Sunday, February 14, 2016
US Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia died, and I won’t pretend to be the least bit sorry he’s gone from the court he polluted for three long decades. I would have been perfectly happy for him to simply retire, but he was never going to do that, so this was the only possible way to see him leave the court.
So—to be abundantly clear about this—I’m not actually celebrating his death, because that's something about which I couldn’t possibly care less. Instead, I’m celebrating the fact that he’s gone from the Supreme Court, because that I care very much about.
Scalia was the scourge of all fair-minded Americans. He was focused on imposing his personal views of what the eighteenth century authors of the US Constitution meant when they wrote it—even though he was often demonstrably wrong (like about the Second Amendment, for example, about which he flip-flopped). But that wasn’t all he cared about: He sought to impose his extremist rightwing religious views onto everyone, too.
As a rightwing Roman Catholic, Scalia was fervently anti-abortion. He believed that not only did women not have the constitutional right to abortion as affirmed in Roe v. Wade, he thought no government could grant that right.
Scalia was also rabidly anti-gay. He wrote angry, bitter, and even vicious dissents attacking the human and civil rights of gay Americans, and he often used deeply bigoted language to mount such attacks. He also compared being gay to murder because he believed both are “immoral”. What his votes on the Supreme Court mean is that he believed gay people should be put in prison for having sex, and same-gender couples should not have the exact same legal rights and protections that their married heterosexual friends and family members take for granted as a birthright.
So, I completely disagreed with Scalia’s politics: He was wrong on abortion, he was wrong on the Second Amendment (after he flip-flopped), he was wrong on gay people’s right to privacy, and he was wrong about marriage equality.
I also utterly reject the nonsense that he was a “brilliant”: The man promoted a weird view of the Constitution, one that was forever entombed in a time when black people were mere property, women had no rights whatsoever, and gay people belonged in prison or being executed. That bizarre way of thinking can be called many things, but “brilliant” is absolutely not one of them.
Practically before Scalia’s body was even cold, Republicans announced that they plan to play their typical partisan games, blocking any nominee put forward by President Obama. That would be an utter abdication of their duty under the Constitution, and incredibly stupid politics: It would ensure Democrats re-take the US Senate.
What annoys me most about the Republicans’ partisan political games is this: Do Republicans seriously expect us to believe that blocking any nominee, no matter how qualified or good, thereby refusing to do their duty, would be about ANYTHING other than purely partisan politics?! Do they seriously expect us to think their partisan political games are reasonable? REALLY?!
So, if this had happened in George W. Bush’s last year, Republicans would have been completely okay if Democrats had done what Republicans now plan to do? Because we all know damn well that if the roles were reversed, Republicans would NEVER agree to wait for the next president. Mitch McConnell and his cabal clearly think we’re all far too stupid to see what they’re up to: The same old stupid partisan political games they always play.
If Republicans’ games succeed, there could be a 4-4 split in Supreme Court decisions, which would mean that the lower court decision would stand, but no precedent would be set. It would be as if the Court had never even considered the cases [for more about cases this could affect, both Think Progress and also Vox have listed cases and what could happen].
So, I’m not the least bit sorry that Scalia is gone from the Supreme Court, even though it took his death to happen. After all, he could have chosen to leave by retiring, but he didn’t. The fact that he’s gone from the court is the only thing that matters.
There’s been some moralising on the centre and left, tut-tutting those of us who are glad Scalia’s gone. They scold us for an imagined lack of grace, and for being inhuman. Putting aside that Scalia himself was inhuman toward LGBT people like me, I think this sort of self-righteous preaching is naïve.
The very moment that news of Scalia’s death was announced, the rightwing went into overdrive promoting the virtual sainthood of Scalia, as if everything he did and said was nearly divine, beyond reproach or dissent. Put another way, the rightwing immediately set about the task of shaping and forming public discourse about Scalia, and what his image and legacy would be. By remaining silent, those of us who were adversaries and critics during his lifetime would be contributing to the political canonisation of a man who was, to us, the very opposite of a saint.
Scalia’s family knows all this, and they’re well used to it: As a public figure, Scalia constantly faced criticism, so it’s absurd to suggest that critics should now suddenly remain silent—at the very moment the rightwing is asserting theirs as the only correct opinion and view of the man and is career. It is our duty to proclaim our dissent and repeat out criticism.
So, don’t anyone dare to tell me not to be glad Scalia’s gone from the Court, because I am glad. It’s his death itself that I couldn’t possibly care less about.
Update: Writing on The Advocate, Neal Broverman says "Dear Straight People: We're Entitled to Our Feelings on Scalia". I concur.