Scalia Dings California in Gay Marriage Dissent

Alex Wong / Getty
Alex Wong / Getty

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia took a swipe at California in his dissent of Friday’s landmark 5-4 ruling that made gay marriage a constitutionally protected right under the Fourteenth Amendment and legal in all 50 states.

In his now-infamous opinion, Scalia wrote that “a system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy,” adding:

Judges are selected precisely for their skills as lawyers; whether they reflect the policy views of a particular constituency is not (or should not be) relevant. Not surprisingly then, the Federal Judiciary is hardly a cross-section of America. Take, for example, this Court, which consists of only nine men and women, all of them successful lawyers who studied at Harvard or Yale Law School. Four of the nine are natives of New York City. Eight of them grew up in east-and west-coast states. Only one hails from the vast expanse in-between. Not a single Southwesterner, or even, to tell the truth, a genuine Westerner (California does not count).

Of course, California counted very much on Friday; the deciding vote in the Court’s decision on gay marriage came from Justice Anthony Kennedy, a California native.

“The limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples may long have seemed natural and just, but its inconsistency with the central meaning of the fundamental right to marry is now manifest,” Kennedy wrote in his opinion.

In many ways, Kennedy’s opinion reflects the longstanding public opinion shift toward the approval of gay marriage that got its start in the Golden State.

As The Sacramento Bee points out, then-San Francisco mayor, and now-Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, was the first in the country to order city officials to perform gay weddings in 2004. Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage, was passed in California in 2008, then overturned just a few years later.

“At long last, marriage equality in the United States,” San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee reportedly told a cheering crowd Friday, after the Court handed down its decision. “We started that movement. We started that movement right here in San Francisco.”

At a news conference on Friday, California Attorney General Kamala Harris called the day “an incredible day in history,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

“California is validated. We are validated,” Harris said. “Each day that one of those couples have to go without being able to have their marriage and their love legally recognized … is one day too long.”

Harris also reserved some sharp words for Scalia: “Don’t hate the playa, hate the game.”

“Justice Scalia has caused many people to question the dignity of the Court when he makes statements such as the statements he’s made in connection with this case,” Harris added. “And that’s unfortunate.”


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