An Open Letter to Supreme Court Justice Scalia
Image: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia by Steven Masker (CC BY 2.0)
I would like to tell you, Justice Scalia, about something that greatly disturbed me during the argument of Obergerfell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court case on the legality of state bans on same-sex marriage. No, I’m not talking about the arguments used to justify the legal discrimination against same-sex marriages in some states. (Although I do think that all of the arguments against honoring marriage equality in every state reeked of cowardice and willful ignorance, such as the clearly untrue claim that the definition of marriage has been the same for a “millennia” or the peculiar decision to uphold Ancient Greek philosophers as experts on what marriage should look like.) I’m talking about a different moment.
Do you remember when a spectator disrupted the proceedings by yelling, “If you support gay marriage, you will burn in hell?” The man was dragged out of the courtroom by security guards as he shouted to everyone, “It’s an abomination!”
Would it surprise you to know that it was not the heckler who disturbed me but your careless response? In the silence that greeted the courtroom as the guards removed the man, you quipped, “Actually, that was refreshing.” Refreshing. When I read this in an article in The New Yorker, I immediately experienced a rush of deep disappointment and profound sadness that you, Justice Scalia, had just declared hate speech “refreshing.”
Would you have said this if the man had yelled, “If you support interracial marriage, you will burn in hell – it’s an abomination”? I ask, as the product of an interracial marriage, would you have deemed the hate speech against my parents a joking matter? Would you have thought it refreshing?
I sincerely hope not. And I truly believe that because the overwhelming majority of US citizens now believe that interracial marriages are acceptable, it would not have been as easy to support hate speech against those types of couples. So why do you feel that it is okay to validate and encourage such speech against homosexual relationships and homosexual, bisexual, or pansexual individuals?
I know that you will not answer me but I also know that, whatever your answer might be, it is not adequate. There is no justification for a man with your power and responsibility to so carelessly establish your lack of respect for an entire population of the society you are supposedly committed to serving. I wonder if you know the amount of sadness, anger, shame, and fear that words like yours work to sow in the hearts of so many American citizens. Somehow, I don’t think you do.
I hope that eventually you will understand that hate speech is not humorous, helpful, or refreshing.