Justice Antonin Scalia on Homosexual Rights

Romer v Evans:
First, as to its eminent reasonableness. The Court’s opinion contains grim, disapproving hints that Coloradans have been guilty of “animus” or “animosity” toward homosexuality, as though that has been established as Unamerican. Of course it is our moral heritage that one should not hate any human being or class of human beings. 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, the same sort of moral disapproval that produced the centuries old criminal laws that we held constitutional in Bowers. The Colorado amendment does not, to speak entirely precisely, prohibit giving favored status to people who are homosexuals; they can be favored for many reasons–for example, because they are senior citizens or members of racial minorities. But it prohibits giving them favored status because of their homosexual conduct–that is, it prohibits favored status for homosexuality.

But though Coloradans are, as I say, entitled to be hostile toward homosexual conduct, the fact is that the degree of hostility reflected by Amendment 2 is the smallest conceivable. The Court’s portrayal of Coloradans as a society fallen victim to pointless, hate filled “gay bashing” is so false as to be comical. Colorado not only is one of the 25 States that have repealed their antisodomy laws, but was among the first to do so. See 1971 Colo. Sess. Laws, ch. 121, §1. But the society that eliminates criminal punishment for homosexual acts does not necessarily abandon the view that homosexuality is morally wrong and socially harmful; often, abolition simply reflects the view that enforcement of such criminal laws involves unseemly intrusion into the intimate lives of citizens. Cf. Brief for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., et al. as Amici Curiae in Bowers v. Hardwick, O. T. 1985, No. 85-140, p. 25, n. 21 (antisodomy statutes are “unenforceable by any but the most offensive snooping and wasteful allocation of law enforcement resources”); Kadish, The Crisis of Overcriminalization, 374 The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 157, 161 (1967) (“To obtain evidence [in sodomy cases], police are obliged to resort to behavior which tends to degrade and demean both themselves personally and law enforcement as an institution”).

There is a problem, however, which arises when criminal sanction of homosexuality is eliminated but moral and social disapprobation of homosexuality is meant to be retained. The Court cannot be unaware of that problem; it is evident in many cities of the country, and occasionally bubbles to the surface of the news, in heated political disputes over such matters as the introduction into local schools of books teaching that homosexuality is an optional and fully acceptable “alternate life style.” The problem (a problem, that is, for those who wish to retain social disapprobation of homosexuality) is that, because those who engage in homosexual conduct tend to reside in disproportionate numbers in certain communities, see Record, Exh. MMM, have high disposable income, see ibid.; App. 254 (affidavit of Prof. James Hunter), and of course care about homosexual rights issues much more ardently than the public at large, they possess political power much greater than their numbers, both locally and statewide. Quite understandably, they devote this political power to achieving not merely a grudging social toleration, but full social acceptance, of homosexuality. See, e.g., Jacobs, The Rhetorical Construction of Rights: The Case of the Gay Rights Movement, 1969-1991, 72 Neb. L. Rev. 723, 724 (1993) (“[T]he task of gay rights proponents is to move the center of public discourse along a continuum from the rhetoric of disapprobation, to rhetoric of tolerance, and finally to affirmation”).

By the time Coloradans were asked to vote on Amendment 2, their exposure to homosexuals’ quest for social endorsement was not limited to newspaper accounts of happenings in places such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Key West. Three Colorado cities– Aspen, Boulder, and Denver–had enacted ordinances that listed “sexual orientation” as an impermissible ground for discrimination, equating the moral disapproval of homosexual conduct with racial and religious bigotry. See Aspen Municipal Code §13-98 (1977); Boulder Rev. Municipal Code §§12-1-1 to 12-1-11 (1987); Denver Rev. Municipal Code, Art. IV §§28-91 to 28-116 (1991). The phenomenon had even appeared statewide: the Governor of Colorado had signed an executive order pronouncing that “in the State of Colorado we recognize the diversity in our pluralistic society and strive to bring an end to discrimination in any form,” and directing state agency heads to “ensure non discrimination” in hiring and promotion based on, among other things, “sexual orientation.” Executive Order No. D0035 (Dec. 10, 1990). I do not mean to be critical of these legislative successes; homosexuals are as entitled to use the legal system for reinforcement of their moral sentiments as are the rest of society. But they are subject to being countered by lawful, democratic countermeasures as well.

But the Court today has done so, not only by inventing a novel and extravagant constitutional doctrine to take the victory away from traditional forces, but even by verbally disparaging as bigotry adherence to traditional attitudes. To suggest, for example, that this constitutional amendment springs from nothing more than ” `a bare . . . desire to harm a politically unpopular group,’ ” ante, at 13, quoting Department of Agriculture v. Moreno, 413 U.S. 528, 534 (1973), is nothing short of insulting. (It is also nothing short of preposterous to call “politically unpopular” a group which enjoys enormous influence in American media and politics, and which, as the trial court here noted, though composing no more than 4% of the population had the support of 46% of the voters on Amendment 2, see App. to Pet. for Cert. C-18.)

When the Court takes sides in the culture wars, it tends to be with the knights rather than the villains–and more specifically with the Templars, reflecting the views and values of the lawyer class from which the Court’s Members are drawn. How that class feels about homosexuality will be evident to anyone who wishes to interview job applicants at virtually any of the Nation’s law schools. The interviewer may refuse to offer a job because the applicant is a Republican; because he is an adulterer; because he went to the wrong prep school or belongs to the wrong country club; because he eats snails; because he is a womanizer; because she wears real animal fur; or even because he hates the Chicago Cubs. But if the interviewer should wish not to be an associate or partner of an applicant because he disapproves of the applicant’s homosexuality, then he will have violated the pledge which the Association of American Law Schools requires all its member schools to exact from job interviewers: “assurance of the employer’s willingness” to hire homosexuals. Bylaws of the Association of American Law Schools, Inc. §6-4(b); Executive Committee Regulations of the Association of American Law Schools §6.19, in 1995 Handbook, Association of American Law Schools. This law school view of what “prejudices” must be stamped out may be contrasted with the more plebeian attitudes that apparently still prevail in the United States Congress, which has been unresponsive to repeated attempts to extend to homosexuals the protections of federal civil rights laws, see, e.g., Employment Non Discrimination Act of 1994, S. 2238, 103d Cong., 2d Sess. (1994); Civil Rights Amendments of 1975, H. R. 5452, 94th Cong., 1st Sess. (1975), and which took the pains to exclude them specifically from the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, see 42 U.S.C. § 12211(a) (1988 ed., Supp. V).

* * *
Today’s opinion has no foundation in American constitutional law, and barely pretends to. The people of Colorado have adopted an entirely reasonable provision which does not even disfavor homosexuals in any substantive sense, but merely denies them preferential treatment. Amendment 2 is designed to prevent piecemeal deterioration of the sexual morality favored by a majority of Coloradans, and is not only an appropriate means to that legitimate end, but a means that Americans have employed before. Striking it down is an act, not of judicial judgment, but of political will. I dissent.

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About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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