Over the last 36 years I have had a maddening, often abusive, relationship with the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). As a gay man in America, whoever those nine justices are, they have had an enormous effect on my life, and my community.

I was just 21 years old in 1986, going to college in NYC when, in Justice Byron White’s majority opinion for the Supreme Court’s Hardwick v. Bowers, he compared homosexuality with adultery, incest, and sex crimes. Chief Justice Warren Burger had written in his concurring opinion “To hold that the act of homosexual sodomy is somehow protected as a fundamental right would be to cast aside millennia of moral teaching.” That disastrous decision was made as AIDS deaths were mounting, it was combustible, and we were in a fury.

Seventeen years later in 2003, I was already a father when the SCOTUS decision in Lawrence v. Texas overturned Hardwick v. Bowers, finding that lesbians and gay men have the same fundamental right to private sexual intimacy with another adult as heterosexuals do.

And then, in the profound marriage cases, United States v. Windsor in 2013 and Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, love didn’t win—it conquered.

When SCOTUS announced their ruling on June 15th, 2020 that “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.” I cried. Part sigh of relief, I had so braced myself for a smackdown that I savored being spared; part elation that after three years of an all-out war waged on us by the Trump/Pence administration, finally good news. My tears also flowed for all the people whose lives were ruined by being denied and blocked for decades from this simple, inalienable truth.

The fact that the majority opinion written by Associate Justice Gorsuch used textualism as its reasoning, the weapon so often used against us, made our victory even sweeter. And that the decision came amidst massive Black Lives Matter and Black Trans Lives Matter protests, fighting the structural racism that our country was crafted and codified on, added to my optimism that a major shift was on our horizon.

Andrew Sullivan heralded the decision in New York Magazine, writing, “Every single goal the gay-rights movement set out to achieve in my lifetime has now been won.”

He’s wrong. See why in my Advocate column “In Gay We Trust.”
In fact, earlier this week, SCOTUS dealt horribly damaging backhanded blows. The Advocate reported “In a decision that has broad implications for LGBTQ+ workers, [SCOTUS] ruled that federal antidiscrimination laws do not apply to teachers at church-sponsored schools if instruction in religion is part of their jobs. And in a separate decision that also stands to affect LGBTQ+ people because of its expansion of religious exemptions, the court ruled that faith-based employers can deny birth control coverage to workers despite the Affordable Care Act’s mandate for such coverage.”

My infuriating relationship with SCOTUS continues as it allows the normalizing and weaponizing of religious bigotry in the guise of religious freedom.

LGBTQ Americans are always subjected to the shifting wins and whims of a biased American electorate and a jaundiced judiciary. The result being we remain a political football, too often reliant on thin margins of courts to gain our rightful place.

As you think about whom to vote for this November, make paramount to your decision whom you want nominating judges and as importantly, whom we need to be confirming them.

Think about all the Supreme Court cases that have had profound and real effect on our lives.

This time the cancer is the president and it’s spread to a pandemic. Vote as if your life depends on it, because it does. Vote as if someone else’s life depends on it too, because it does.

Please visit my new website richiejackson.me and join me in this urgent conversation. 
With Love,
Richie Jackson


  • Richie Jackson is the author of the book Gay Like Me published by HarperCollins, an opinion columnist for The Advocate, and an award-winning Broadway, television, and film producer who produced the Tony Award-nominated Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song on Broadway and executive produced Showtime’s Nurse Jackie (Emmy and Golden Globe nominee for “Best Comedy Series”) for seven seasons. As an alumnus of NYU, he endows a program at his alma mater to train the next generation of LGBTQ+ activists called the Richie Jackson LGBTQ+ Service Fellows. He and his husband, Jordan Roth, were honored with The Trevor Project’s Trevor Hero Award. They are the proud parents of two extraordinary sons.