Post-Roe, St. Louis' LGBTQ Community Fears Losing Rights

A recent Supreme Court opinion threatens same-sex marriage and relationships

click to enlarge After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, PrideFest took on new importance for some. - THEO WELLING
THEO WELLING
After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, PrideFest took on new importance for some.

Friday’s Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade has left Amileia Ladd and others in St. Louis’ LGBTQ community fearing that their rights are under threat.
“It's a very scary feeling right now, to live here and be queer, gay — whatever you are,” says Ladd, who identifies as pansexual. “It's so scary, because it's just, they don't care about us right now.”

Friday morning’s decision almost immediately impacted the region. By 9:15 a.m., Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt had signed an opinion which ended nearly all legal abortions in the state. By the evening, hundreds — including Congresswoman Cori Bush — had gathered at Planned Parenthood in the Central West End to demonstrate against the decision.
In a concurring opinion to Friday’s decision, Justice Clarence Thomas argued that the court should reconsider its prior rulings in Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges, which guaranteed the right to engage in same-sex relationships and marriage, respectively, as they are based in the same legal reasoning as Roe v. Wade — a right to privacy.

The court's majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, insists that overturning Roe v. Wade does not put other precedents in jeopardy, but given Thomas's concurring opinion, and the fact that most of the justices who just overturned Roe also said during their confirmation hearings that they wouldn't, has many people concerned. (Thomas also suggested the court revisit Griswold v. Connecticut, which prevents states from making laws against contraception.)

Thomas’s opinion came the morning before many LGBTQ people gathered for PrideFest in downtown St. Louis, causing this year’s celebration to have a new sense of urgency.

Carly Smurphat, a high school senior from Union, Missouri, went into Central Library before Saturday’s festivities. There, people wished her happy Pride and told her to stay safe. She says she felt supported. The morning before, though, Smurphat cried when she heard the news about the decision and concurring opinion, and then became angry.

“I just came out when gay marriage ... was legalized federally,” says Smurphat, who identifies as bisexual. “And at that point, I didn't really understand everything. I was still super young, but now that I've been able to appreciate it for the past six, seven years, the idea of losing it is horrifying.”

Ariah Tevis, a Ferguson resident, was attending the celebration with her nephew who was celebrating his first Pride. She says she did not sleep Friday night because of the decision and Thomas's opinion.

“Myself, I identify as bisexual,” she says. “I have very close relatives that are in same-sex relationships that have been together for years. I have aunts that are lesbians that are married, and it'll tear families apart.”

Ladd and her transgender boyfriend have long-term plans to get married. But with the growing threat to gay marriage from the Supreme Court, she says they might have to make the decision to tie the knot sooner than expected.

Kyle Brewer, a north city resident, attended Pride with his husband and son. He says Friday was “catastrophic” for him.

“I went through a lot of emotions,” says Brewer, who identifies as gay. “And I called anyone and everyone that was close to me, and explained to them that maybe I'm overreacting, but this is the first step to other people losing their rights.”

In the wake of the verdict, Tevis says gatherings like PrideFest remind LGBTQ people of what they fight for. For Smurphat, Pride helps show elected officials that the public supports LGBTQ rights.

“I feel like it would be a disservice to each representative’s citizens to be able to see all of these people show up — like hundreds, one thousand people — show up and be like, ‘These people don't matter,’” she says.

Ladd, who came out of the closet while quarantining during the earlier days of the COVID-19 pandemic, was celebrating her first Pride. She says it was nice to see a big community show up on Saturday.

“I just feel like I can be my true self here,” she says. “There's no judgment. Everyone is so open. I can start conversations with anybody. Everyone is so here for everyone.”

Sarah Downey, a Sullivan, Missouri, resident who also identifies as pansexual, attended Pride with her daughter and granddaughter.

She says Pride gatherings are fantastic places where LGBTQ people can feel accepted. After Friday’s decision, she wants to see more of them.

“We need more events like this to celebrate who we are and show the world that we're here to stay, and we're not going away,” she says.