Comparing homosexuality to murder is not necessary but is effective, says Scalia.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia explained to a crowd at Princeton University that drawing parallels between consensual sex and murdering a person or sexually assaulting an animal is “effective” as a rhetorical device, because they’re all just questions of morality.

Speaking at Princeton University, Scalia was asked by a gay student why he equates laws banning sodomy with those barring bestiality and murder.

“I don’t think it’s necessary, but I think it’s effective,” Scalia said, adding that legislative bodies can ban what they believe to be immoral.

“It’s a form of argument that I thought you would have known, which is called the ‘reduction to the absurd,’” Scalia told [Princeton student Duncan] Hosie of San Francisco during the question-and-answer period. “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?”

Scalia said he is not equating sodomy with murder but drawing a parallel between the bans on both.

Then he deadpanned: “I’m surprised you aren’t persuaded.”

“I’m not saying homosexuality is just like murder. I’m just saying that anti-gay laws are kind of like anti-murder laws. And if you weren’t so darn gay, you’d understand that.”

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33 Responses

  1. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune December 14, 2012 at 2:11 pm |

    Yes, but he’s a NICE GUY! Why can’t you people understand that NICE GUYS COMPARE HOMOSEXUALITY TO MURDER TOO? It’s society’s fault!

    1. Radiant Sophia
      Radiant Sophia December 14, 2012 at 2:19 pm |

      Sooooooo wrong.

      I’m totally not surprised by his response though. He could have hardly said anything else.

  2. Drahill
    Drahill December 14, 2012 at 2:19 pm |

    And here I was operating under the impression that murder was illegal not because it was defined as immoral but because it was found to be an unjustifiable violation of another’s constitutionally and civilly gauranteed right to, you know, live.

    And here I thought that homosexual conduct can’t be compared to murder because the conduct is consensual and thus, you know, no violation of any civil right takes place. Good lord, I must go brush up on my legal concepts.

  3. Wordwizard
    Wordwizard December 14, 2012 at 2:43 pm |

    It is SO fortunate that he chose to come out to his family just before this event–and if everyone else would follow his example, it would be so much harder for this kind of intolerance and oppression to continue!

  4. Becca Stareyes
    Becca Stareyes December 14, 2012 at 3:09 pm |

    It doesn’t even make sense: there’s plenty of behavior I find immoral but have little desire to legislate (lying, for example, and generally being an asshole). And there’s plenty of things I have little moral opinion on, but want to see legislatures looking at (like making up budgets… or a lot of the details that just needs consistent rules).

    Heck, Scalia probably finds my atheism immoral, but even he should be aware of exactly what would happen if someone tried to make and enforce a law against atheists or atheism.

  5. SophiaBlue
    SophiaBlue December 14, 2012 at 3:35 pm |

    So can we create a law that makes it mandatory for everyone to flip the bird at Scalia whenever they see him? Because it’s clearly immoral NOT to flip the bird at him, and we don’t want to go down a slippery slope that would lead to legalizing murder, would we?

  6. Jadey
    Jadey December 14, 2012 at 3:42 pm |

    Wait, is there a difference between first and second-degree homosexuality? Is it automatically first-degree if your partner is a cop? How does manslaughter fit into this??

    1. RoryBorealis
      RoryBorealis December 14, 2012 at 5:29 pm |

      Are there aggravating factors? Canada got rid of felony murder, but it still exists in the States–will the same be true of homosexuality? Scalia has left so many questions unanswered! Staring with “How could anyone have every think is was a good idea to appoint this asshat to the Bench on the first place?”

      1. RoryBorealis
        RoryBorealis December 14, 2012 at 5:30 pm |

        Er, “…ever thought.” Trying to wrap my brain around Scalia’s argument seems to caused a malfunction.

    2. librarygoose
      librarygoose December 14, 2012 at 7:35 pm |

      Wait, is there a difference between first and second-degree homosexuality?

      Where you put your mouth?

      1. RoryBorealis
        RoryBorealis December 14, 2012 at 7:52 pm |

        Or whether is was premeditated?

      2. Tim
        Tim December 15, 2012 at 1:17 pm |

        Maybe really butch gay men and really femme lesbians would be allowed to plead second-degree homosexuality because they wouldn’t offend the sight and sensibilities of the moral people as much. Or would it be the other way around, because the effeminate gay men and the butch lesbians would conform to assigned stereotypes and therefore not disturb the good American’s worldview? Damned if I know.

    3. cherrybomb
      cherrybomb December 20, 2012 at 1:30 pm |

      It’s only second degree homosexuality if you normally don’t do “that sort of thing” but were seduced by a real card-carrying-homosexual, or influenced by the consumption of alcohol or sexy queer cinema that made it look too good not to try it.

      (I’m guilty of the first-degree homosexuality, but I look so femme I can easily plead to second-degree– which was my plan all along, because I’m crafty like that.)

  7. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. December 14, 2012 at 4:10 pm |

    Someone remind me why this putrid shit stain is recognized as anything more than the bigotted buffoon he is? How is he possibly considered a “legal scholar”? He responds with “its effective.” ITS EFFECTIVE. Yeah, bigotry is often effective, you asshole. The role of the court is supposed to be to protect those who are disenfranched not provide intellectual cover for continuing to disenfranchise more people. He ought to be impeached for being the biggest fucking tool in the U.S.

    1. DouglasG
      DouglasG December 14, 2012 at 10:35 pm |

      [The role of the court is supposed to be to protect those who are disenfranched not provide intellectual cover for continuing to disenfranchise more people.]

      The part that saddens me about reading the comments on the related articles at the linked site is that the posters who sound like the judges of the future are almost all the ones tacking an obligatory-seeming statement (of the kind most likely to be dropped within the next five years) of personal support for gay rights onto the beginning of a lengthy explanation of how Mr S “won the exchange” or was correct in his dissents in Romer v Evans and Lawrence v Texas. I just hope that those they seem so ready and willing to continue to disenfranchise will attain enfranchisement before they’re able.

  8. Tim
    Tim December 14, 2012 at 4:55 pm |

    I wonder if Big Tony is even remotely aware of the fact that he trashed his own argument in that little exchange? Unless I got something wrong in high-school rhetoric class, a reductio ad absurdem argument is considered a weak one — you generally point out that your opponent made one, not that you, yourself, just made one against your questioner. And the fact that he was such a patronizing ass to Mr. Hosie is just shit icing on the ass cake.

    1. Donna L
      Donna L December 14, 2012 at 5:25 pm |

      No; this is incorrect. A reductio ad absurdum argument is something you make yourself, to point out that logic of your opponent’s position or theory will lead to absurd results if applied generally. Scalia is wrong about just about everything, but he was correct about this.

      1. Past my expiration date
        Past my expiration date December 14, 2012 at 5:53 pm |

        But isn’t the point of his argument to refute the idea that people cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality?

        And if so, who is saying that people cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality? Even though I wish they didn’t, obviously people can have these feelings. And do. People have moral feelings against all kinds of stuff. The issue is whether these moral feelings justify a law, not whether people can have them.

        Or am I missing something, not being a brilliant legal scholar and all?

        1. matlun
          matlun December 14, 2012 at 6:44 pm |

          The type of argument can be classified without getting into the correctness in all the steps of the argument.

          I agree with Donna: Scalia is wrong, but the argument he used was still a reductio ad absurdum.
          Basically he is trying to argue:
          - The same argument used against this law could also be used against other crimes, such as murder
          - Since that would be absurd, the argument can not be correct.

          At least according to my google skills. This all appears to be about his Romer v. Evans dissent.

        2. Donna L
          Donna L December 14, 2012 at 7:00 pm |

          I’m not saying it’s a successful reductio ad absurdum argument — it’s not — only that technically speaking it does fall into that category of argument (given that he argues that if you can’t ban homosexuality it logically follows that you can’t ban murder and be consistent, blah blah blah, even though, as others point out, laws against murder are based on far more than a purely moral judgment).

          I’d prefer to turn his argument around and make my own reductio ad absurdum argument against his, in the other direction: if a legislature has a right to ban whatever it believes is immoral, even if it does no harm, is he seriously suggesting that if “the homosexuals” ever came to power in a state and decided to outlaw heterosexual sex, or straight people having babies because they believed that they were immoral (because the world doesn’t need more people), he would uphold such a law? If it’s OK to outlaw “sodomy,” why isn’t it OK to outlaw PIV?

        3. yes
          yes December 15, 2012 at 12:46 am |

          My favorite part of his reductio ad absurdum argument is how susceptible it is to that very tactic.

          If we can’t have moral objections to heterosexuality, how can we have objections to homosexuality?

          If we can’t have moral objections to miscegenation, how can we have objections to homosexuality?

          If we can’t have moral objections to bodily autonomy, how can we have objections to homosexuality?

          If we can’t have moral objections to love, how can we have objections to homosexuality?

      2. Tim
        Tim December 14, 2012 at 7:45 pm |

        I was accepting Scalia’s assertion that he had made a reductio ad absurdum argument. My point really was that answering the student in that way, by patronizingly lecturing him about the philosophical form of his own arguments, made him (Scalia) look rather weak, petty and silly. And like something of a bully, which he is.

        Actually, I think that instead of reductio ad absurdum, Scalia was engaging in more of a slippery slope fallacy. But I am neither a legal titan or a scholarly philosopher, so I don’t know.

    2. Kasabian
      Kasabian December 14, 2012 at 6:01 pm |

      I don’t think he’s using reducto ad at all. He’s simply moving the goalposts, as most anti-gay arguments do. Don’t like the fact that it’s about civil rights? Try and make it about religion or morality! -eyeroll-

      1. Schmorgluck
        Schmorgluck December 15, 2012 at 2:09 am |

        Actually, I think he’s using a Straw Man argument, instead. Interestingly, the Wikipedia article on reductio ad absurdum notes that, if done improperly (intentionally or not), it can easily become a Straw Man argument.

  9. tomek
    tomek December 14, 2012 at 5:55 pm |

    i think it ok to legislate on moral issue. should be legislate against thing what vast majority of people is find immoral. we find violation of human right immoral, we legislate against. but homosexuality is good. so we should not legislate against.

  10. matlun
    matlun December 14, 2012 at 5:59 pm |

    Why does none of the articles attacking Scalia’s comparison of these laws actually include the actual quote referenced? Isn’t that pretty sloppy journalism?

    I actually think this argument against Scalia is pretty weak. He was not comparing them in any meaningful way – that was obviously just a part of his argument where he used murder as an example of an act that is unambiguously wrong.

    Now, Scalia made that argument since he believes that for example laws against sodomy are constitutional, and he is clearly homophobic. But the problem here is not that he “compared homosexuality and murder”, it is simply that he believes that it is legitimate to see homosexuality as morally reprehensible. The specific phrasing is a distraction.

  11. A4
    A4 December 14, 2012 at 8:32 pm |

    “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?”

    He said this straight to a gay person’s face! What an asshole!! He’s all, “You hate murder right? Well some people feel like you’re murdering marriage with all of your gay love! See how effective this argument is? You can go from 0 to asshole in 2 sentences!”

    He warms up with the condescension, before he delivers a big stinky pellet of shitassery.

    Effective!

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune December 14, 2012 at 8:50 pm |

      He warms up with the condescension, before he delivers a big stinky pellet of shitassery.

      Perfect. I LOLed.

      (I apologised to you on the other thread btw, dunno if you caught it, that comment disappeared quickly from the recent queue)

      1. A4
        A4 December 14, 2012 at 9:31 pm |

        I did! and I replied, and now it’s in mod because magic. You are too nice though, to reassure my feelings here as well.

  12. konkonsn
    konkonsn December 15, 2012 at 1:03 am |

    Wait. Not necessary? But effective?

    So, “I don’t have to make this comparison, and I know I don’t have to make it. But I’m choosing to because I know it works really well as anti-gay propaganda.”

  13. Foxy
    Foxy December 15, 2012 at 1:45 am |

    Government should get out of marriage business

  14. Michelle
    Michelle December 16, 2012 at 5:03 am |

    Was Scalia as patronizing and demeaning as he sounds from the quotes?
    “I’m surprised you aren’t persuaded.” “It’s a form of argument I thought you’d know.”
    Christ.

  15. Dominic
    Dominic December 29, 2012 at 4:11 pm |

    “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?”

    By “moral feelings against,” I assume that Scalia means “moral objection to.” Scalia’s woolly phrasing reveals the problem with his comment. No one is trying to prevent people from having moral objections to homosexuality. Indeed, no one can prevent people from having moral objections to anything: to do so would be an infringement of freedom of thought. However, if you believe that others should share your moral objection, and especially if you feel that government should legislate in response to your moral objection, you need to explain why you find something immoral.

    Like most people, I think I could make a reasonable case for my moral objection to murder. Scalia and those in his camp are welcome to try to do the same for homosexuality. I think they will fail.

    Fundamentally, Scalia probably just finds gay sex a bit icky. This is a feeling. Scalia’s comment implies that people’s vague feelings about homosexuality – otherwise known as bigotry and prejudice – should be respected as moral objections. But they shouldn’t be. Can people have “moral feelings against homosexuality”? No. They can have either a moral objection to it or a feeling that they don’t like it. They can try to explain the former if they wish; no one has to pay any attention to the latter. And the two kinds of reaction should be kept well apart.

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