If you are familiar with key political figures in the gay rights culture war, then you have probably heard of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.
Known for his frequent public condemnations of gay rights legislation and his defense of sodomy laws that target exclusively against gay couples, he isn’t exactly what you would call a tolerant, forward thinking kind of guy. He is widely known for keeping alive the tradition of disingenuously likening homosexuality to bestiality, incest, and murder, among other things.
Scalia has also asserted that it is perfectly lawful for the government to ban/criminalize “sodomy” between consenting adults, based on, what he calls, a “moral basis.”
Recently, Scalia spoke at Princeton University and had his derisive rhetoric challenged by freshman Duncan Hosie (who happens to be gay). Hosie asked Scalia why he deems it necessary to liken the consenting relationships of gay adults to animal rapists and murderers. Scalia responded, “I don’t think it’s necessary, but I think it’s effective.”
Well, vitriolic demagoguery certainly carries a level of “effectiveness,” when used opportunistically, as a means of rallying the disgruntled and uneducated in united xenophobic hatred against hapless minorities. However, I’m afraid that in a genuine intellectual arena, these sort of stupefying non sequiturs are not likely to get you very far.
Scalia added, “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?”
Now, take a moment to absorb and contemplate the fallacy and duplicity of that statement.
Hosie said that he found Mr. Scalia’s argument to be rather offensive and dehumanizing to gay people, and I agree. However, I would also say that it is equally offensive and degrading to the intellect of anyone it is presented to.
Scalia then concluded, stating he was surprised that Hosie was not “persuaded” by his argument.
Yes, how stubborn of us LGBTQ people to not accept that our relationships are so inherently inferior that they should, in the eyes of the law, be lumped aside animal rapists and serial killers. How unreasonable and egotistical of us.
If you truly are this dense, Scalia, let me inform you why I’m not persuaded.
This is the argument that Scalia has made consistently, almost every time the issue of gay rights is brought up. Here is the exact wording in his dissent of the Lawrence v. Texas case, which struck down sodomy laws as unconstitutional:
State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers’ validation of laws based on moral choices. Every single one of these laws is called into question by today’s decision; the Court makes no effort to cabin the scope of its decision to exclude them from its holding.
First of all, this argument is unpersuasive because it is based on the biased (and outright false) pretense that sodomy is inherently immoral or a moral issue in general. This argument starts from the premise:
“I am right and you are wrong. My morals are morals, and your morals are immoral.”
I find it somewhat frightening that Scalia thinks it is the government’s right, moreover his right, to regulate our sex lives- to bust down our doors, and to dragus off to prison for having sex in a manner that he doesn’t personally approve of.
As he seems to assert, all of this can be justified, based solely on his “moral convictions,” not legal precedent or a quantifiable government interest.
The purpose of the U.S. government is not and was never intended to micromanage and dictate the morality of every person in the country. This is a country founded on the notion of self-determination and individual liberty. The kind of system which Scalia evokes, is one in which the government has free reign to rigidly and arbitrarily dictate the lives and ethics of every person in the nation.
There is a word for such a system, and it is “totalitarianism.”
There is no euphemistic way of putting it. Scalia is an unabashed, totalitarian theocrat, and thus, in my opinion, is unfit and incapable of making rational, constitutional decisions on behalf of the American people.
Laws are not passed or reviewed on the basis of dubious moral imperatives, but through a complex system specifically designed to safeguard liberty from intrusive, tyrannical government statutes. Laws are expected to serve a legitimate public cause and are frequently weighed against individual rights. We do not live in a theocracy, nor do we live under a moral dictatorship.
So, Scalia, the reason why people are unconvinced by your argument, is because simply saying that you want to ban something, because you find it immoral, is the equivalent of saying “because I say so, that’s why.” We have a court system, as you know, that is based on evidence and discourse.
Scalia claims that his rhetorical method here is a “reduction to absurdity.” “Reductio ad absurdum” quickly becomes a form of “straw man” or “slippery slope,” when it is not properly substantiated. I can honestly say that I didn’t expect him to so expediently highlight the failure of his own thesis.
Truthfully, this is a form of fallacy I have seen countless times, from my debates with homophobes. It comes down to the fact that they cannot argue for any specific, quantifiable “dangers” that gay equality poses to society.
Article continues belowSo homophobes like Scalia find clever-dick ways of constructing ostentatious slippery slopes, non sequiturs, and, as Scalia himself pointed out, absurdum fallacies to make their case. They attempt to entangle the opposing side in a web of misleading verbiage and false parallels, in order to avoid fessing up to the fact that their views are based solely on bigotry and not evidence.
I commend Duncan Hosie for keeping his composure when confronted with someone, in a position of power, who would gladly see him, his friends, and loved ones dragged off to prison, given half a chance. It is not every day that we get to look straight into the unblinking face of unmitigated bigotry, and I think he handled himself very well.
I would also like to remind all my readers that Scalia is not a real threat to us. He is adherent to a decrepit, dying ideology. The opposition of gay rights is literally dying out. Scalia is a relic of the past, an antiquated throwback, left unable to cope in a growing, evolving world. His days are numbered, and his stunted, xenophobic worldview is in a terminal decline.
Even now, as DOMA and Proposition 8 loom closer to the Supreme Court, he will have very little influence over the outcome. He is a small, sad, frightened little man — nothing more, nothing less.