Poor Samuel Alito! The Supreme Court justice has so much to be upset about. Sure, he’s about to gain an ally on the bench in his ceaseless fight against unions, women’s rights, the environment, and LGBTQ equality. But in spite of all that, gay people can get married in America—and that makes Alito very sad. So on Wednesday, he spoke to Advocati Christi, a Catholic lawyers’ association, about the grievous threat that marriage equality poses to religious liberty. From the Associated Press:
Alito used his own words from his dissent in the Supreme Court’s landmark same-sex marriage case, telling the gathering he had predicted opposition to the decision would be used to “vilify those who disagree, and treat them as bigots.”
“We are seeing this is coming to pass,” he said. … “A wind is picking up that is hostile to those with traditional moral beliefs.”
Oh, dear. The dystopia that Alito describes really is quite chilling: a world in which religious conservatives cannot use the law to restrict the rights of minorities without … being criticized. Can you imagine it? Surely our founders did not write the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause with the intent to protect criticism of political beliefs. Have the bounds of discourse really been so corrupted that Americans believe they can publicly denounce anti-gay activists? Using mean words? What has this once great nation come to?
Alito said reactions to Supreme Court decisions such as the Hobby Lobby case, in which a company balked at being required to cover certain forms of contraception in its employee health plan, should spur action.
“We are likely to see pitched battles in courts and Congress, state legislatures and town halls,” he said. “But the most important fight is for the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans. It is up to all of us to evangelize our fellow Americans about the issue of religious freedom.”
Ah, yes, the Hobby Lobby case, in which the Supreme Court’s five conservatives ruled that for-profit corporations hold a religious right to deny their employees access to contraception through insurance plans that employees help to pay for. Who could react poorly to that?
To be fair, Alito has demonstrated a genuine commitment to a very specific type of religious liberty. He has suggested that regulations requiring pharmacies to carry emergency contraception constitute illegal persecution of Christians. He has argued that rules barring anti-gay discrimination in taxpayer-funded college clubs constitute illegal persecution of Christians. He has argued that same-sex marriage will lead “governments, employers, and schools” to persecute anti-gay Christians. Are you sensing a theme?
Alito, who is Catholic, does have a personal history with religious discrimination. He explained in his speech that, as a child, he felt keenly aware of anti-Catholic bigotry that was once prevalent in the United States. But he noted that the election of John F. Kennedy as the country’s first Catholic president changed his understanding of his place in society.
“I felt it had lifted me up from the status of second-class American,” he said. It is startling to discover that Alito grasps the concept of second-class citizenship given that he had repeatedly voted to relegate gay people to it. What else to call the status of Americans who are denied the fundamental right to marry because of their sexual orientation? Or the children of these couples, who suffer the stigma of having parents who are legally proscribed from marrying? Isn’t that second-class citizenship? If not, what is?
In all, Wednesday’s speech didn’t tell us anything new, but it did confirm that Alito is the most hypocritical justice on the bench today. He mocks college students for their sensitivity to racism then demands a safe space for the special snowflakes who wish to inflict harm on gay people without consequence. He raises valid personal concerns about second-class citizenship then attempts to deny Americans rights on the basis of some arbitrary classification. He spills endless ink over the importance of religious liberty and cares not a whit about the many devout sexual minorities who see marriage as a key means of exercising their faith. And aside from marriage equality, he’s winning! Only a justice like Alito could manage to be so angry when so much is going so well for his cramped, myopic view of the law.