Jim Obergefell blasts Justice Clarence Thomas over Roe ruling

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Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the 2015 landmark Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, blasted Justice Clarence Thomas for not including Loving v. Virginia on his list of cases that the nation’s highest court should “reconsider.”

Obergefell accused Thomas of protecting himself in his ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, in which he urged his colleagues to re-evaluate other constitutional rights — but omitted the 1967 Loving v. Virginia ruling that declared it unconstitutional to ban interracial marriage.

“It’s a clear indication that if it’s a case that impacts him directly, it’s safe,” Obergefell told “CNN Newsroom” on Sunday of Thomas, who has been in an interracial marriage with his wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, since 1987.

“But if it’s a case that protects other people, other people who are unlike him, then we’re not very safe.” 

Thomas joined the 6-3 majority opinion on Friday overturning Roe v. Wade, citing the landmark abortion ruling’s lack of constitutionality. 

Jim Obergefell.
Jim Obergefell was the lead plaintiff in the 2015 landmark Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.
Rick Bowmer/AP
Justice Clarence Thomas.
Jim Obergefell accused Justice Clarence Thomas of protecting himself by urging his colleagues to re-evaluate other constitutional rights but omitting the 1967 Loving v. Virginia ruling.
Erin Schaff/Pool/Getty Images

In his concurring opinion, Thomas indicated that Friday’s decision should also be applied to other cases regarding gay marriage and access to birth control, since they were also decided on the legal theory of “substantive due process” — which refers to fundamental rights not explicitly established in the Constitution. 

“In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” Thomas wrote. 

In the 1965 ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court allowed married couples to access birth control. In 2003, in Lawrence v. Texas, the court forbade states from outlawing consensual gay sex, and in 2015, Obergefell v. Hodges established a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

Thomas noted that Friday’s decision only affected federal abortion access and not other rights, but urged his colleagues to apply the same “Due Process Clause” logic to the other landmark rulings. 

“Because any substantive due process decision is ‘demonstrably erroneous,’ we have a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents,” he wrote.

Obergefell singled out Thomas for his concurring opinion, saying it “put a target on the back” of other constitutional rights — yet protected ones that impact the justice.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (R) and Virginia Thomas arrive for the State Dinner at The White House.
Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Virginia, arrive for a State Dinner at the White House in 2019.
Paul Morigi/Getty Images

“The right to interracial marriage is only six years older than a woman’s right to abortion,” told “CNN Newsroom” on Sunday. “Half of your country lost the right to control their own body, and that should terrify everyone in this nation who believes in our ability.

“Our nation has a much longer history of denying interracial marriage. Do we want to go back to the late 18th century, the originalist who’s saying we can only interpret the Constitution as of the time it was written? When that Constitution was written, ‘We, the People’ did not include blacks, indigenous people, it did not include women, it did not include queer people. That is not a more perfect union,” he continued.

“We should be moving forward, not backwards,” he added. “And this court is taking us backwards, this extreme court is taking us backwards.” 

Despite Thomas’ call to reconsider the other cases, his fellow conservative justices don’t appear as convinced. 

Justice Samuel Alito — who wrote the majority opinion — stressed Friday that the ruling should not be applied to any issue besides abortion.

“To ensure that our decision is not misunderstood or mischaracterized, we emphasize that our decision concerns the constitutional right to abortion and no other right,” he wrote.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh echoed that sentiment in another concurring opinion: “Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.”

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