Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has had quite a year, but as we were reminded yesterday, the year’s not over yet. The conservative jurist reflected on gay-rights decisions while speaking to first-year law students at Georgetown. The New York Times reported:
“What minorities deserve protection?” he asked. “What? It’s up to me to identify deserving minorities?”He said those decisions should generally be made by the democratic process rather than by judges. He also allowed that the First Amendment protects political and religious minorities but suggested that there was no principled way for courts to make further distinctions based on the text of the Constitution. “What about pederasts?” he asked. “What about child abusers?”“This is a deserving minority,” he said sarcastically. “Nobody loves them.”
Just to be clear, Scalia wasn’t advocating protections for pedophiles and child abusers.
The high-court justice was, however, drawing a parallel between pedophiles, child abusers, and gay people.
And while his “What about child abusers?” question was very likely rhetorical, let’s go ahead and answer it anyway since Scalia’s obviously confused. It’s not complicated: child abuse and relationships between consenting adults have nothing in common. The fact that he doesn’t already appreciate the differences is rather alarming.
The justice’s broader point seems to be built around his discomfort in identifying minorities deserving of legal protections. To hear Scalia tell it, if gay people deserve equal protection under the law, then maybe adults who abuse children deserve equal protection, too.
The problem with the comparison, to borrow a phrase, is that it’s “pure applesauce.” The underlying point is entirely disjointed – is Scalia worried that if same-sex couples have a legal right to get married, the next thing we know, child abusers will be able to get married, too?
If Scalia is trying to remind voters about the importance of the Supreme Court in the upcoming presidential election, he’s doing a terrific job. On Inauguration Day 2017, Scalia will be 80 years old. The average retirement age of a justice: 78.7.