Justice Scalia Defends Comparing Sodomy to Murder

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 11 2012 10:46 AM

Scalia Defends Comparing Sodomy to Murder

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Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks at the fifth annual Ava Maria School of Law lecture Jan. 25, 2005 on the University of Michigan campus

Photograph by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia traveled to Princeton yesterday as part of his ongoing book tour. While there he took some heat from a student about his comments comparing laws banning sodomy with those barring bestiality and murder. The justice responded by saying that such comparisons weren't necessary but they were "effective," the Associated Press reports:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Scalia was asked by a gay student why he equates laws banning sodomy with those barring bestiality and murder.
"It's a form of argument that I thought you would have known, which is called the 'reduction to the absurd,'" Scalia told [freshman Duncan] Hosie of San Francisco during the question-and-answer period. "If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?"
Scalia said he is not equating sodomy with murder but drawing a parallel between the bans on both.
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Scalia's comments are particularly noteworthy given they come only days after the high court announced that it would consider two cases challenging the constitutionality of bans on gay marriage.

During a similar appearance at a D.C. think tank back in October, Scalia spoke about how he considers himself to be a "textualist," meaning that he applies the words in the Constitution as he believes they would have been understood by those who wrote and adopted them. "The death penalty? Give me a break. It's easy. Abortion? Absolutely easy. Nobody ever thought the Constitution prevented restrictions on abortion," he said then. "Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state."

According to the AP report from yesterday, Scalia's back-and-forth with the freshman drew a mixed reaction from the crowd, with some some applauding after the justice's remarks but a larger slice of the audience clapping in response to Hosie's original question pressing Scalia on his stance.

Elsewhere in Slate, Amanda Marcotte weighs in on Scalia's remarks. A snippet:

Scalia's version of morality leaves a lot to be desired. We can probably come up with a better system than randomly picking a bunch of acts—same-sex relations, murder, giving coffee drinks funny names—and declaring these things immoral on the grounds that something has to be immoral.  There's got to be a more rigorous way of wading through legal questions than just throwing darts against a wall, and when the darts hit the words "murder" and "sodomy," figuring hey, let's ban both.

You can read her full XX Factor post here.