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LGBTQ Americans worry for their rights after Roe reversal

Attendees during the NYC Pride March in New York, on June 26.  (Gabby Jones/Bloomberg)
By Jasmina Kelemen </p><p>and Dina Bass Washington Post

Amid the revelry at the weekend’s gay-pride events, there was an undercurrent of apprehension. Members of the LGBTQ community are growing worried that the hard-fought legal rights gained over the past two decades could be ripped away.

At boisterous gatherings from New York to Houston to San Francisco, attendees expressed dismay about the Supreme Court’s move to end the right to abortion and what it might mean for other issues. The decision awakened fears that the right to marry and the right to same-sex intimacy could be the next target for conservative judges.

“Me and my husband just got married – we’re celebrating two years in August,” said Ken Simpson, from Everett, Washington, gesturing to Patrick Simpson as the two waited with friends for the Seattle parade to start. “What happens if our rights get taken away?”

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other queer Americans are confronting fresh worries about their rights after decades of progress. They point especially to a concurring opinion in last week’s decision from Justice Clarence Thomas in which he urged reviews of other rights that were not explicitly laid out in the Constitution, citing landmark rulings that legalized contraception, same-sex intercourse and marriage.

In New York, 26-year-old Riv Seinfeld expressed fears for their child.

“What kind of world is she going to grow up in?” asked Seinfeld, citing concern about potential restrictions to birth control and gender affirming healthcare.

While no other justices signed on to Thomas’s view, the worry in the LGBTQ community is justified, say some experts and scholars. Thomas in his opinion made it clear that “future cases” could curtail other rights not clearly addressed by the Constitution’s original framers.

The Thomas opinion was “an invitation to anyone who doesn’t like any of the existing recognized constitutional rights,” said Emily Berman, a professor at the University of Houston Law Center.

Some veteran activists opted to sit out from the weekend’s events, which were planned months ago, unable to muster cheer after the high court issued its ruling rolling back abortion rights.

“I found it completely not within my heart,” said Steven Goldstein, 60, who founded Garden State Equality, which helped pass gay-rights laws in New Jersey. “I am not going to march with a big smile.”

Others mixed celebration with activism.

Swathed in silver sequins, Travis Torrence, was exuberant early Saturday evening as he was about to kick off the Houston Pride Parade as its grand marshall. More than a dozen people wearing tutus and blue shirts emblazoned with his name surrounded the float that led a convoy through downtown.

“Everybody in the LGBTQ+ community should be concerned about what the Supreme Court did on Friday,” said Torrence, a 41-year-old lawyer for Shell Plc. “I see Pride as a pep rally for a very long fight ahead of us.”

An estimated 1 million attended San Francisco’s Pride weekend.

To be sure, Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the high court’s majority ruling, tried to tamp down the idea that other rights were at risk.

“Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion,” he said.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, in his opinion, also said that the Supreme Court decision doesn’t mean overruling the court’s precedents on issues such as contraception and gay marriage rights.

But in Lansing, Michigan, Alexandra Zomer-Parish, a 20-year-old college student, was worried about what’s next for her LGBTQ friends, saying the message from Thomas was clear.