Letters: To mourn, or not to mourn, Justice Antonin Scalia

Letters: To mourn, or not to mourn, Justice Antonin Scalia

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Editor: 

In February 2015, I had the unique opportunity to meet and talk with the late Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a man whose death earlier this month will have a drastic impact on the future of our country.

 

What struck me then and continues to guide my views of him to this day was the utter brilliance with which he was able to support an argument and his views, even when my own personal opinions as a gay law student could not have been more opposite.

As I browsed social media in the hours following the news of his passing, I was surprised by the posts from friends that ranged from “good riddance” to “ding dong the witch is dead.” The sheer outrage I was confronted with when I exclaimed that Justice Scalia’s death was a devastating loss for the legal profession and the country again revealed an unfortunate side of our community’s continuous fight for equal rights. The vilification of those with views contrary to ours weakens our positions, ultimately creating an “us vs. them” mentality that is responsible for much of our country’s inability to work together to solve the problems facing us. 

Societal progress will not be achieved by undervaluing ideological divides, but by respecting all opinions that so closely reflect the diverse opinions throughout our country.  Let us not be so quick to stoop to levels of disrespect that we ourselves would condemn.

— Joseph Peltzer

Philadelphia

Editor:

I won’t mourn the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and I don’t think anyone in the gay community should feel obligated to have any sympathy for him. I don’t think any American with a working heart should spare him another thought.

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed when news of Scalia’s death broke. Minutes after his passing was confirmed, there came the finger-wagging. Tweets written by exclusively straight, white and cisgender men reminding people that “regardless of their politics” it is “distasteful” to speak ill of the dead. These same people insisted to their followers that Antonin Scalia had a “brilliant legal mind” and a “great wit.” 

That’s easy for you guys to say. In the nearly 30 years that Scalia spent on the Supreme Court, his rulings never denied you anything: your rights, your dignity or your personal freedom. Antonin Scalia worked his whole career to drag social progression back to 1776. He was very proud of his “originalist” philosophy, meaning he believed the Constitution should remain exactly as it was written, instead of a living document that must grow and evolve to reflect the needs of the American people. 

He compared homosexuality to all manner of colorful things, including: flagpole sitting, rooting for the Chicago Cubs, eating snails, incest and recreational heroin use. Infamously, Scalia once told a gay law student that he believed marriage rights shouldn’t be opened to same-sex couples because of the moral stance against it. He compared marriage laws to the laws against murder, saying that murder is illegal because of moral feeling. He was quoted as saying to the gay student: “I’m surprised you’re not convinced.”

I have trouble understanding how the willful taking of a human life could ever compare to the right to marry, but it was a metaphor Scalia trotted out more than once in his career. 

Scalia openly hated LGBT people, women and people of color. He believed gay sex should be punishable by law because some people (him, for example) found homosexuality morally objectionable. While he morally objected to consensual sex between adults, the rest of America suffered through the ravages of the AIDS epidemic. The way the government dragged their feet on the AIDS crisis affects public health to this day. Scalia voted against almost every case involving LGBT rights brought to the Supreme Court in his time on the bench. He repeatedly insisted that his opposition to LGBT rights was a moral conviction.   

Being gay, a person of color and/or a woman are not political choices. They are not options. They are innate aspects of your personhood. It is terrifying, sometimes overwhelming, to try and live our lives knowing that powerful people like Scalia would have criminalized our community without a second thought, because of so-called moral convictions. There is nothing moral about discrimination and hate.

Scalia lived a long and happy life. He loved his job. He had a huge, loving family, including dozens of grandchildren who miss him and a son who continues his work against LGBT rights. He was able to live his life exactly the way he wanted to every moment that he was on this earth. No one can take that from him.

But every person’s legacy is decided by the choices they make while they live. Scalia made his choice with every opinion he wrote. Uncountable lives have been ruined by discriminatory laws supported by Antonin Scalia. Justice Scalia never shed a tear over any of those lives. Don’t waste your tears on him. 

— BethAnne Boyle

Philadelphia


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