this is "nightline." >> tonight, full court press. the stunning shakeup supreme court justice anthony kennedy stepping down. a critical swing vote for more than 30 years. now putting president trump front and center with a promised pivot to the right. >> we have to pick one that's going to be there for 40 years, 45 years. >> the epic battle for the bench between the democrats and republicans that could change landmark laws for generations. plums help from above. the newest tool in search and rescue. drones. now more than just eyes in the sky. tying up safety lines and floods. potentially helping to take down active shooters. and saving more and more lives. and beyond the rainbow.
whoopi goldberg and one of the makers of the original gay pride flag on the symbolism, the struggle, and the fabric of the fight. >> it wasn't like we thought this was going to be used for years. we were just trying to make something beautiful. >> but first the "nightline 5." >> my digestive system used to make me feel sluggish. but those days are over. now i take metamucil every day. it naturally traps and removes the waste that weighs me down so i feel lighter. try metamucil and begin to feel what lighter feels like. introducing fiber thin, made win 100% natural psyllium fiber. a great tasting and easy way to start your day at walmart and
for joining us. we begin with a surprise shakeup at the highest court in the land. supreme court justice anthony kennedy announcing he will step down from the bench. a pivotal voice for 30 years, justice kennedy has sided with both the liberal and conservative justices at times, playing a crucial role in decisions involving abortion and gay marriage. with a swing vote gone could those landmark rulings be overtuned? here's abe's terry moran. >> reporter: in these times that are so deeply divided on a court that's split along partisan lines, justice anthony kennedy was the man in the middle. and today after three decades on the bench, a surprise announcement he is stepping down sent shock waves through the nation. >> we really have to take our hats off to justice kennedy. thank you very much. we have to pick one that's going to be there for 40 years, 45 years. >> reporter: kennedy now leaves president trump the ability to shape the highest court in the land for years to come. >> it was a shock today to learn of justice kennedy's retirement,
and we now know that the person who replaces him, whoever it might be, will affect american life maybe for decades to come. >> reporter: justice kennedy hand delivered his resignation to the white house addressed to "my dear mr. president." in it he expressed his profound gratitude for what he called the privilege to seek in each case how best to know, interpret, and defend the constitution. at 81 years old, kennedy's tenure spans six presidential administrations, the longest term of any sitting justice. >> justice kennedy has really kind of -- sort of held the keys to all of these major decisions. so there hasn't really been another swing vote like him. >> reporter: kennedy was sworn in in 1988 after being nominated by president ronald reagan. in landmark case after case, kennedy became the crucial swing vote, deciding major issues that defined american law and shaped american life. >> swing vote. i hate that term.
the cases swing, i don't. >> reporter: cornell university law professor michael dorff previously served as law clerk for justice kennedy. >> there were no easy cases. he liked to approach each case with an open mind. that meant that he would sometimes agonize. >> justice kennedy looked at each issue as it presented itself and he also was very clear that he could evolve on issues. >> reporter: he sided with conservatives plenty. he's a staunch gun rights supporter. he wrote the opinion that allowed corporate america unlimited spending on political campaigns. but on many issues, his decisions surprised people. on race he was formerly a strong opponent of affirmative action. he recently upheld atermtive action in college admissions. in a remarkable series of cases over the course of almost two decades, kennedy championed the civil rights of gay and lesbian americans. in his 2015 ruling that legalized gay marriage in
america, kennedy wrote with deep feeling of gay couples who sought the right to marry. they ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law, the constitution grants them that right." >> there have been four big, important cases in the last 25 years. and he's written all of them. so i think his legacy is very bound up with the sort of expansion of kind of constitutional equality on the basis of sexual orientation. >> reporter: on abortion, in 1992, the justice surprised the country as the key vote reaffirming roe versus wade as the law of the land. though subsequently he has voted to restrict it. >> the next president will, in effect, determine the balance of the court for what could be the next quarter century. >> reporter: since before he was elected, president trump made abortion and the supreme court one of his campaign's major issues, vowing to overturn roe versus wade. in 2016 the candidates were asked where they want the court to take the country. >> the supreme court, it's what it's all about. our country is so, so -- just so
imperative that we have the right justices. i am putting pro-life justices on the court. >> reporter: pro-life and pro-choice groups are already reacting to the news of kennedy's retirement. planned parenthood saying the right to access abortion in this country is on the line. while concerned women for america hailed this opportunity as quote the moment conservative women have been waiting for, the chance to return justice to the nation's highest court. and as advocacy groups hunker down for what they say will be a battle for the heart of this country, the president and congress are gearing up for a grueling confirmation process. >> this is the most important supreme court vacancy for this country in at least a generation. >> reporter: senate majority leader mitch mcconnell is already vowing to confirm kennedy's successor by fall before the midterm election. >> the senate stands ready to fulfill its constitutional role by offering advice and consent on president trump's nominee to fill this vacancy. >> reporter: but democrats are
still seetssing over the last time there was a supreme court opening, insisting a vote should wait until after the electorate votes. >> millions of people are just months away from determining the senators who should vote to confirm or reject the president's nominee and their voices deserve to be heard now as leader mcconnell thought they should deserve to be heard then. anything but that would be the absolute height of hypocrisy. >> reporter: in 2016 when justice antonin scalia died suddenly, it was mcconnell who blocked a vote on barack obama nominee merrick garland until after the presidential election. >> he never had the opportunity for a hearing, let alone a vote. so the senate republicans successfully kept that seat vacant. and it was a gamble that paid off. >> reporter: and then he orchestrated a change in senate rules, the so-called nuclear option, to get president trump's pick, neil gorsuch, confirmed with a simple majority vote after democrats triggered that
move. >> the democrats shot themselves in the foot. they were the people who argued for eliminating the filibuster on justices. and they got their way. and the bottom line is that all that a nominee will need is 50 votes. plus the vice president. and that nominee will win. >> reporter: those 50 votes could come a number of ways, with 51 republicans in the senate. all eyes are on the conservatives who have voted against the party line sometimes. and those democrats who defied their party too when they voted for gorsuch. >> we will begin our search for a new justice of the united states supreme court that will begin immediately. >> reporter: last year the white house put out a list of 25 conservative judges they would consider for the supreme court. >> excellent list of great talented, highly educated, highly intelligent, hopefully
tremendous people. >> he wants to choose somebody that will make conservatives think, whatever doubts they may have about any other aspects of donald trump, he got us a conservative supreme court. >> reporter: my colleague jon karl talked to the man who helped the president come up with this list, leonard leo, the long-time head of the conservative federalist society. >> should we expect to see a justice like scalia or alito? like gorsuch? >> i think you'll see a justice like neil gorsuch. >> reporter: this week, neil gorsuch, the president's first pick, cast a key vote upholding the trump travel ban. now the president will choose the replacement for gorsuch's mentor, that man in the middle on whom so much has been riding for so long. for "nightline," i'm terry moran in washington, d.c. next, the advances in drone technology that are now saving lives.
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drones can be fun to fly but they're not just toys. more and more drone technology is being used by law enforcement and search and rescue teams. spotting people lost in dark forests with therapial vision. transporting important supplies to hard to reach places. even potentially taking down armed criminals. here's another look at how drones are already saving lives with abc's geo benitez. >> reporter: in the aftermath of a natural disaster, drones are increasingly going beyond just looking down on the devastation. drones are also saving lives.
from flying a safety line for the swift water rescue of two stranded boys in maine, to south carolina where a drone's thermal imaging found stranded kayakers in the dark. in the lone star state the public safety uas response team was one of the first groups to dispatch drones in emergency situations. >> you get five or six of these things in the air, there's pretty much nothing that we can't cover with these things from the air. >> reporter: abc attended one of the response team's training exercises. simulating an active shooter scenario. volunteers playing frightened schoolkids and teachers, mannequins on the ground representing the wounded. and the mansfield police department in north texas, their weapons, paint balls. pretend b in a matter of moments. >> got him.
>> reporter: let's watch again. this time with our cameras fixed on that aircraft. the first eyes inside. speeding down the hallway. officers following close behind. >> the hallway is clear. >> reporter: the drone's pilot relaying what the drone sees to his team inside. >> suspect left, suspect left. >> reporter: then the takedown. the entire time that drone was watching what he was doing. that's how they knew where to go. the man behind the sticks? barry moore. before the drone goes through those doors, what's going through your mind? >> keep the officers that are coming in safe. make sure that i can get eyes on the bad guy, the suspect. make sure they're not walking into something that's going to get them killed. >> reporter: for firefighters a drone brings a clearer picture than the naked eye. we are suiting up because we're going to go in there and show you what the drone can do to help save people in a fire. >> let's go. we're coming in, guys.
we're coming in. >> reporter: with members of the joshua fire department, i'm led into a smoke-filled building. >> i see the fire. i can barely see anything else. >> reporter: i crouch in the corner playing a trapped victim. even from the outside, the smoke is blinding. no way for rescuers to know if anyone's inside. but a quick view of that thermal camera and there i am. >> all right, we are out. >> reporter: you can see the thermal camera is what saw what was happening inside. and really for anybody firefighter, that's what's going to make the difference. they're going to be able to see who's in there, who's walking around. how often are you using this technology? >> every fire we have. >> every fire? >> every fire we have. >> high-tech firefighting. these first responders go high-tech for search and rescue. last year in colorado a drone spotted these lost hikers and their dog in just two hours. >> the perspective it gives you
from the air is completely different than a searcher on the ground. when a searcher is walking through woods, all they see is thick woods. up above, you realize there's a lot of patches, a lot of holes, you can see all the trails. >> reporter: as night falls, i head into cleburne state park. it's up to the first responders to find me. now it's getting really dark. we're running out of light here. and hopefully they're going to get that drone to me soon. within minutes, the drone appears, carrying a radio and glow sticks so i can see their special delivery. i see the drone right there. make sure he sees me. i see the glow stick. he's going to drop this. he's got to get close. let's see if he can see me. >> he's got it. >> i have the walkie-talkie. i'm not hurt. but i'm a little lost back here. it's dark.
>> we will send a search team in here for you now. >> reporter: finally, a drone with a spot lot appears, guiding that search team. >> we have you. >> they have a spotlight on a drone. this is the spotlight you might expect from a helicopter. you found us! i can't believe it. a light in the dark for me and potentially so many others. for "nightline," i'm geo benitez in cleburne, texas. and next, meet one of the makers of the original gay pride flag. [thoughtful sigh] still nervous about buying a house? a little. thought i could de-stress with some zen gardening. at least we don't have to worry about homeowners insurance. just call geico. geico helps with homeowners insurance? good to know. been doing it for years.
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an expression of self -- >> being happy. not caring what anybody thinks. >> reporter: and a celebration of a community. the rainbow flag, vibrant stripes of color stitched as one. >> same-sex marriage is now legal in every state in america. >> reporter: it's a powerful reminder of how far this world has come -- >> breaking news, another mass shooting in america unfolding -- >> reporter: and how far we still have to go. it has lit up the white house and rocked red carpets. it's flown high in protests. >> equal rights! >> reporter: and headlined parades. and part of the international conversation both loud and proud and strong and silent. >> when i see a rainbow flag, i'm happy. >> reporter: for lynn segrablum, the rainbow flag is a deeply personal part of her own story. >> it wasn't like we thought
this was going to be used for years. we were just trying to make something beautiful. >> reporter: you see, it was lynn, gilbert baker, and james mcnamara, she says, who created the design and vision for the original rainbow flag in san francisco back in 1978. >> the rainbow flag, the originals were hand dyed, hand sewn, in large buckets of dye, salt, soda ash, and warm water. and you're lifting and stirring and pulling the fabric for hours. and then it has to be rinsed and rerinsed and then it has to be dried and ironed. i wanted to be like an american flag because i love the american flag. >> reporter: at the one archives at usc, the largest collection of lgbt history in the world, lynn and documentarian glen mcilhiney reflected on the flag's first flight. >> approximately 40 x 60,
weighed many, many pounds, it took about six people to carry each one. >> reporter: across the nation, 40 years later, after those first flags soared in san francisco, tyler wallic has been celebrating pride all month. >> personally having grown up knowing i was gay in texas, the rain we flag was always something that actually kind of scared me. >> reporter: those same colors that sparked a movement, new age tools for his trade. >> it led me to embracing the color of the flag and using it in every piece of my art. it stands for love, light, and most of all, positivity. >> reporter: building on a decades-old legacy of ride and progress. we should never forget that one of the most amazing superpowers a community has is that it can help us speak our truth to ourselves. >> our thanks to whoopi. pride and dignity.