SUPREME COURT JUSTICE ANTHONY KENNEDY
We picked the nominees. You picked the winners. Out of ten distinguished candidates — from a heterosexual Supreme Court Justice to Utah‘s first openly gay mayor — you chose which contender made the splashiest headlines, graced us with the grabbiest news stories, and, ultimately, made the greatest strides toward LGBTQ freedom.
Five judges constitute a majority on the Supreme Court, but one stands out: Anthony Kennedy. The Reagan-appointed justice — also voted Queerty’s 2015 ‘Person of the Year’ — has become the most forceful advocate for LGBT rights on the bench, taking the lead on opinions striking down sodomy laws, anti-gay ballot measures and, most notably, bans on marriage equality. The fact that he was a hand-picked conservative, chosen to uphold the right-wing orthodoxy, makes his evolution as a world class defender of liberty and equality even more striking.
He’s done this by using language that goes well beyond legal reasoning to recognize the validity and even integrity of same-sex relationships–and their children as well. He’s become a kind of poet laureate of same-love, with such eloquent musings in his rulings such as this: “There is dignity in the bond between two men or two women who seek to marry and in their autonomy to make such profound choices.”
Kennedy’s legal mentor was a gay man who clearly had a profound impact on his student. Would we have been quite as successful in our ascent if someone else held Kennedy’s spot on the bench? Certainly not if it had been Robert Bork, the man the Senate rejected before Kennedy was chosen to replace him by Reagan. But here was little in the biography of the obscure California jurist to suggest that Kennedy would eventually become our champion–and he’s still a reliable conservative vote on many other constitutional questions.
To celebrate his Kennedy’s election as LGBTQ Newsmaker of the Year, here are ten of the most eloquent quotes culled from the legal rulings of this unexpected poet laureate of same-sex love:
1. “The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality. This is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation.”
2. “The ancient origins of marriage confirm its centrality, but it has not stood in isolation from developments in law and society. The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change. That institution—even as confined to opposite-sex relations—has evolved over time.
3. “The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality. This is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation.”
4. “As all parties agree, many same-sex couples provide loving and nurturing homes to their children, whether biological or adopted. And hundreds of thousands of children are presently being raised by such couples. See Brief for Gary J. Gates as Amicus Curiae 4. Most States have allowed gays and lesbians to adopt, either as individuals or as couples, and many adopted and foster children have same-sex parents, see id., at 5. This provides powerful confirmation from the law itself that gays and lesbians can create loving, supportive families.
Excluding same-sex couples from marriage thus conflicts with a central premise of the right to marry. Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, their children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser. They also suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents, relegated through no fault of their own to a more difficult and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue here thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples.”
5. “Same-sex couples are consigned to an instability many opposite-sex couples would deem intolerable in their own lives. As the State itself makes marriage all the more precious by the significance it attaches to it, exclusion from that status has the effect of teaching that gays and lesbians are unequal in important respects. It demeans gays and lesbians for the State to lock them out of a central institution of the Nation’s society. Same-sex couples, too, may aspire to the transcendent purposes of marriage and seek fulfillment in its highest meaning.”