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UPDATED: Justice Stephen Breyer to retire at end of term

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Photo courtesy of Brookings Institution

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has announced he will retire at the end of the current court term, CNN has reported.

Breyer has been the leading liberal on the court since the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2020. His votes on the Supreme Court have consistently been in favor of reproductive rights, voting rights and healthcare and against gerrymandering and the death penalty. He also voted to ensure marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges.

CNN reporter Wolf Blitzer said that the formal announcement could come as soon as Jan. 27. Blitzer reported that Breyer will not leave the court until a new nominee has been confirmed.

If Democrats can stay united, a new nominee should be confirmed relatively soon, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking any potential partisan tie.

Breyer was nominated by President Bill Clinton and confirmed in 1994.

LGBTQ organizations called on President Biden to nominate a pro-equality justice to the bench.

Kara Ingelhart, staff attorney with Lambda Legal’s Chicago office, said the court has been one of the primary venues for LGBTQ rights in recent years.

“We’re very eager to watch the developments, but also thankful for the service that Justice Breyer has given to the nation,” she said. “He’s been a good defender of the rights of LGBTQ people.”

Ingelhart said she’s seen statements saying the U.S. Senate would move quickly on a new nominee and that the nominee would enhance the diversity of the court.

“For what its worth, I’ve seen a health amount of movement on seats at the federal level under President Biden,” she said.

“We encourage the President to appoint a nominee to fill this vacancy who has an unwavering commitment to democracy and the rule of law and who will resist the continuing erosion of our institutions,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director Imani Rupert-Gordon. “We encourage him to choose someone with a demonstrated record of supporting LGBTQ equality and racial, gender, and economic justice.”

“We urge President Biden to make history and appoint a Black LGBTQ woman to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Ruben Gonzales, executive director of LGBTQ Victory Institute. “With his previous commitment to nominate a Black woman, President Biden affirmed the important role diverse perspectives have on the bench and on the health of our democracy and society. There is a powerful pipeline of Black LGBTQ judges, officials and leaders who are more than qualified to fulfill this promise.”

In the past, Biden had said he would nominate a Black woman to the court. The push for him to follow through began soon after the news broke.

“I look forward to learning who President Biden will nominate to fill this seat and, hopefully, seeing the first African American woman in our history confirmed by the Senate to serve on the Supreme Court,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Chicago).

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Chicago) wasted little time reminding the president about the promise.

This story will be updated as information becomes available.

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