VIDEO: Human Rights Campaign Legal Director at House Judiciary Committee Hearing: “A Domino Effect Could Occur” if Majority Swayed by Justice Thomas on LGBTQ+ Rights

by Aryn Fields

In Testimony, HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow Says “Dobbs represents one of the most significant blows to Civil rights in a Generation.”

Warbelow Spars with Rep. Matt Gaetz Over Bisexuality, Adoption; Fact Checks President of Americans United for Life on What Abortion is

WASHINGTON—Today, the Human Rights Campaign’s Legal Director, Sarah Warbelow, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary during a hearing about the threat to individual rights in a post-Roe world, specifically highlighting the potential impact of Dobbs v. Jackson on the LGBTQ+ community. Warbelow discussed how the Dobbs decision may affect LGBTQ+ civil rights, including the potential impact on Obergefell v. Hodges and Lawrence v. Texas—her written testimony can be found here.

During the hearing, Warbelow challenged Rep. Matt Gaetz’s disturbing claim that access to abortion care could impede LGBTQ+ families’ ability to adopt a child, affirming that no person should be forced to carry a fetus against their will—that exchange can be found here. Warbelow also fact checked Catherine Glenn Foster, President and CEO of Americans United for Life, when she claimed that a 10 year old who became pregnant as a result of rape had an abortion “is not an abortion.” “I heard some very serious disinformation,” said Warbelow in response. That video can be found here.

The other panelists that testified before the committee include Jim Obergefell, the plaintiff in Obergefell v. Hodges, and New York University Professor of Law Melissa Murray. The hearing in its entirety can be found here. The majority, concurrence, and dissenting opinions in the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health all make mention of LGBTQ+ civil rights cases.

Key excerpts from Warblow’s testimony are below:

Even if the Court were someday to revisit cases like Loving, Lawrence, or Obergefell, these precedents have deep, double-stranded constitutional roots in not only substantive due process, but also equal protection case law…They have made enduring decisions that impact their relationship to the government, and that carry financial, familial, and other obligations, and they have outed themselves to the public…Indeed, to consider going back to a scenario where these rights could no longer be relied upon is horrific to even imagine. To put it squarely, were Lawrence to be overturned, a marriage certificate could be evidence of a crime…”

Sarah Warbelow, Human Rights Campaign Legal Director

By declaring that the Court should reevaluate all cases that rely upon a substantive due process rationale, Justice Thomas invites legal challenges from every corner. A domino effect could occur imperiling numerous rights that Americans take for granted if a majority of the Court were to be swayed by his analysis… In light of Dobbs, we are already witnessing many state legislatures enact abortion bans that are both emboldening increasingly extreme restrictions (e.g., upon the constitutional rights to interstate travel or to speech) and also having chilling effects on medicines and procedures that are not even used to conduct an abortion…”

Sarah Warbelow, Human Rights Campaign Legal Director

Should the constitutional imperatives reflected in Lawrence or Obergefell be abandoned or undercut by the Supreme Court, state legislatures will be sure to redouble their anti-LGBTQ+ attacks to include efforts to recriminalize intimacy between consenting adults and undermine or undo marriages of same-sex couple.”

Sarah Warbelow, Human Rights Campaign Legal Director

Lawrence v Texas and Obergefell v Hodges are two of the landmark Supreme Court decisions that led to securing the right to intimacy and marriage for same-sex couples. Since Obergefell cemented marriage equality into law seven years ago, it has quickly grown in acceptance and support. Seven in ten Americans (71%) express support for marriage equality; that number has consistently risen since 2015 when 60% of Americans were in favor of marriage equality. Now, there are approximately 568,000 married same-sex couples, which is 58% of all same-sex households.

Last month, HRC highlighted a fact sheet that illustrates the importance of the protections enshrined in Roe v. Wade to members of the LGBTQ+ community. The data shows that LGBTQ+ people who have been pregnant are more likely to have had unwanted or mistimed pregnancies than cisgender heterosexual women and are more likely to need abortion services as well. The data makes clear that LGBTQ+ people, including queer women, transgender men and non-binary people, need access to abortion services. The report found Lesbian (22.8%) and bisexual (27.2%) cisgender women who have been pregnant are more likely than cisgender heterosexual women (15.4%) who have been pregnant to have had an abortion according to a new analysis of the 2017-2019 National Survey for Family Growth (NSFG) conducted by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

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