The fact that he was a hand-picked conservative, chosen to uphold the right-wing orthodoxy, makes his evolution as a world class defender of liberty and equality even more striking.
SUPREME COURT JUSTICE ANTHONY KENNEDY
We picked the nominees. You picked the winners. Out of ten distinguished candidates — from a heterosexual Supreme Court Justice to Utah‘s first openly gay mayor — you chose which contender made the splashiest headlines, graced us with the grabbiest news stories, and, ultimately, made the greatest strides toward LGBTQ freedom.
Five judges constitute a majority on the Supreme Court, but one stands out: Anthony Kennedy. The Reagan-appointed justice — also voted Queerty’s 2015 ‘Person of the Year’ — has become the most forceful advocate for LGBT rights on the bench, taking the lead on opinions striking down sodomy laws, anti-gay ballot measures and, most notably, bans on marriage equality.
He’s done this by using language that goes well beyond legal reasoning to recognize the validity and even integrity of same-sex relationships–and their children as well. He’s become a kind of poet laureate of same-love, with such eloquent musings in his rulings such as this:
“There is dignity in the bond between two men or two women who seek to marry and in their autonomy to make such profound choices.”
Kennedy’s legal mentor was a gay man who clearly had a profound impact on his student. Would we have been quite as successful in our ascent if someone else held Kennedy’s spot on the bench? Certainly not if it had been Robert Bork, the man the Senate rejected before Kennedy was chosen to replace him by Reagan. But here was little in the biography of the obscure California jurist to suggest that Kennedy would eventually become our champion–and he’s still a reliable conservative vote on many other constitutional questions.