U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia, Dies at Age 79
On Saturday afternoon, February 13, 2016, we learned of the passing of US Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia who was 79 years-old. Scalia was the longest tenured judge on the court. He was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, and has proudly served to protect the interests of the most extreme conservatives within our society.
Scalia was the central architect of the Bush v. Gore decision that stole the presidency from the candidate who won (Gore) back in 2000, changing the course of history for the United States and the world. His unapologetic answer for that constitutional creationism, "Get over it," as if forgetting multiple wars and a 21st century depression are easy. Scalia was fiercely anti-LGBT. He implied that a moral test would suffice for depriving people of equal rights. In his own words, “Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children's schools, or as boarders in their home… They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.”
It doesn’t stop there. During oral arguments in Lawrence v. Texas Scalia determined that gays have a perfect substitute to engaging in sexual relations with other gay people, namely, having sex with heterosexuals. Head scratcher, I know. Here is Scalia’s defense of Texas’ draconian anti-LGBT law, “It doesn't say you can't have any sexual intimacy. It says you cannot have sexual intimacy with a person of the same sex… Men and women, heterosexuals and homosexuals, are all subject to [Texas'] prohibition of deviate sexual intercourse with someone of the same sex.” So in other words, Scalia says, if you want to have sex in Texas, it must be with the partner that the state has deemed worthy. And according to Justice Scalia, this passes constitutional muster.
Beyond Scalia’s overt disdain for LGBT Americans, he showed an equally disturbing contempt for people of color. He suggested during oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas – Austin that black students are inherently inferior and should not aspire to the most prestigious schools. No really, this came out of Scalia’s mouth, “There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school, where they do well.” He later disrespected the entire community of black scientists when he said, “most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them.” This last remark is particularly insulting because it questions the integrity of the science community as a whole and impugns the intellectual capacity of all black scholars.
Antonin Scalia’s four decades on the Court were marred with rulings that opposed Civil Rights protections, Human Rights expansions, or preserving women’s rights. His death should mark the beginning of a new era on the Court. As this country grows more diverse, the members of its supreme court should do the same.
According to Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution, “The President shall have power to … by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, [a]ppoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law”. Not only does President Obama have the authority to replace Scalia, according to the constitution, he has an obligation to do so. The Court cannot remain understaffed for an entire year as the Republican party has suggested. The Supreme Court is too important an institution to allow the flagrant negligence of the GOP controlled Senate to keep the Court understaffed for an entire year. It is absurd and antithetical to the ideals of justice. Elections have consequences, the Democratic Party won the White House in 2012, thus the Democratic president is responsible for filling all federal judicial vacancies, especially on the Supreme Court. The precedent for confirming Supreme Court appointments during election years was established 100 years ago. Most recently a Republican president, Ronald Reagan, appointed Anthony Kennedy in 1988.
It would be in President Obama's best interest to start the process immediately, considering the inevitable obstruction he'll face from Senate Republicans.