Supreme Court expert explains how Kennedy's retirement will take civil rights gains in the 'opposite direction'
Tom Goldstein (MSNBC)

Americans can expect to see abortion rights and civil rights for LGBTQ people chipped away after the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, one expert warned MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

Attorney and law professor Tom Goldstein, co-founder of the SCOTUS Blog, told host Joe Scarborough that Republican legislators would not likely undo same-sex marriage or directly challenge Roe v. Wade -- but he said they undo legal protections for millions.

"The big issues that Americans care about, things like abortion, Justice Kennedy being

the fifth vote to uphold the core of Roe v. Wade, affirmative action is probably on the chopping block right now," Goldstein said.

"We have areas of campaign finance law," he continued, "where the conservatives could go still further in limiting, eliminating restrictions on contributions. Justice Kennedy (was) a critical vote when it comes to same-sex marriage, for example."

Kennedy gained a reputation as a swing vote on close decisions, but Goldstein said he had recently been a reliable conservative.

"So even though this term he voted in 14 different cases with the conservatives to provide a fifth vote, and zero cases with the liberals, he still over the course of years, was essential on a number of these issues," Goldstein said. "You could really expect all of those to head in the opposite direction."

Goldstein said same-sex marriage would likely remain legal, but he said conservatives could roll back gains in other areas.

"When it comes to gay rights, I would say same-sex is probably institutionalized in the country," he said. "But when it comes to outstanding issues like employment discrimination, a conservative majority would head back in the opposite direction of expanding rights for gay americans or same-sex couples."

Goldstein also said congressional Republicans would not likely overturn abortion rights, but he said state legislatures would attack the Roe v. Wade ruling on a number of fronts.

"When it comes it abortion, I think that judicial conservatives have been relatively savvy in saying we don't need to see Roe v. Wade overruled, which might cause a big reaction in the country," he said. "But they can still cut it back a lot and send a signal to the states they can adopt longer waiting periods, more restrictions on the kind of facilities that can offer abortion services and that sort of thing."

"So as a practical matter, I would say the abortion right is going to get narrowed probably a lot," Goldstein added.