Scalia should butt out

Once upon a time, Supreme Court justices were seen but not heard. The only time they spoke in public was to ask a question during oral arguments. Otherwise, they kept their counsel and spoke through written opinions or dissents.

Sadly, that’s no longer the case. Today, a few of them are out in public spouting off all the time, like wannabe TV pundits, occasionally even commenting on matters that might soon come before the court. The worst offender is Justice Antonin Scalia, as he proved once again this week.

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There’s nothing new about Scalia’s making outrageous remarks, both on and off the bench. He’s been doing it his entire judicial career. On “Fox News Sunday,” for example, shortly after the July theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., Scalia defended the right of Americans to arm themselves with any “hand-carried” weapon. “It doesn’t apply to cannons,” he explained. “But I suppose there are hand-held rocket launchers that can bring down airplanes; that will have to be decided.” And there’s no doubt how Scalia would vote. 

At an October book-signing, as reported by Nina Strochlic of The Daily Beast, Scalia cavalierly dismissed three Supreme Court-weight issues: “The death penalty? Give me a break. It’s easy. Abortion? Absolutely easy. Nobody ever thought the Constitution prevented restrictions on abortion. Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state.”

Not even the pope, apparently, hates homosexuality as much as Scalia. In Lawrence v. Texas, he not only dissented from the court’s decision to strike down the state’s anti-sodomy statute, he accused the court of allowing for anything-goes. From now on, argued Scalia, “state laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality and obscenity” are all “called into question.”

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Continuing his obsession with homosexuality, Scalia outdid himself this week. Speaking at Princeton University, Scalia defended equating laws against sodomy with laws against bestiality — and then took it a step further. “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality,” he asked, “can we have it against murder?” Murder? Seriously? He doesn’t recognize the difference between consensual sex between two same-sex adults and murder? Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference between Scalia law and Shariah law!

Now, here’s the problem. It’s OK for someone to hold those views, no matter how warped. It’s scary that someone so homophobic, and so close-minded, should sit on the Supreme Court. But it’s totally wrong for anyone with those views to be in a position to rule on any issue related to gay rights.

As of last week, there are now two such cases before the court, both dealing with marriage equality. Scalia has already shown he does not have an open mind on this issue. He should do the right thing and voluntarily recuse himself from the same-sex marriage case. Or Chief Justice John Roberts should publicly demand that he do so.

Press is host of the nationally syndicated “Bill Press Show.”