The first thing I thought whenever I heard the news about Justice Scalia was “progressives just took over the Supreme Court of the United States.” For the first time in a long while, we have an opportunity to protect people of color, LGBT people, labor unions, women and so many more whose cases sit before the High Court waiting for a ruling.
Without Scalia on the bench, the court will function for the next year in a dead tie on most issues. When the new Justice comes on, it is also possible that rulings can be redecided based on the fact that the court didn’t have a full bench. Here are some of the worst things we’ve experienced in the last many years and what will hopefully be the end of an intolerant and harmful Supreme Court.
1. “[S]uppose all the States had laws against flagpole sitting at one time, you know, there was a time when it was a popular thing and probably annoyed a lot of communities, and then almost all of them repealed those laws,” Scalia asked the attorney fighting the Texas in the Lawrence v. Texas case. “Does that make flagpole sitting a fundamental right?”
2. “Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home,” Justice Scalia wrote in his dissent of Lawrence v. Texas. “They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.” Some people think obesity is immoral and destructive—perhaps New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg should have imprisoned people who drink sugary sodas rather than trying to limit the size of their cups.
3. “If securing its territory in this fashion is not within the power of Arizona, we should cease referring to it as a sovereign State,” Scalia wrote when responding to the anti-immigrant Arizona law fighting President Obama’s DREAM Act. Scalia went on to use 19th-century restrictions on freed slaves as a backup for his decision, saying, at that time, “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.”
4. “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.” This is what Justice Scalia said when asked about if his job was difficult. Justices are supposed to be impartial with only the Constitution in mind. He, revealed here that he was not.
5. “Nobody thought it was directed against sex discrimination,” Scalia once said. However, gender bias “shouldn’t exist,” he said, and the thought that bias is constitutionally prohibited is “a modern invention.” This was what Scalia said during a lecture at the University of California Hastings College of Law while talking about whether or not discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender, for that matter, was Constitutional.
6. “What would you have them erect?” Scalia asked during a case about whether to erecting a cross to honor those Americans killed during war. “A cross–some conglomerate of a cross, a star of David, and you know, a Muslim half moon [sic] and star?” The lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union responded: “Well, Justice Scalia, if I may go to your first point. The cross is the most common symbol of the resting place of Christians. I have been in Jewish cemeteries. There is never a cross on a tombstone of a Jew.”
7. “Of course it is our moral heritage that one should not hate any human being or class of human beings,” Scalia wrote in the 1996 case Romer v. Evans which was about city’s that banned sexual orientation discrimination. He typically said this in his prebuttal phrasing right before he’s about to say something insane. “But I had thought that one could consider certain conduct reprehensible—murder, for example, or polygamy, or cruelty to animals—and could exhibit even ‘animus’ toward such conduct. Surely that is the only sort of ‘animus’ at issue here: moral disapproval of homosexual conduct[.]” He’s right that people generally don’t like murder, but there’s a heck of a lot more happening in the laws that ban murder than simply saying that they don’t “like” it. The rights the person being murdered has, would be an excellent example.
8. “It really enrages me to hear people refer to it as a politicized court. Maybe the legislature and the president are not as stupid as you think. They assuredly picked those people because of who they are and when they get to the court they remain who they were.” This was what Scalia shouted in anger at a reporter who had the temerity to say the court is too politicized. Notice how he defends politicians in the same breath for making such political appointments. Funny how that works.
9. Don’t even get him started about people who don’t speak proper English. He cried “the illiterates who communicate with the public” after a flight attendant said “it’s required that your luggage is under the seat in front of you” rather than “be under the seat.”
10. A law student at University of Wyoming asked Scalia a fluff question about which classes she should take. He said she should skip the “frill classes” like Women in Justice, for example. “Take the bread and butter courses. Do not take ‘law and women,’ do not take ‘law and poverty,’ do not take ‘law and anything,'” he said, asserting that some law professors like to “teach their hobbies.”
Here’s hoping we can have a court in the future that is a little more accepting of all Americans, not just the white male ones.
Featured image via Wikimedia commons.