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COMMENTARY: The homophobe on the Supreme Court

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has become a class clown, lacking much wisdom or overwhelming intellect or the ability to overcome his own bias and bigotry.

Oh, Scalia fancies himself one of the brightest minds in the land and he uses – and misuses – his bloody pulpit to advance his personal and political agenda. This is conduct unbecoming of any justice serving on the highest court of the land.

A snarly Scalia dismissed an earnest question from a Princeton law student, who only recently came out, about why the justice compares bans on homosexuality to bans on bestiality and murder with this snappy retort:

“If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?”

Although a few people at the lecture politely clapped at Scalia’s logic, many more listeners were appalled and outraged.

Scalia then defended his opinions and notorious anti-gay writings by displaying contempt and arrogance toward the law student, Duncan Hosie, a freshman from San Francisco. Here is how the Associated Press reported the incident:

“I don’t think it’s necessary, but I think it’s effective,” Scalia said, adding that legislative bodies can ban what they believe to be immoral. …

“It’s a form of argument that I thought you would have known, which is called the ‘reduction to the absurd.’ 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 to Hosie: “I’m surprised you aren’t persuaded.”

Reductio ad absurdum, which stretches any philosophical argument to its most ridiculous limit, is a relic from the ancient Greeks popularized by Aristotle.

Anti-gay figures love to use reductio ad absurdum to go on the attack against same-sex marriage or other equality issues. You can hear those voices echoing over and over: “If we let gays marry, what is next? Marrying your dog? Marrying multiple partners? Polygamy?”

Truth is, Scalia is a bigot and a homophobe. Yet here he sits, one of the nine justices, charged with deciding the rights of LGBT Americans. In March 2013, when the Supreme Court takes up California’s Proposition 8 and DOMA, Scalia can be counted on as one solid vote against any form of equality for LGBT Americans. His beliefs are as ancient as the ancient Greeks, and he will almost certainly be joined by Justices Samuel A. Alito and Clarence Thomas, two other Republican appointees whose views about gay issues are about as regressive at that of the Holy See.

The mention of the Pope is intentional, since Scalia, Alito and Thomas are all practicing Roman Catholics. Their deeply conservative beliefs line up with that of their faith on many issues that come before the court. It serves as a warning to court observers that these three men will be sitting in judgment of issues that the Vatican opposes. Their ability to provide a fair and balanced judgment is questionable.

By contrast, the other three justices who are also practicing Roman Catholics are much less likely to be guided by their faiths in making their rulings. Chief Justice John Roberts seems less influenced by his faith, and he once worked in favor of LGBT rights on a case he was involved in when he was an attorney. Justices Anthony Kennedy and Sonia Sotomayor also appear to be intellect-driven, willing to look at science and evidence before arriving at a conclusion. Roberts and Kennedy could end up being the swing votes in deciding the marriage issues.

After the outrage Scalia created at Princeton this week, a number of people have questioned his ability to be fair and partial and some have urged Scalia to recuse himself from the cases. Fat chance of that.

Actor George Takei, a proud gay American, was not amused:

“Any Justice who has so little thought before he speaks should not be participating in ruling on the cases involving DOMA or Proposition 8. Justice Scalia needs to consider recusing himself. …He is clearly biased in this situation so how can he look at the issue and make a judgment fairly?”

E.J. Dionne Jr., a highly respected opinion writer at The Washington Post, has already gone even further: Justice Scalia must resign:

He’d have a lot of things to do. He’s a fine public speaker and teacher. He’d be a heck of a columnist and blogger. But he really seems to aspire to being a politician — and that’s the problem.
So often, Scalia has chosen to ignore the obligation of a Supreme Court justice to be, and appear to be, impartial. He’s turned “judicial restraint” into an oxymoronic phrase.

Dionne wasn’t even referring to the Princeton incident but to the high court’s decision in June relating to Arizona immigration law. But the opinion writer’s case also applies to the Princeton incident as he shows how Scalia is such a loose cannon on the Supreme Court.

Miranda Blue of People for the American Way listed Scalia’s 7 worst anti-gay statements in a piece published by SDGLN media partner LGBTQ Nation. She paints an ugly picture of an ideologue who is incapable of impartiality on gay issues.

Michael McGough, writing an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times, opines this: For Scalia, no gay pople, just gay sex?”

McGough notes that:

Scalia’s son Paul, a Catholic priest who has served as chaplain to Courage – “a spiritual support group to help those with same-sex attractions live chaste lives” – continues to resist the idea of a gay identity. He has written: “We must always distinguish the person from the attractions. Most errors in this area come from the reduction of the person to the attractions: to say, ‘A person who has homosexual attractions must be homosexual.’ This reduces the human person to the sum total of his sexual inclinations.”

In a 2005 article in the magazine First Things, Paul Scalia warned against the labeling of high school students as “gay” and even took the Vatican to task for using the term “homosexual person,” which, the younger Scalia said, “suggests that homosexual inclinations somehow determine, which is to say confine, a person’s identity.” Of course, this is a straw man; psychologists and other who speak of a gay identity don't argue that “gay” is an exhaustive description of an individual’s personality traits, only that there is more to being gay or lesbian than participation in sexual acts.

Scalia wrote scathing dissents in two high-profile cases -- Lawrence v. Texas in 2003 and Romer v. Evans in 1996 – that were won by gay-rights attorneys.

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications at Human Rights Campaign, said the Princeton incident shows Scalia’s true colors.

"It's safe to say he is a vote in the 'no' column," Sainz said. "He is not a justice that has an open mind towards these issues that are coming his way.”

Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at ken@sdgln.com, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.