Civil and Human Rights Coalition Statement on the Retirement of Justice Kennedy

WASHINGTON – Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, released the following statement on the announcement that Justice Kennedy plans to retire at the end of the current Supreme Court term:

“During his three decades of service on the Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy was the fifth and deciding vote in several landmark cases. He was the architect of four landmark decisions that helped bring LGBTQ people and their families out of the shadows and recognized their full humanity under law and in the public square. And he was also a swing vote against harsh criminal sentences and restrictions to reproductive healthcare for women. But as we saw just this week, he more often voted to undermine civil rights protections.

“The Supreme Court is the last line of defense for our civil and human rights and it serves as a crucial check on the other branches of government. Especially at a time when so many rights and freedoms are under threat, it is crucial that Justice Kennedy’s successor be a fair-minded and independent jurist, rather than the narrow-minded extremists offered by President Trump.

“President Trump has repeatedly boasted about applying ideological litmus tests to compile his shortlist of 25 potential Supreme Court nominees. Many of these shortlisted nominees have recently been examined by the Senate for lower court nominations so we know the type of narrow-minded views they would bring to our highest court. These shortlisters have well-established records of bias against women, the LGBTQ community, people of color, immigrants, environmental protection, and access to healthcare. Anyone who earned a spot on President Trump’s shortlist cannot be viewed as sufficiently independent to serve on our Supreme Court.

“The Constitution assigns the Senate a critical role in the selection and consideration of Supreme Court nominees. Justice Kennedy was confirmed to the highest court only after two previous nominees were named. That serves as an important reminder of the independent vetting that the Senate conducts for these powerful lifetime appointments.

“Many of our civil and human rights hang in the balance with this Supreme Court vacancy. We urge all senators to put their country over party and demand that the President tear up his shortlist and instead nominate someone with a clear reputation for fairness and independence.”

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its 200-plus member organizations, visit