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Justice Scalia Forced To Defend Anti-Gay Opinion To Gay Princeton Freshman

by David Badash on December 11, 2012

in Bigotry Watch,Legal Issues,Marriage,News

Post image for Justice Scalia Forced To Defend Anti-Gay Opinion To Gay Princeton Freshman

Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, likely the most-conservative on the Supreme Court, was forced to defend his opinion — on marriage, equality, and anti-gay bigotry, and his comparison of anti-sodomy laws with laws banning bestiality, and murder – to a college freshman while delivering a lecture at Princeton University yesterday afternoon.

”In your dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, you equated laws against gay sex to laws against bestiality,” Duncan Hosie said to Justice Scalia, before the 76-year old jurist interrupted the freshman.

“I don’t think it’s necessary, but I think it’s effective,” Scalia responded, suggesting that legislative bodies can ban what they believe to be immoral, according to a report by the AP:

“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.

Then he deadpanned: “I’m surprised you aren’t persuaded.”

Hosie said afterward that he was not persuaded by Scalia’s answer. He said he believes Scalia’s writings tend to “dehumanize” gays.

Hosie told The New Civil Rights Movement via email Scalia “interrupted me in the middle so I didn’t get to ask it in its entirety,” and provided the full text of his question:

In your dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, you equated laws against gay sex to laws against bestiality.

You wrote, “The Texas statute undeniably seeks to further the belief of its citizens that certain forms of sexual behavior are “immoral and unacceptable,”, the same interest furthered by criminal laws against fornication, bigamy, adultery, adult incest, bestiality, and obscenity.”

Justice Scalia, I’m gay, and as somebody who is gay I find these comparisons extraordinarily offensive. I think there is an fundamental difference between arguing the constitution does not protect gay sex, which is a defensible and legitimate legal position I disagree with, and comparing gays to people who commit murder or engage in bestiality. Do you have any regret or shame for drawing these comparisons you did in your dissents?

Scalia has been traveling the country promoting his book, Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts

It is widely expected, given Scalia’s comments, and the fact he is a constitutional “originalist” or “textualist,” believing only in the exact meaning of the Constitution when and as it was written, that he will decide against marriage equality advocates when the court hears the Prop 8 and DOMA cases next year.

At least one person is asking a relevant question, given the fact the court just accepted two marriage cases. Karoli, a progressive writer, tweets:




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TheMadSonneteer December 11, 2012 at 3:13 am

It would seem, using his own logic and beliefs, Antonin Scalia doesn't think anyone – gay or straight – should be allowed to marry. In October, I posted this in response to Scalia's views: "Antonin Scalia and the Right to Marry"

Scott_Rose December 11, 2012 at 10:44 am

I applaud Duncan Hosie for standing up to the bullying gay-bashing bigot Scalia. Comparing bans on homosexuality to bans on murder is NOT an example of reductio ad absurdum; it's an example of a straw man argument.

Elaine Clisham December 11, 2012 at 11:17 am

Sorry, but Duncan Hosie started a stupid bullshit red-herring question not worthy of a Princeton freshman, and it's just as well he didn't get to finish it. Trying to heap shame as your sole form of persuasion is usually not effective.

At the same time, IMHO, Scalia answered the question badly. "Moral feelings" are no sound basis for legislation, and many of the other things he lists in his opinion are not illegal because of any moral revulsion but for sound public-welfare reasons. He just attributes "moral feelings" to them because it allows him to back into his conclusion.

Therefore, the RIGHT QUESTION would have been something like, "Legislation against some (but not all) of those other things arguably has a legitimate connection to public health, safety and/or welfare, rightly the purview of government. Could you explain what the public-welfare interest the state has that enables it to legislate against sex in private between two consenting adults? What legal underpinning is there that makes it possible and appropriate for a government to legislate private morality that causes no evident public harm?"

Disclosures: Lesbian, Princeton graduate, no fan of Scalia. But this was a stupid question.

Scott_Rose December 11, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Actually, Elaine, you're dead wrong. The entire international health care profession is long past having recognized homosexuality as a universally-occurring normal human variant. Scalia is acting out on anti-gay bigotry rooted in his Catholic religious beliefs and completely uniformed by the science of human sexuality. In the 21st century, a U.S. Supreme Court justice *should* be ashamed to be applying mumbo-jumbo out of the Catholic Catechism to questions of civil and constitutional law.

Elaine Clisham December 12, 2012 at 8:01 am

Actually, Scott, if you read my comment again you'll see I completely agree with you — Scalia's "moral feelings" are no basis for good legislation but he uses the false equivalency with acts like murder to attempt to legitimize them.

Scott_Rose December 12, 2012 at 10:15 am

Then why did you so inappropriately attack Duncan in your comments above. He did *not* pose a "stupid bullshit" question.

Elaine Clisham December 12, 2012 at 10:23 am

I don't think my comment was inappropriate. It might have been based on a mistaken assumption, that a question to a Supreme Court justice should be focused on legal reasoning. Duncan Hosie's question was about language. My contention is that a question about legal reasoning would have been much more difficult for Scalia to answer; it's much easier for him to weasel out of a question about whether specific language is offensive.

The good thing about the question is that it has surfaced a national conversation about that language, and I applaud Duncan Hosie for having the courage to ask it at all. But a question based on legal reasoning would have done much more damage, and I regret the wasted opportunity. Perhaps I'm expecting too much from a Princeton freshman.

EdinOcala December 11, 2012 at 11:56 am

Scalia has predetermined his opinion. If as a juror I did that I would be kicked off of any jury. He is an insult to the Court and the American people.

VonLmo December 11, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Why has no one demanded Scalia to recuse himself?

Diogenes_Arktos December 13, 2012 at 2:14 am

There's a We the People petition at the White House asking for Scalia to recuse himself.

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