The 10 Most Wild Lines From Antonin Scalia’s Extreme Dissent Over Gay Marriage

“Ask the nearest hippie.”

Mark Avery/ZUMA


In a 5-4 decision penned by Justice Anthony Kennedy and joined by the court’s liberal wing, the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the entire country Friday morning.

Unsurprisingly, the other four conservative justices on the court besides Kennedy disagreed, each writing his own dissent. Antonin Scalia’s, per usual, is a classic. Legalizing same-sex weddings isn’t just a threat to traditional marriage for Scalia. Nay, it is a sign of democracy’s downfall. Just “ask a hippie.”

Scalia opened his dissent by warning that legalizing marriage was not just a misreading of the law. He claims to not care one way or another about the concept of gay people getting married—though past opinions say otherwise. Rather, he felt compelled to write his own dissent in order to “call attention to this Court’s threat to American democracy”: “Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court.” Also he goes out of his way to bash fellow justices as pretentious poets.

Here are some of the other best lines:

  • “The world does not expect logic and precision in poetry or inspirational pop philosophy; it demands them in the law. The stuff contained in today’s opinion has to diminish this Court’s reputation for clear thinking and sober analysis.”
  • “When the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868, every State limited marriage to one man and one woman, and no one doubted the constitutionality of doing so. That resolves these cases.”
  • “Buried beneath the mummeries and straining-to-be-memorable passages of the opinion is a candid and startling assertion: No matter what it was the People ratified, the Fourteenth Amendment protects those rights that the Judiciary, in its ‘reasoned judgment,’ thinks the Fourteenth Amendment ought to protect.”
  • “This is a naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed, super-legislative—power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government.”
  • “But what really astounds is the hubris reflected in today’s judicial Putsch. The five Justices who compose today’s majority are entirely comfortable concluding that every State violated the Constitution for all of the 135 years between the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification and Massachusetts’ permitting of same-sex marriages in 2003.”
  • “The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic.”
  • “It is one thing for separate concurring or dissenting opinions to contain extravagances, even silly extravagances, of thought and expression; it is something else for the official opinion of the Court to do so.”
  • “Really? Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality (whatever that means) were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest hippie. Expression, sure enough, is a freedom, but anyone in a long-lasting marriage will attest that that happy state constricts, rather than expands, what one can prudently say.”
  • “If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.”
  • “Hubris is sometimes defined as o’erweening pride; and pride, we know, goeth before a fall.”

So long, Scalia’s erstwhile idea of democracy; hello, civil rights.

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