Sen. Warren calls Supreme Court Justice Alito a ‘political hack,’ Dems railing over his conservative comments
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is coming under intense fire by Congressional Democrats after he gave a constitutionally strong address Thursday evening for the Federalist Society’s annual meeting. The originalist took issue with current events that have impacted the rights of the American people. He hit a number of conservative talking points that were immediately set upon by liberal politicians and others on the left.
“For many today, religious liberty is not a cherished freedom. It’s often just an excuse for bigotry and can’t be tolerated, even when there is no evidence that anybody has been harmed,” Alito stated during the virtual event with the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention, a conservative legal network. “The question we face is whether our society will be inclusive enough to tolerate people with unpopular religious beliefs.”
“You can’t say that marriage is a union between one man and one woman. Until very recently that’s what the vast majority of Americans thought. Now,” said Alito, “it’s considered bigotry.
Democrats shot back quickly, upset by his argument that the landmark Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage has actually fueled religious intolerance. They labeled it as ‘inflammatory’. The media also roundly attacked Alito.
“Homophobic rhetoric isn’t a matter of free speech. It’s a matter of hate speech,” Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) said on Twitter Friday. “These are stunning, harmful words from Justice Alito.”
Homophobic rhetoric isn’t a matter of free speech. It’s a matter of hate speech.
These are stunning, harmful words from Justice Alito.
— Rep. Jimmy Gomez (@RepJimmyGomez) November 13, 2020
Gomez went on to highlight another Supreme Court case that reaffirmed the right to same-sex marriage. The Obergefell v. Hodges case (2015) found that the right to marry is guaranteed under the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) spoke out as well on Twitter, expressing anger over Alito’s comments.
“Supreme Court Justices aren’t supposed to be political hacks,” Warren said. “This right-wing speech is nakedly partisan,” she added.
Supreme Court Justices aren't supposed to be political hacks. This right-wing speech is nakedly partisan. My bill to #EndCorruptionNow restores some integrity to our Court by forcing Justices to follow the ethics rules other federal judges follow. https://t.co/VAjFAqGesN
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) November 13, 2020
Supreme Court justices do issue opinions, albeit rarely during an event. Especially one that could be lambasted politically. Justice Alito, however, used his speech to express what he believes is an attack on conservative values.
“One of the great challenges for the Supreme Court going forward will be to protect freedom of speech,” Alito said. “Although that freedom is falling out of favor in some circles, we need to do whatever we can to prevent it from becoming a second-tier constitutional right.”
Alito did not address moves by Democrats to pack the Supreme Court, but he did confront criticisms from congressional Democrats on the Supreme Court.
“Let’s go back to some basics: the Supreme Court was created by the Constitution, not by Congress, and under the Constitution, we exercise the judicial power of the United States,” he said as reported by the Wall Street Journal. “Congress has no right to interfere with that work any more than we have the right to legislate.”
Alito also addressed the COVID-19 crisis. “The pandemic has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty,” Alito said. “The Covid crisis has served as a sort of constitutional stress test and in doing so it has highlighted disturbing trends that were already in evidence before the pandemic struck.”
Alito said he was not minimizing the death toll of the coronavirus nor commenting on “the legality” of pandemic-era rules, yet he emphasized, “We have never before seen restrictions as severe, extensive and prolonged as those experienced for most of 2020.”
Alito sees the use of executive orders as the culmination of a dream held by “early 20th century progressives” and “the New Dealers of the 1930s” in which “policymaking would shift from narrow-minded elected legislators to an elite group of appointed experts.” He warned that after “the pandemic has passed, all sorts of things can be called an emergency or disaster of major proportions” to justify similar measures.
Alito also slammed a brief that Democratic senators filed last year in a gun rights case, warning the court that lawmakers might move to restructure the court if it continued to produce what the senators asserted were politically motivated rulings.
“It was an affront to the Constitution and the rule of law,” Alito said, paraphrasing remarks he made in court. “It is … wrong for anyone, including members of Congress, to try to influence our decisions by anything other than legal argumentation. That sort of thing has often happened in countries governed by power, not law.”
A number of liberal lawyers took to Twitter on Thursday night to accuse Alito of hypocrisy for delivering a highly politically charged speech that was devoted in part to complaining about lawmakers casting the court as political.
“This speech is like I woke up from a vampire dream,” University of Baltimore law professor and former federal prosecutor Kim Wehle wrote. “Unscrupulously biased, political, and even angry. I can’t imagine why Alito did this publicly. Totally inappropriate and damaging to the Supreme Court.”