Pride marches across the United States took on new gravity Sunday as progressives worried that the conservative justices on the Supreme Court who voted to reverse Roe v. Wade could now overrule protections for other rights, including same-sex marriage and same-sex intimacy.
The annual parades and rallies in major cities such as New York and San Francisco came two days after Justice Clarence Thomas, in a concurring opinion to the court’s ruling that tossed out Roe, called on the court to overturn the landmark decisions that established those very rights.
Sunday’s events also took place as the LGBTQ movement reels from recent legislative setbacks, including laws that curb classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity. Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act, for example, turned into a national flashpoint.
Planned Parenthood, one of the leading providers of reproductive health care in the country, kicked off this year’s New York City Pride march. People clad in rainbow colors and waving Planned Parenthood flags lined Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, cheering as the first wave of marchers made their way down the street.
“Today feels monumental, especially considering what happened over Roe v. Wade,” said Jonathan Dago, who attended New York City Pride with a friend. “We’re seeing a lot of signs. Women’s rights are at risk, and it’s going to be a trickle down to LGBT people.
“It feels like they’re going to come for same-sex marriage, intimacy and everything — adoption, even,” Dago added. “That’s why it’s really important to come back in person, to be together and supporting each other right now.”
Sunny Zelewski, 20, from Pennsylvania who was in the crowd, said she was heartened that several states in the Northeast have laws on the books that allow for abortions, but she worries about the future of reproductive freedom in her home state, which she described as “completely unknown.”
The upcoming gubernatorial race there adds more uncertainty. In a statement Friday, the firebrand Republican candidate Doug Mastriano celebrated that Roe had been “rightly relegated to the ash heap of history.”
“We have no idea which way it’s going to lean,” Zelewski said of Pennsylvania, which went for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election and then for Joe Biden in 2020. “I might be a mom one day, and it’s super terrifying to know that if something bad happened to me, and I didn’t want to or couldn’t afford to take care of a child, I’d be forced to now.”
Tere Martínez, 56, a playwright and educator who attended Sunday’s parade with her partner, said the festivities were “bittersweet,” reminding her that political gains won by the progressive movement over decades are now threatened by a conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court.
Martínez said she has faith in young people and the rising generation of progressive political advocates, adding in part: “I don’t know if marching is as powerful as it once was, but that’s why we have to constantly work and think of new ways to engage politicians and change their minds.”
In his concurring opinion, Thomas asked the court to “reconsider” the rulings in Griswold v. Connecticut, Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges, writing that his colleagues should reject the doctrine of “substantive due process” and arguing that they have “a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents.”
The three cases were civil rights milestones. Griswold established the right for married couples to buy and use contraceptives, Lawrence established the right for consenting adults to engage in same-sex intimacy and Obergefell established the right for same-sex couples to marry.
In the court’s majority opinion, however, Justice Samuel Alito appeared to suggest that other protections were not necessarily imperiled, writing that “we emphasize that our decision concerns the constitutional right to abortion and no other right.
“Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion,” Alito wrote. Justice Brett Kavanaugh echoed that reasoning, writing in his concurring opinion that the decision to overturn Roe “does not threaten or cast doubt” on precedents such as Griswold and Obergefell.
The court’s liberal bloc — Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — expressed deep skepticism over that assertion, though, writing bluntly in their dissenting opinion: “No one should be confident that this majority is done with its work.”
Jude Barnhart, an 18-year-old from Maryland who identifies as transgender and nonbinary, protested outside the Supreme Court early Sunday. Barnhart, who uses they/them pronouns, said in an interview that they believe the conservative justices on the high court will now seek to erode the judicial ground that supports same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ rights.
“I have a wonderful girlfriend,” Barnhart said. “I was talking to my girlfriend, like, ‘What if we can’t get married?’ … They’re not going to stop regulating our bodies. They are going to regulate who’s in our beds. They are going to regulate who we marry. They are going to regulate what we can put in our body to prevent ourselves from getting pregnant.”
“Things probably won’t get better,” Barnhart said, “but I can at least hold on to the hope that it will.”
Kiara Wright, 16, is a high school student who lives in Virginia and attended Sunday’s demonstration outside the Supreme Court, said she was “deeply afraid and disappointed with what American society has become.”
Wright, who was born in South Africa and whose mother came of age under racial apartheid, said she feared what the court’s dramatic rightward shift might mean for her life as a “bisexual, multiracial woman in America today.”
She said that while she is still under the legal voting age in the U.S., she felt motivated to “do my piece.” She plans to canvass voters and do phone-banking ahead of November’s midterm elections.
Wright — standing amid a crowd of protesters chanting slogans such as “My body, my choice” — added that she believes this tumultuous moment could be a national “turning point.”
“[In] 30 years, when my children look back on the face of America, this is going to be that turning point where people really realize, hey, America fell apart,” she said. “It’s really frightening.”
Daniel Arkin reported from Atlanta, Phil McCausland from New York, Doha Madani from Washington.