Is this the end of the LGBTQ movement as we know it?

People tend to regard history as a stream of progress that only flows one way. The LGBTQ rights movement has experienced great success over the past 35 years passing laws and fighting court cases to make discrimination against LGBTQ people illegal. The crown jewels of these achievements are marriage equality, state and local nondiscrimination laws, and the legal interpretation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to protect transgender people on the basis of sex.

In the next five years, all of that is probably going away, and there won’t be a path to reclaim that progress for at least a generation, if not two or three.

Late last month, something happened that escaped the notice of most of the progressive press. The conservative plan to end the LGBTQ rights movement as we know it snapped into clear focus. It’s not a short term plan, but one that will take place inexorably over the next five to ten years. The scary part is that it is not just feasible, but also highly likely to succeed, and there’s very little the movement can do to prevent its own demise.

Related: Will the Supreme Court reexamine the Civil Rights Act? 

Their long term strategy for the Supreme Court is to do two things. First is to interpret Obergefell v. Hodges as narrowly as possible, such that the decision only guarantees the right to get your name on a license and a death certificate. The second is to lay the groundwork for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) to nullify almost all legislation, case law, policies, and regulations protecting LGBTQ people. Once this is accomplished, the protections for transgender people under the 1964 Civil Rights Act will almost inevitably fall, along with protections for women and other minorities.

To achieve both, all they have to do is keep planting the seeds in dissents to court opinions, and wait for Kennedy and/or Ginsburg to retire. Kennedy is already dropping big hints that he will retire after the next session of the Supreme Court. Once Kennedy retires, he is almost certain to be replaced by someone with a legal philosophy nearly identical to Justice Gorsuch, given The Heritage Foundation and The Federalist Society are the source of the list the Trump Administration is using to pick Supreme Court justices.

So what does the legal path to the LGBTQ civil rights armageddon look like? Here’s what’s probably in store for us…

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