The Triumph of Justice

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The Supreme Court of the United States has an obligation to promote progress. This statement may come as shocking to those who believe the courts should play a limited role in the political sphere. However what proponents of such a position fail to realize is that taking a constructionist view of the constitution or refusing to strike down laws that are not coordinated with the spirit of the constitution is a political action. This view contains no less bias or “correctness” than those who make interpretations of the constitution to reflect the need to stay modern. Literal interpretations are still interpretations. They prefer to adopt the status quo instead of the progressive.

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I know that this may seem like ranting, but its importance becomes clear when examining a decision where, in my opinion, justice was not achieved. In the 1986 Bowers v Hardwick case, the Supreme Court of the United States failed to recognize the implicit, yet fundamental right to privacy in the constitution. The issue at stake was whether or not a state could constitutionally criminalize the practice of sodomy.  For more information on the case, click here.

Justice White, author of the majority decision, was very explicit of this fact by writing “The issue presented is whether the Federal Constitution confers a fundamental right upon homosexuals to engage in sodomy as hence invalidates the laws of the many States that still make such conduct illegal and have done so for a very long time.” (Found in the opinion of the court) This seemingly neutral statement already provides a bias. They are setting up the ground work to disregard the issue of the ramifications of their decision on those who choose to engage in the aforementioned actives.

Love is Love

From this point, Justice White sideswipes the precedents of Griswold v Conn. and Roe v Wade by stating, “Any claim that these cases nevertheless stand for the proposition that any kind of private sexual conduct between consenting adults is constitutionally insulated from state prescript is unsupportable.” (The decision) From here, he leans on tradition and judicial restraint to rule that the state can regulate sodomy. However, White conveniently ignores the tradition set of privacy from the government. The Bill of Rights along with the history of the nation set forth this precedent. By ruling that the state can regulate the sexual choices of individuals, arguably one of the most private aspects of one’s life, they ruled that privacy, unless it fits with the status quo, does not matter. This is where the real harm of the decision comes. It is in the moments that we find ourselves alone, not in the eyes of the world, and away from direct influence or persuasion, that we find who we are. If the privacy of sexual decisions is no longer considered important and underscored by the constitution, it is not a far step to consider the “undesirable” politics to be just as regulated by the state and thus the character of our common being.

Instead of rejecting the freedom to create oneself, we should embrace this responsibility. In Justice Blackmun’s dissent he writes, “Every free citizen has the same interest in ‘liberty’ that the members of the majority share.” This means that regardless of how popular one’s actions are, as long as they do not harm others, ought not to be regulated by the state. This philosophy is what has promoted  the progress we have seen, from a nation with slaves and without representation for most, to a nation with an improved standard of living and opportunity to make political change. So to the majority I say this, your philosophy toward privacy is dangerous, your decision ignores the winds of the future, and though you may slow down the development of our national identity, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice.”

Thinking

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8 Responses to The Triumph of Justice

  1. charisdanielle8 says:

    Adam, I really enjoy how your opinion is buried in your post. You get straight to point by addressing what is unjust and why you consider it that way.

    It is true that if it does not harm others, then there should not be a law against it. We live in a world where it seems that our neighbor strikes us down if they do not like our lifestyle choices.

  2. mernasyawish says:

    Great post! I liked how you mentioned the meaning of the “status quo” and with regards to that, the traditional values that our government has held back in history and still holds today when it comes to our laws and policies – primarily on the right wing! In your post you wrote, “By ruling that the state can regulate the sexual choices of individuals, arguably one of the most private aspects of one’s life, they ruled that privacy, unless it fits with the status quo, does not matter.” This encompasses the true meaning of how important sticking to the status quo was. With Bowers v Hardwick, the Supreme Court completely disregarded the plain and fundamental right to privacy in our constitution and what it represented for the people of America. They twisted that right, making it only valid if it fits with their traditional values. Obviously, two men who both participated in consensual sodomy, did not count as the right to privacy in their eyes because they were in fact homosexuals, which of course, did NOT fit in with their idea of the status quo. Your opinion is clear and I completely agree with you! I very much enjoyed reading your post!

  3. Tracy Encizo says:

    Adam, very enjoyable post – articulate and astute. This comment especially resonated: “… taking a constructionist view of the constitution or refusing to strike down laws that are not coordinated with the spirit of the constitution is a political action.” A living Constitution, which takes into account a society that grows, matures, and corrects its errors, is the only way to go but it does the highlight the seriousness at which we should take judicial appointments. Just Say No to the Status Quo!

  4. Wunderkynd says:

    I agree! Thank goodness it was overturned by Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003). See, justice was served… eventually. Great post!

  5. Hi Adam,
    Good post. I agree wholeheartedly at the inconsistency of the Justices when comparing Griswold and Bowers. However, I’ll make a defense of constructionism here. Sometimes a literal interpretation of the Constitution might be more progressive than popular politics of the time. The Taney court seemed to rule according to the tenor of the times in the Dred Scott decision. If SCOTUS decisions are supposed to reflect the will of the people, and the will of the people at a particular point in time reeks of bigoted, short-sighted, and unjust status quo thinking, we’re going to see rulings that reflect that.

    I would argue that a literal reading of the Bill of Rights clearly protects the privacy of homosexual couples too. Justice Blackmun recognized that fact.

  6. darrian01 says:

    Adam I really enjoyed your post. I feel like progression is what makes a country stronger, and if there is a stand still the people will not benefit. As Martin Luther King said, “change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle”. Laws should be determined by the masses not by individual or judicial bias, but something that the common people can consider their own and not question the origin.

  7. eifiguer says:

    Adam,
    I enjoyed reading your post and I’d like you to consider another point that you briefly brought up within your discussion. Not only does this court decision deny fundamental right, but furthermore it deny’s it to a specific group of people. This opens the door to denying rights not only to homosexuals, but to people that don’t fit the “norm” or the majority, or perhaps even a more accepted social group. This decision holds an idea that the United States Supreme Court, or the justice system as a whole can only give justice to white upper class citizens, other social classes aren’t as important or perceived as worth protecting their rights.

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