Justice Alito Doesn’t Know What Liberty Means

But he may be the high court’s new leading voice

James Finn
Nov 13, 2020 · 7 min read
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Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr — Caricature by DonkeyHotey on Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

What does any of this have to do with Justice Alito?

Bear with me. Writing in Slate, Mark Joseph Stern calls Alito’s pre-recorded Zoom keynote address an unethical and ill-advised “taunt to the left,” calling the justice “a bitter partisan out to settle scores.”

What Alito thinks about liberty is frightening

The justice is already on the record doubting the high court made the right call in Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 decision that found same-sex couples enjoy a fundamental right to marry under the Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection of the law.

Video excerpt of Justice Alito’s keynote address to the Federalist Society

Alito’s ideas are provocative and incoherent

The justice can’t seem to decide which liberty interest he’s most concerned about. At times (as in Thomas’s dissent), he claims equal marriage infringes the free exercise of religion. At other times, he claims equal marriage is a threat to freedom of speech. Both arguments are sloppy to the point of incoherency, shocking from the mouth of a learned judge.

Equal marriage does not infringe anyone’s religious exercise

This ought to go without saying, but marriage in the United States is and always has been a purely civil institution. Sometimes ministers in churches formalize marriages but that’s an optional custom with no legal force or meaning.

Equal marriage does not infringe anyone’s speech rights

Justice Alito complained yesterday that equal marriage “has crushed the free speech of anti-LGBTQ advocates,” but he provided not one example. Instead, he bitterly rued that such advocates are being labeled as bigots.

When my dad and I drove to that wedding, we feared for my cousin’s safety

We did not want her to get married, and my dad had spoken up with strong opinions about why. We consulted other family members and did everything we could to help.

Justice Alito needs to hear the following —

  • Stopping people from making their own choices is not liberty
  • Imposing religious practice on others is not liberty
  • Being free from the consequences of speech is not liberty

If you’re not LGBTQ or don’t care much about marriage equality, be warned

Alito’s views on contraception are equally concerning. Think we decided generations ago that women have a right to contraception? Alito doesn’t agree. As for abortion, he’s signaled he’d overturn Roe v Wade. And to top it all off, he thinks regulating church attendance during a pandemic is an “unimaginable restriction on individual liberty.”

Trump has given the U.S. a new Supreme Court with an emerging leadership that is hyper-partisan and unafraid of eroding real liberty. This problem won’t fix itself. The sooner we understand how bad it is, the better.

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James Finn

Written by

Writer. Runner. Marine. Airman. Former LGBTQ and HIV activist. Former ActUpNY and Queer Nation. Polyglot. Middle-aged, uppity faggot. jamesfinnwrites@gmail.com

James Finn - The Blog

Collected Writings. Stories and ramblings from a long-time LGBTQ thinker and activist.

James Finn

Written by

Writer. Runner. Marine. Airman. Former LGBTQ and HIV activist. Former ActUpNY and Queer Nation. Polyglot. Middle-aged, uppity faggot. jamesfinnwrites@gmail.com

James Finn - The Blog

Collected Writings. Stories and ramblings from a long-time LGBTQ thinker and activist.

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