Ryan Lee

Ryan Lee: On LGBT rights, Scalia was the supreme loser

Given his lifetime appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, there was no way Justice Antonin Scalia was going to end his war of intolerance against LGBT Americans, women and minorities other than by dying. So, from a strict constructionist perspective, I’m glad he is dead.

My sympathy goes out to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and others who were able to find endearing, loveable qualities in someone who cultivated a most spiteful public persona, but I won’t feign any personal sorrow that Scalia’s heart stopped beating. I doubt a man with such an acerbic pen and disposition, someone who assaulted political correctness (and basic politeness) in his judicial rationalizations of inequality, would expect to be mourned by those he considered inferior.

Scalia’s passing renews my optimism for things like criminal justice reform, redistricting, and maintaining protections for affirmative action and a woman’s right to choose. In regards to LGBT progress, Scalia’s death feels almost inconsequential, as, frankly, he was the high court’s biggest loser on our issues.

When Colorado voters approved a state constitutional amendment to prohibit LGBT residents from enjoying any and all rights, including protection from discrimination, in the early 1990s, Scalia wrote that it was “not the manifestation of a ‘bare … desire to harm’ homosexuals … but is rather a modest attempt by seemingly tolerant Coloradans to preserve traditional mores against the efforts of a politically powerful minority.”

According to Scalia’s 18th-Century understanding of our world, the persecuted group that lost in Colorado was “politically powerful,” while the group that enshrined discrimination into the state constitution was “tolerant.” Thankfully, Scalia’s poisonous reasoning was in the minority when the justices ruled in Romer v. Evans, and Colorado’s bigoted amendment was struck down 6-3 in the first LGBT rights case to reach the high court.

Seven years later, when the Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that states could no longer imprison LGBT Americans for engaging in consensual sexual acts with a person of the same sex, Scalia characterized the decision as “a massive disruption of the current social order.” Unable to seduce his colleagues with his colonial-era paranoia, Scalia was again on the losing side of a 6-3-landmark decision.

He was also among the defeated justices in United States v. Windsor, which struck down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and he was subjected to an indignity that felt appropriate for a sore loser. Scalia’s dissent was characteristically loaded with predictions of the dire consequences that Windsor would unleash upon our country, only to have his words used by a dozen federal judges to bolster the case for marriage equality nationwide.

When the Supreme Court decided whether marriage equality was the law of the land in Obergefell v. Hodges last year, Scalia was, per usual, leader of the losers.

“When the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868, every State limited marriage to one man and one woman, and no one doubted the constitutionality of doing so,” Scalia wrote in his Obergefell dissent. “That resolves these [2015] cases.”

A man who believed that Reconstruction should be the baseline for modern human rights is not someone I will miss influencing our nation’s parameters of equality. I only hope Scalia’s bloated corpse leaves enough room in the casket or crematorium for his expired ideology to be put to rest as well.