On Monday, Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, who both dissented from the 2015 decision to establish a right to same-sex marriage, urged the court to reconsider the ruling.
Thomas wrote that the 5-4 majority vote in the 2015 hearings had invented the right to same-sex marriage “even though that right is found nowhere in the [Constitution].” He stated that the ruling “enables courts and governments to brand religious adherents who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman as bigots.”
His words came after the court declined to hear an appeal by Kim Davis, a former Kentucky county clerk, who was sued for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Justice Alito signed the statement, but Chief Justice John Roberts, who also dissented in the 2015 decision did not; Trump appointees Neil Goruch and Brett Kavanaugh also withheld their direct agreement.
Explaining their decision to vote against hearing Davis’ appeal, Tomas wrote, “Davis may have been one of the first victims of this court’s cavalier treatment of religion in its Obergefell decision” but that her case does not “cleanly” present issues with the past decision.
Thomas’ words drew backlash and outrage from LGBTQ+ groups. The president of the Human Rights Campaign, Alphonso David, made a statement that Alito and Thomas had “renewed their war on LGBTQ rights and marriage equality.”
James Obergerell, the plaintiff in the 2015 case, also commented on the Justices’ statement. He called it “deeply disturbing and upsetting,” adding that, “Justices Thomas and Alito seem to imply that freedom of religion carries more weight, is more important, than all other rights.”
With Justice Ginsburg’s passing and the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, only three members of the majority ruling in the 2015 ruling remain. The court is slated to hear arguments on the role of religious objections in the exclusion of same-sex parents from foster care next month, increasing the relevance of the court’s current ideological makeup.