Abortion access is protected for now in Virginia, but queer people fear what comes next for them
- Written by Paul Bibeau
- Category: Local News
- Published: 04 July 2022
Hours before Hampton Roads Pride held a block party to kick off the last weekend of the month celebrating queer rights, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, shifting decades of legal precedent around abortion rights in the country.
The ruling doesn’t change Virginia law, but according to scholars and commentators the majority opinion narrows the definition of liberty in a way that might impact laws around same-sex marriage, contraception and other issues.
“We literally were having the conversations throughout the day right before our event on Friday,” said Rudy Almanzor, president of Hampton Roads Pride.
Almanzor doesn't know what Hampton Roads Pride can or will do next. The organization has yet to make a formal statement on the decision.
In the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito indicated the ruling had no effect on gay rights or other issues.
“The Court emphasizes that this decision concerns the constitutional right to abortion and no other right,” Alito wrote.
Allison Orr Larsen, a law professor at the College of William & Mary said the decision leaves the door open to throwing out any rights recognized after 1868, when the 14th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified.
The amendment guarantees that no person shall be deprived of their rights “without due process of law.”
In a separate opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the court “should reconsider” rulings that established rights to gay marriage, contraception and even one that ended laws criminalizing gay sex, because of this narrow definition of 14th Amendment protections.
“The problem with that… is that at the time that the 14th Amendment was ratified, women couldn't vote. Women couldn't hold property. A woman could be raped by her husband and nothing would happen,” Orr said. “I think the reasoning opens the door to challenges of other rights.”
Dexter Davis from the LGBT Life Center in Norfolk said Thomas’s opinion makes it clear the justice wants to curtail queer rights.
“Safety is truly an illusion,” Davis said. “Security is an illusion… Here is something that we thought was a fundamental right that was removed.”
States are already acting on the court’s decision in ways that go beyond abortion. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall tried to reinstate a ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth citing the decision.
Outside of marriage, the decision impacts transgendered people directly because many can become pregnant, he said. Research by Rutgers University indicates up to 30% of trans men have unintended pregnancies.
In his opinion on the case Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged the ruling would be “a serious jolt to the legal system.”
Larsen said even though she didn’t know how the ruling would impact queer rights, the decision showed that the court was willing to take bold and unpopular actions.
“(That) mentality is very different from what we saw in the court over the past several years, decades,” she said. “It's… a change that's going to lead to more jolts… lead to more big waves.”
Note: WHRO Public Media is a presenting partner of Hampton Roads’ PrideFest.