Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is a bit like Vegemite: you either love the man or absolutely despise him. That being said, the infamous justice should be applauded for his fantastic sense of humor, which was only heightened by his rage at being on the losing side of history when it came to Obergefell v. Hodges, today’s case which just ensured marriage equality in all fifty states.
The majority opinion for this case, written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, was equal parts heartwarming and inspiring, with the most touching lines coming at the end:
As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
Meanwhile, Scalia’s dissent to the majority opinion is littered with little golden nuggets of anger and hilarity:
Freedom of Intimacy (and Hippies)
It is one thing for separate concurring or dissenting opinions to contain extravagances, even silly extravagances, of thought and expression; it is something else for the official opinion of the Court to do so. Of course the opinion’s showy profundities are often profoundly incoherent. ‘The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality.’ (Really? Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality [whatever that means] were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest hippie.)
California and the West
The Federal Judiciary is hardly a cross-section of America. Take, for example, this Court, which consists of only nine men and women, all of them successful lawyers who studied at Harvard or Yale Law School. Four of the nine are natives of New York City. Eight of them grew up in east- and west-coast States. Only one hails from the vast expanse in-between. Not a single Southwesterner or even, to tell the truth, a genuine Westerner (California does not count.)
Scalia Hates on Kennedy’s Writing Style
The Court ends this debate, in an opinion lacking even a thin veneer of law. Buried beneath the mummeries and straining-to-be-memorable passages of the opinion is a candid and startling assertion: No matter what it was the People ratified, the Fourteenth Amendment protects those rights that the Judiciary, in its “reasoned judgment,” thinks the Fourteenth Amendment ought to protect.
Scalia’s Head, a Bag, and Fortune Cookies
If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.”
Scalia’s Wife Runs a Tight Ship
Expression, sure enough, is a freedom, but anyone in a long-lasting marriage will attest that that happy state constricts, rather than expands, what one can prudently say.
Love him or hate him, all legal nerds can admit that Scalia’s opinions always cause a few laughs, even when he isn’t trying to be funny (and especially when he jumps through legal hoops to defend discrimination). Justice Thomas may be the resident mute, but it looks like Justice Scalia will always remain the court jester.