role on the school’s board, The 19th reports. In 2021 Jackson said she was primarily working on fundraising plans for the school and was unaware that it had such a statement on its website. 

As news of the Biden’s nomination broke, prominent advocacy groups including the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights heralded Jackson's nomination.

"The Supreme Court has historically played an outsized role in affirming the constitutional rights of LGBTQ+ individuals and other marginalized communities," Human Rights Campaign interim president Joni Madison said in a statement to The Advocate. "After a careful review of her record, it is clear that Jackson's demonstrated fidelity to the principles of our Constitution instills confidence that she will continue Justice Breyer's legacy as a champion of equality.

“As such, the Human Rights Campaign is proud to support Jackson to be the newest Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. She is an extremely qualified candidate, and her confirmation will mark significant progress towards ensuring that those who sit upon our highest Court reflect the diversity of the nation whose laws they are entrusted to interpret."  

Asked about the significance of Biden announcing his Supreme Court nominee exactly two years after pledging that he would pick a Black woman as his first nominee, Sharon McGowan, Lambda Legal's legal director, said that the organization was pleased.

"We welcomed that announcement and we are excited to see him fulfill that promise because, as we have said in other contexts, we know that the credibility of an institution as important as the Supreme Court hinges on whether or not it is an institution that everyone feels as though they can see themselves as a part of,”  McGowan said. "For far too long there have been incredibly qualified Black woman who very easily could have been nominated to the Supreme Court, and because of the historical legacy of discrimination with respect to race and gender and sexual orientation, many people who could have been fantastic judges were never given the opportunity to excel in those roles. 

“So, as we see one barrier be broken today that is good news for all of us, including the LGBTQ community who want to see our institutions really be open and accessible and credible to the entire community that it is there to serve." Various politicians also spoke to the nomination.

“Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has dedicated her life to advancing civil liberties and has a strong record of protecting LGBTQ rights,” said Equality Caucus Cochair Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. “I commend President Biden on his excellent choice in nominating Judge Jackson. She is remarkably qualified and will make long-overdue history as the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court, where I am confident she will serve our nation well.”

NCLR joins the growing list of LGBTQ+ voices celebrating today's nomination.

"Judge Jackson is brave, thoughtful, and a fierce defender of justice," Imani Rupert-Gordon, NCLR's executive director, said in a statement to The Advocate. "Above all else, she is eminently qualified, and will be a stalwart protector of our democratic institutions at a time when we need it the most. Her experience as a public defender will bring a perspective to the Court that will benefit every person in the United States."

Rupert-Gordon's statement goes on, "As the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court, Judge Jackson's confirmation will be a powerful reflection of the diversity of our country." 

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a new case involving LGBTQ+ rights and religious liberty. In the suit, Colorado web designer Lori Smith claims that her religious freedoms are being infringed upon because Colorado’s antidiscrimination law protects LGBTQ+ people from being denied services by a public-facing business.

 Smith wants to expand her wedding website services; however, she has argued that she would have to object to providing services for same-sex couples. 

Additionally, Smith wants to include a statement on her website about her religious beliefs. That would be in violation of the state’s antidiscrimination law. Smith says the current law violates her free speech and religious rights

While Jackson’s confirmation to the bench would not shift the conservative bent on the court, her perspective will be a valuable addition to the court, McGowan said.

“It’s hard to predict how a new justice will change the dynamics of conversation, but we know that each of them will bring their perspective as well as their life experience to the kinds of issues that we will see in cases like [the Colorado case.]"

She continued, “Part of what really is at stake is whether or not the government has a compelling interest in using things like non-discrimation laws to ensure that people are able to access services that are in the marketplace. [Judge Jackson] will be on the court next term ,presumably, where those issues are heard and we will learn more about the approach that she brings in her public engagements by the questions she asks, and I have no doubt that she will be a persuasive and effective ambassador for various issues in the conversations that happen behind closed doors.”

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