The Supreme Court of the United States is definitely not the "hottest" branch of the government, but it is still very important. It consists of nine justices who make very important decisions, the most recent being upholding the president's travel ban policy.
Justices serve for life unless impeached, and Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy recently announced he would retire at the end of July, marking the end of a three decade-term.
I had the privilege of taking a class last quarter about the judicial system so I read a lot of landmark cases, with many opinions written by Justice Kennedy. I will admit that while I might not have agreed with all of them, Justice Kennedy was still my favorite. He is the "swing justice," meaning his vote usually decides whether the court rules more liberally or more conservatively if a court decision is close.
Apart from Kennedy, there are four liberal justices and four conservative justices on the Court.
Although he sided with the right more often than not, Kennedy was known at times for displaying a more liberal temperament, such as when he ruled against overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and wrote the majority opinion in the 2015 case, Obergefell v. Hodges, that legalized same-sex marriage.
He reaffirmed Roe v. Wade in the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey which was also a 5-4 ruling.
Obergefell v. Hodges is definitely one of the most famous rulings by Justice Kennedy, where he joined the four liberals to form a majority opinion that struck down the ban on same-sex marriages in the country.
He has also written many opinions on other LGBTQ+ cases such as Romer v. Evans, Lawrence v. Texas, and US v. Windsor. Kennedy is considered a huge advocate within the LGBTQ+ community, as well as a hero.
It is amazing that even though he is considered conservative and has ruled conservatively in many cases, he is a champion for gay rights and celebrated in the community.
So what does this mean? It gives Donald Trump the power to nominate a more conservative justice to the Court, who will hopefully (for him) implement his policies. The Senate is also controlled by the Republicans, so I'm sure confirming his appointment will not be hard. So, goodbye to our swing vote as we welcome a majority-conservative court.
So to Justice Kennedy, I say thank you.
Thank you for all you've done in terms of a woman's right to abortion, helping to legalize same-sex marriage across the country, and more.
Thank you for showing us that your personal views and your political views do not necessarily have to align, but that's perfectly OK.
Thank you for reaffirming our faith in the Supreme Court by being the swing vote on many important, landmark cases that have made our country better.
Thank you for all your work and service to our country and definitely making my class interesting.
Lastly, thank you for being a great voice of reason and giving us all hope that things can definitely change for the better.