Jun 24, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Obergefell: Roe v. Wade ruling "paints a target on our right to privacy"

Jim Obergefell, the named plaintiff in the Obergefell v. Hodges case, speaking outside the Supreme Court in 2015.
Jim Obergefell, the named plaintiff in the Obergefell v. Hodges case, speaking outside the Supreme Court in 2015. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Jim Obergefell, the named plaintiff in the 2015 Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized same-sex marriage in the U.S., told the Cincinnati Enquirer on Friday that Justice Clarence Thomas' concurring opinion in overturning Roe v. Wade "paints a target on our right to privacy."

Why it matters: Thomas said that the court, in light of its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson on Friday, should reconsider other precedents that were decided under substantive due process to protect same-sex relationships, marriage equality and access to contraceptives.

Justice Samuel Alito in the court's majority wrote that “nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion" because the exercise of rights established by other rulings "does not destroy a 'potential life.'"

What they're saying: Obergefell, a gay rights advocate running for the Ohio House of Representatives, told the Enquirer in an interview Friday that Thomas' opinion encourages people who oppose marriage equality "to now start their engines and to come after those rights."

  • "This very clearly paints a target on our right to privacy, our right to commit to the person we love and to form our families," he said.
  • "What a dark day for our ability to control our own bodies, to make decisions about our own bodies," he said. "What a dark day for our right to privacy. What an incredibly dark day for women in our nation."
  • Obergefell criticized Thomas, saying he was "imposing his twisted sense of morality" on the country.

The other side: In the court's minority opinion, Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor wrote that "[e]ither the mass of the majority’s opinion is hypocrisy, or additional constitutional rights are under threat."

  • "It is one or the other," they wrote.

The big picture: The court decided in Griswold v. Connecticut that Americans have a right to privacy inferred from several amendments in the Bill of Rights, including the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, and that this right prevented states from banning the use of contraception by married couples illegal, opening doors to widespread access to contraceptives.

  • The court held in Lawrence v. Texas that state laws that outlawed intimate sexual conduct between two people of the same sex violated the Due Process Clause.
  • President Biden said during an address Friday that "Roe is on the ballot. Personal freedoms are on the ballot, the right to privacy, liberty, equality, they're all on the ballot."

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