Justice Antonin Scalia is making headlines around the world for comparing homosexuality to murder and bestiality — it’s reductio ad absurdum, he says. Critics are hitting back that the truly absurd thing about this is Scalia’s position on the Supreme Court of the United States.
Below are five Scalia quotes you might find hard to believe actually came out of the mouth of a Supreme Court justice.
1) Scalia defends comparing homosexuality to murder and bestiality — Scalia, visiting Princeton to promote his book “Reading Law,” was challenged by one student about his fondness for using overblown arguments against homosexuality, for instance in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas opinion where, in his dissent, he said Texas had a right to exclusively ban homosexual sodomy in much the same way states had an interest in banning bestiality and murder.
Scalia was asked by a gay student why he equates laws banning sodomy with those barring bestiality and murder.
“It’s a form of argument that I thought you would have known, which is called the ‘reduction to the absurd,’” Scalia told [freshman Duncan] Hosie of San Francisco during the question-and-answer period. “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?”
Scalia said he is not equating sodomy with murder but drawing a parallel between the bans on both.
Scalia can pretend that he’s not equating the two, but that is precisely what he is doing in failing to recognize that homosexual sex is a private consensual act as distinct from murder and bestiality as can be. This is not just patronizing, it’s also deeply flawed thinking and Scalia should not need to resort to this, or his slippery slope of “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder?”
2) Scalia on how “easy” his job is — Earlier this year, Scalia was given the opportunity to elucidate his “textualist” approach to the Constitution and how that meant that for him controversial topics like the death penalty, abortion and gay marriage were all “easy.”
He told an American Enterprise Institute audience:
“The death penalty? It’s easy. Give me a break. It’s easy. Abortion? Absolutely easy. [...] Nobody ever thought the Constitution prevented restrictions on abortion,” Scalia added. “Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state.”
Remember judicial impartiality and the mandate that every case be given fair weight? Not for Scalia, apparently.
3) Scalia says sex discrimination is constitutionally okay – At a recent lecture at the University of California Hastings College of Law, Scalia decided to expound on his view that the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or, for that matter, sex based discrimination. He said that from the 1970s onward, the courts had wrongly been applying the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection because it was never intended to apply that way:
“Nobody thought it was directed against sex discrimination,” he said. Although gender bias “shouldn’t exist,” he said, the idea that it is constitutionally forbidden is “a modern invention.”
This puts Scalia dangerously out of step with a majority of legal analysts and, perhaps more worryingly, allows room for those religious conservatives who, much like Scalia in fact, wish to return America’s legal landscape to a time less fettered by a robust and evolving Constitution.
4) Scalia uses restrictions against emancipated slaves against the DREAM Act — When the DREAM Act became law, Arizona took it upon itself to pass its own legislation with specific areas that directly opposed certain DREAM Act provisions. A challenge was brought and, in due time, the case reached the SCOTUS.
Scalia decided to support his dissenting argument against the Court striking down SB 1070 citing as precedent 19th-century restrictions on the emancipation of slaves:
In the first 100 years of the Republic, the States enacted numerous laws restricting the immigration of certain classes of aliens, including convicted criminals, indigents, persons with contagious diseases, and (in Southern States) freed blacks. Neuman, The Lost Century of American Immigration (1776–1875), 93 Colum. L. Rev. 1833, 1835, 1841–1880 (1993). State laws not only provided for the removal of unwanted immigrants but also imposed penalties on unlawfully present aliens and those who aided their immigration.
As Care2 blogger Jessica Pieklo wrote in reference to the background for this story: Justice Scalia, your racism is showing.
5) Scalia undecided on if there’s a right to bear a rocket launcher — In discussing the Aurora shootings earlier this year, Justice Scalia told a Fox news host that he firmly backed the right to bear arms, clarifying this did not include manning a cannon but that there might be an argument for carrying a rocket launcher.
Watch the video below:
I think, as a general rule of thumb, if your reading of the law does not automatically preclude the general public carrying rocket-launchers, you need to take a closer look at your “textualist” approach.
Scalia: Impartiality and Gay Marriage
As a coda to all of this, it is worth noting the Supreme Court just agreed to take up two key gay marriage cases. As above, Scalia seems to know how he’ll vote on this issue. With this in mind, it will be interesting to see what depths he will plunder in order to back up his arguments.