Right to Do What Other People Do

The Supreme Court Justices Live in Another World

<b>ORIGINAL SPIN: </b> When a protester in court yelled gay marriage was “an abomination,” Scalia found it “refreshing.”

ANOTHER WORLD: The U.S. Supreme Court majority is composed of doh-doh heads, as we all have long realized. It’s not that they’re dumb. It’s just that they tend to live in a world that ended, for all intents and purposes, one or two centuries ago.

Barney Brantingham

Worse, they have life terms in the most undemocratic (or unrepublican, if you prefer) organ of our plutocracy.

Secrecy reigns. You can see practically anything on Earth and in the heavens through movies, computer, smartphone, boob tube, and YouTube, but you can’t watch the Supremes deliberate. It’s done in a private room with nary a single witness. Nor, unless you’re among the few allowed into the elite chambers, can you watch them argue a case or pompously announce a decision in their ridiculous royal robes. (They might as well wear wigs.)

John and Jill Q. Public must appeal to the unwashed mob in order to win a mere two-year term in the House of Representatives, such as the current scramble to succeed Representative Lois Capps. But a lucky lawyer need only satisfy one person ​— ​the president ​— ​to be anointed to the court. (With consent, of course, of the nation’s richest and most politically and ideologically combative deliberative body: the U.S. Senate.)

Meanwhile, a changing world they find baffling goes on around the majority of the justices. Last week it was same-sex marriage. So far it’s become legal in 36 states, the District of Columbia, and 22 Native American jurisdictions. More than 70 percent of Americans live where it’s legal.

Polls say that public opinion now, by and large, thinks it’s no big deal. Come on, guys, there are real problems to deal with. The court majority needs to join the world of the 2000s. Look, I grew up on Chicago’s gritty South Side, but even the guys I played football with would have figured this same-sex thing out a long time ago. Why are the learned justices, mostly from East Coast Ivy League schools, having such a hard time?

Gays and lesbians have a dream, like the Rev. Martin Luther King. Dare they hope to be legally married, living the white-picket-fence dream, if they choose? In many states, like California, you can live that dream, although long overdue.

But behind the Court’s quasi-Romanesque temple’s 16 Corinthian columns last week, justices had the nerve to argue over the sheer effrontery of any change. Bah, humbug!

What’s the world coming to, anyway, conservative justices like buffoon Antonin Scalia lamented? After debating the burning issue, in secret, of course, they’re expected to announce a decision in June.

With the court usually split 5-4 on social-justice issues, all eyes now fall on Justice Anthony Kennedy, the probable swing vote. He’s written three decisions in favor of gay rights in past years. But this time? At last week’s oral arguments he seemed troubled. What’s his problem? This is an issue that should have been settled in five minutes.

“This definition [of man-woman marriage] has been with us for millennia,” Kennedy pointed out. “And it’s very difficult for the court to say, ‘Oh, well, we know better.’” How about because it’s your job?

In a nation where prejudice reaches a peak at 11 a.m. on Sundays, a group of prominent national Christian “leaders” have signed a pledge warning that they’ll resort to civil disobedience if the court legalizes gay marriage. They didn’t say what they’d do. Take to the streets, brandishing crosses? Reject collection plate offerings?

When California legalized same-sex marriage a few years ago, I went down to the Courthouse. There I watched middle-aged people with their children, tearfully rejoicing in the freedom to wed as full-fledged citizens.

I know two men who’ve loved one another for some time. Hard-working guys who live quiet lives. Their idea of fun is backpacking in the Sierra.

They live separately but are now in the midst of buying that white-picket-fence dream, and the mortgage that goes with it. They just want to live together, share morning coffee on the deck, buy groceries, cook dinner, have the in-laws over, and do what other people do.

They’ve now joined in a formal domestic partnership and are contemplating marriage. If so, I’ll be there for the ceremony, and I’d be honored if they asked me to be the best man.

Me, the kid from Chicago’s South Side.


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