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Say ‘hello’ to the man who might replace Kennedy. Then say ‘goodbye’ to marriage equality.

Mike Lee
Senator Mike Lee Photo: Wikipedia

Shortly after Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement yesterday, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) suggested a person to take his place: Senator Mike Lee (R-UT).

“I think the single best choice President Trump could make to fill this vacancy is Sen. Mike Lee,” Cruz said on Fox News. “I think he would be extraordinary.”

Lee has already said he’s open to the idea.

“I started watching Supreme Court arguments for fun when I was 10 years old. So if somebody asked me if I would consider that, I would not say no,” Lee said in an interview yesterday.

Lee has been in the U.S. Senate since 2011. With a J.D. from Brigham Young University, Lee built a career as an attorney in private practice, and also served as federal prosecutor and as general counsel to Utah’s governor for several years.

He’s a solid conservative, with 100% ratings from rightwing organizations like the American Conservative Union and the Club for Growth. The Heritage Foundation gave him 99% in 2012, the highest score any U.S. senator got from Heritage.

Last year, HRC gave a score of 0% to Lee on its Congressional Scorecard, which means he consistently opposed LGBTQ equality.

But he went beyond refusing to support bills that advance equality and made an effort to roll back LGBTQ rights. He called the 2015 Obergefell decision that ended state bans on marriage equality “unfortunate.”

“Americans of good faith who believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman will continue to live as witnesses to that truth,” he said at the time.

In 2014, Lee, along with Ted Cruz, introduced the “State Marriage Defense Act” in the Senate, which would have required the federal government to use a couple’s state of residence to determine whether their marriage is valid, so that a same-sex couple that lived in Utah but got married during a trip to Vermont would lose federal benefits.

This was after the Supreme Court overturned the federal ban on marriage equality in the 2013 Windsor decision but before it overturned all state bans on marriage equality in the Obergefell decision.

“The Obama Administration should not be trying to force gay marriage on all 50 states. We should respect the states, and the definition of marriage should be left to democratically elected legislatures, not dictated from Washington. This bill will safeguard the ability of states to preserve traditional marriage for its residents,” Cruz said in a statement announcing the bill.

In 2015, Lee introduced the First Amendment Defense Act, which would have banned the government from doing anything to fight discrimination if the discriminator held a “religious belief or moral conviction” that same-sex couples shouldn’t be allowed to marry.

At the time, the ACLU said the bill “would open the door to unprecedented taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBT people.”

And he isn’t just opposed to LGBTQ rights in the U.S. Earlier this year, when the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ruled in favor of marriage equality, Lee threatened their funding.

“Given that the United States is the predominant funder of the Organization of American States, it is of great concern that one of its international courts has issued an opinion recommending Costa Ricans to change their law,” he said.

Both Obergefell and Windsor were decided by a 5-4 majority, with Kennedy joining the four liberal justices to advance LGBTQ equality.

Christian conservatives have already said that getting a judge to overturn Obergefell is a priority. “It is just a matter of time before several horrible decisions are reversed, including abortion and same-sex marriage,” said Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel.

Replacing Kennedy with a doctrinaire opponent of LGBTQ equality might just be what it takes to overturn Obergefell, taking America back to a state-by-state approach to marriage equality.

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