As Pride parades stepped off around the country Sunday, rumors that Justice Anthony Kennedy, an advocate for gay rights on the Supreme Court, might be retiring were swirling.
The Supreme Court’s term ends next week with its last public session on Monday and some are speculating the 80-year-old judge might use it to announce his retirement.
Several of Kennedy’s former law clerks have said they think he is considering stepping down within the next year, the Associated Press reported. Helping drive the speculation was a reunion party held this weekend in Washington with former law clerks — the reunion had been pushed up a year, Fox reported.
He is considered a conservative justice, but Kennedy has provided a crucial swing vote in many important cases. If Kennedy retires during a Donald Trump presidency it would allow conservatives to take over the court for the foreseeable future.
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 29 years on the bench.
He sided with his liberal colleagues on gay rights and abortion rights. He voted for in favor of affirmative action, saying universities should indeed have race-conscious admissions plans. He has written the majority opinion in all of the court's major gay-rights cases.
White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway declined to confirm or deny the rumors of Kennedy’s looming retirement in an appearance on ABC's "This Week” Sunday.
"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," Conway said, noting that the president is prepared to appoint a replacement should Kennedy step down.
One of Trump’s first actions as president was to appoint Justice Neil Gorsuch to the bench to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died Feb. 13, 2016. Scalia was a conservative voice on the court, so Gorsuch’s appointment did not disrupt the court’s balance.