Religious conservatives were always wrong to deny basic LGBTQ rights in order to protect themselves. But Monday’s Supreme Court decision makes it clear that their approach was both morally and strategically flawed. The ruling also shows that social conservatives’ support for Trump was a mistake from the start.
It was a mistake because religious conservatives’ concern about conceding to an immoral culture on sexuality led them to concede to the culture through their support for a candidate and president who would undermine and make a mockery of their values himself. It was at the very moment that social conservatives judged Trump to be a worthy ally that they undermined whatever moral claim they had. And the second they thought they could use Trump was the second Trump knew he could use them.
In 2016, Trump offered little in the way of concrete policy commitments, but he did promise social conservatives rock-solid judges and the protection of religious freedom, which would surely be eroded, he claimed, if Hillary Clinton became president. Social conservatives fell in line, and yet their fears were realized nevertheless. On the most important case to face the Supreme Court on the religious-freedom challenge that concerned social conservatives most, Trump’s nominee voted no differently than Merrick Garland would have.