Pro-LGBT Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy expected to step down

A Supreme Court justice who backs LGBT rights may be preparing to step down.

Rumours have heightened that Justice Anthony Kennedy is set to announce his retirememnt imminently.

The Conservative justice has voted in favour of gay rights at every hearing during his 29 years on the bench.

Donald Trump with Justice Kennedy

US President Donald Trump (L) listens while Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy

Commentators are now predicting the 80-year-old judge is set to announce his retirement from the court as its current sitting draws to a close.

His resignation would allow President Donald Trump to appoint a succesor – who is likely to be more conservative.

Speculation of the resignation has been fuelled by several of Kennedy’s former law clerks, who say they believe he is preparing to vacate the seat.

He recently brought forward a reunion of his former law clerks that had originally been due to take place in 2018.

Asked about his potential resignation, Kellyanne Conway said: “I will never reveal a conversation between a sitting justice and the president or the White House, but we’re paying very close attention to these last bit of decisions.”

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Kennedy was appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1988 and has become known for his swing vote on some of the court’s most controversial cases during his three decades.

Kennedy authored the majority ruling in the decision of Obergefell v. Hodges, which holds that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry across the US.

One of the final lines of his ruling, which is often quoted at same-sex weddings, says: “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family.

“In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”

It seems unlikely President Trump would appoint a new justice with similar views.

If Justice Kennedy were replaced on the bench, it would swing the court to social conservatives for a generation.

Trump already appointed strongly anti-LGBT Justice Neil Gorsuch, who replaced the late Justice Scalia.

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Judge Gorsuch is a strict originalist who is likely to reject arguments that interpret the Constitution as affording protections for LGBT rights, and is likely to upset the fragile balance between liberals and conservatives on the court.

During his confirmation hearing in the Senate, Gorsuch avoided questions on LGBT rights, simply stating that “The Supreme Court of the United States has held that single-sex marriage is protected by the Constitution”.

He did not clarify his actual legal viewpoints.

The Human Rights Campaign opposed Gorsuch’s nomination, while GLAAD also voiced concerns.