Kennedy, 81, has provided crucial swing votes on progressive issues and retirement gives Trump another judicial pick

Supreme court justice Anthony Kennedy, who has provided crucial swing votes in cases governing core progressive issues including abortion rights and same-sex marriage, announced his retirement on Wednesday in a decision likely to send shockwaves into every corner of US civic life.

The announcement set up a titanic battle between Republicans allied with Donald Trump, who wish to replace Kennedy with a more reliably conservative justice, and Democrats who fear that a new Trump appointment could give the court a decisive conservative bent for generations.

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