Kennedy has served as a Supreme Court Justice for over 30 years. In a statement published by The Hill, he said that he would have been happy to continue serving his country, but he wanted more time to spend with his family.
Kennedy's resignation will be effective on July 31. There have been rumors that he was considering retirement since last year, coming mostly from Republican sources. GOP lawmakers have reportedly been urging him to make his announcement sooner rather than later, to ensure that they would be allowed to confirm his replacement before the midterm elections in November.
"It has been the greatest honor and privilege to serve our nation in the federal judiciary for 43 years, 30 of those on the Supreme Court," Kennedy said.
The retiring judge will turn 82 years old in July. He is currently the second oldest member of the supreme court -- the oldest being Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the court's most prominent liberal presences.
Kennedy himself is seen as a reliable moderate. He was nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1988, but has sided with Democrats on many key issues in the years since. Kennedy was pivotal in legalizing gay marriage and protecting the Affordable Care Act -- better known as Obama Care. He also sought to limit the use of the death penalty, according to The Hill.
Still, Kennedy had his moments on the conservative side as well. He helped Republicans to limit campaign finance laws, and just this month, he decided in favor of baker Jack Phillips, the sensational case of the Masterpiece Cakeshop's refusal to make a custom cake for a same-sex wedding.
Kennedy's focus on religious freedom is a two-way street, however, as he has publicly warned President Trump on numerous occasions that his Muslim travel ban is a violation of this principle.0comments
Kennedy's retirement leaves a lot of questions in the air. In 2016, Justice Antonin Scalia passed away, leaving then-President Barrack Obama to nominate Judge Merrick Garland. However, the Republican Party held the majority in the Senate, and refused to confirm the president's choice. In an unprecedented break from protocol, Senators sat on Garland's recommendation for 293 days, waiting out the president's term until President Trump entered office.
Since then, the senate has confirmed President Trump's nomination -- Justice Neil Gorsuch. With Kennedy's retirement, they are now poised to put another conservative influence in the Supreme Court, giving the Republican Party control of the judicial branch for years to come.