Antonin Scalia died in February, 2016. He was one of the most reactionary Justices ever to serve on the Supreme Court, and now, there is a new book about him, “Scalia Speaks.” Co-edited by his son, Christopher J. Scalia, it was reviewed last Thursday in the Wall Street Journal.
To judge from that review, by John F. Duffy, the book is more hagiography than history. But then, so is the review. It leaves the reader no doubt where Duffy’s hero-worship lies. Scalia’s decisions possessed “clarity and precision.” Scalia the man was notable for his “honesty, candor and, quite often, entertaining wit.” And that’s just in the first sentence! By the end of the opening paragraph, the review is drowning in hyperbole. “Scalia [was] one of the greatest and most influential justices of our era.”
Well, right wing bigots think so, but some of us beg to differ. Scalia was the most homophobic Justice the Court has seen in decades, although Clarence Thomas is a close second. Scalia, like Thomas, was an avowed Roman Catholic, and he made no apologies for carrying the Vatican’s water at every opportunity, including its condemnation of homosexuality. As Slate Magazine’s Nathaniel Frank has written, “When it came to LGBTQ equality, Scalia’s rhetoric could be venomous.”
The Supreme Court has written four landmark rulings protecting gay rights, “all spurring bitter dissents from Scalia.” Consider the first of those pro-gay rulings: the Court’s 1996 decision on Colorado’s Amendment 2, which attempted to repeal protections for gays that had been passed locally in liberal cities such as Aspen, Boulder and Denver. The City and County of Denver appealed Amendment 2 to Colorado’s Supreme Court, which overturned it, prompting Republicans to appeal that decision to the United States Supreme Court, in Romer v. Evans. There, a majority overturned it, finding that “Amendment 2 classifies homosexuals not to further a proper legislative end but to make them unequal to everyone else. This Colorado cannot do. A State cannot so deem a class of persons a stranger to its laws. Amendment 2 violates the Equal Protection Clause, and the judgment of the Supreme Court of Colorado is affirmed.”
Scalia’s Catholic bigotry was inflamed by that loss. In his dissent, he starts by calling the battle between pro-gay and anti-gay forces a “Kulturkampf,” a German word referring to the power struggles between modern democratic nations and the Roman Catholic Church over the role of religion. This was Scalia’s attempt to cloak Amendment 2 with a veneer of historical respectability. He then calls the Court’s pro-gay ruling “a fit of spite”; rather than representing “a desire to harm” gay people, he argues, Amendment 2 was merely “a modest attempt by…Coloradans to preserve traditional sexual mores…”. Anticipating a white supremacist/Trumpian/Bannonite complaint that would gather force in the 21st century, Scalia declares that the Supreme Court—his court—“has no business imposing upon all Americans the resolution favored by the elite class…pronouncing that animosity toward homosexuality is evil.”
But, of course, animosity toward gay people is evil. A few years after Romer v. Evans, Scalia once again felt impelled to dissent in the Court’s Lawrence v. Texas case, when it struck down Texas’s notorious anti-sodomy laws (despite the state’s cowboy past, when “sodomy” was common). Once again, the prudish Scala was livid. “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,” he wrote.
Scalia conveniently forgot that “many Americans” also at one time did not want persons of color, or women, or non-landowning men, to vote; “many Americans,” too, once wanted Black people to be slaves, and, later, wished Black children to go only to segregated schools. The Constitution, fortunately, does not follow “many Americans,” but rather the Constitution; but Scalia’s slavish devotion to a religion that historically has murdered hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of homosexuals (usually by torture)—and some of whose adherents would do so again, if they could—blinded him to the concepts of freedom and equality.
Any way you look at him, Scalia was an awful man: bigoted, hateful, closed-minded, uncharitable, bitter, sexually hung up, self-righteous, a religious fanatic, an insult artist in the Trump mold. Christopher J. Scalia, the son, cannot be expected to say inglorious things about his father, but we might expect a book review in a major American newspaper to put the case more objectively. Sadly, Duffy—who was a law clerk for Scalia and, like Scalia, is Catholic—is anything but objective. That his review is in the Wall Street Journal, which is almost as Vaticanized as L’Osservatore Romano, is not a coincidence: Rupert Murdoch’s flagship newspaper takes up the Catholic cause regularly, even when it is used to bludgeon the rights and question the humanity of tens of millions of Americans who happened to be born loving people of the same gender.
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