U.S.Supreme Court

Scalia: Founders Never Thought Gay Sex and Abortion Were Protected Liberties


Justice Antonin Scalia defended originalism on Friday, warning that interpreting the Constitution as a “living document” effectively allows “five out of nine hotshot lawyers to run the country.”

Unless judges give words in the Constitution their fair meaning, democracy doesn’t work, Scalia said in a speech at the University of Richmond. The Associated Press and the Richmond Times-Dispatch both covered the event.

Scalia criticized broad interpretations of the 14th Amendment’s due process clause, saying the phrase has been distorted from a guarantee of process to a guarantee of liberty. “But some of the liberties the Supreme Court has found to be protected by that word—liberty—nobody thought constituted a liberty when the 14th Amendment was adopted,” Scalia said. “Homosexual sodomy? It was criminal in all the states. Abortion? It was criminal in all the states.”

Scalia said the words of the Constitution should be interpreted as they were meant at the time they were written. To illustrate how the meaning of words can change over time, he gave a Looney Tunes example.

In the Old Testament, the word “nimrod” was used to describe a great hunter. But when Bugs Bunny used the word to describe Elmer Fudd, the meaning changed to mean an idiot.

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