Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday morning slammed Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as a "danger to our democracy" over a statement he made the day before raising new criticism of same-sex marriages.
"Justice Thomas remains an example of why no one can go to the Court with hopes they will find their humanity," Lightfoot, who is the city's first openly lesbian mayor, tweeted. "Almost 29 years later, he remains a danger to our democracy."
She then turned her criticism to President Donald Trump's nominee to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, adding, "Amy Coney Barrett is worse."
Thomas, in a statement joined by Justice Samuel Alito, wrote Monday that the 5-4 majority in a 2015 case legalizing same-sex marriage had “read a right to same-sex marriage” into the Constitution, “even though that right is found nowhere in the text.”
He went on to say that the decision “enables courts and governments to brand religious adherents who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman as bigots.”
Thomas' statement was issued as a comment on an appeal from a former county clerk in Kentucky who objected to issuing same-sex marriage licenses. The court turned away the appeal of the former clerk, Kim Davis, among hundreds of rejected cases Monday.
Still, Thomas suggested the court needs to revisit the the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision because it has “created a problem that only it can fix.” Until then, he said, the case will continue to have “ruinous consequences for religious liberty.”
Thomas’ four-page statement prompted outrage from LGBTQ rights groups and others. Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement that Thomas and Alito had “renewed their war on LGBTQ rights and marriage equality” as the direction of the court “hangs in the balance.”
With Ginsburg’s death and the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy in 2018, only three members of the majority in the gay marriage case remain: Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
Barrett’s confirmation would cement a 6-3 conservative majority on the court, and she has compared her approach to the law generally to that of her mentor, Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the dissenters in the gay marriage case.
Reversing the court’s decision in the gay marriage case would seem a tall order, but Thomas’ statement underscored liberals’ fears that the court could roll back some of their hardest-fought gains.
The justices will hear a total of 10 arguments this week and next, but the term is so far short on high-profile cases. That could change quickly because of the prospect of court involvement in lawsuits related to the election. Perhaps the biggest case currently on the justices’ docket is post-Election Day arguments in the latest Republican bid to strike down the Affordable Care Act, which provides more than 20 million people with health insurance.