Do you remember this incident involving the late Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell?
The Supreme Court is a wild card in the same-sex marriage debate. Lawyers widely believe there would be four justices on each side, leaving Justice Anthony M. Kennedy as the deciding vote. Like other parts of society, the court has changed its thinking over the years, particularly as justices have come to know gay men and lesbians personally. The late Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., who when writing a ruling upholding a sodomy ban told a secretly gay clerk that he had never “met a homosexual,” later said his decision was a mistake. — NYTimes
That was Bowers vs. Hardwick (uh-huh-huh:“Hardwck!”), 1986. In 2003, Lawrence vs. Texas, the Court reversed itself. In the interim, every blow job in Texas was a punishable offense. No, I’m not specifically describing George W. Bush.
But back to Justice Powell. By the year 1986, this adult, this educated professional, this esteemed justice serving his country on its highest court where his wisdom and judgment were influential on the entire American population, possibly for generations, didn’t know a gay person when he met one? In Washington, DC?
This account is mind boggling:
The Supreme Court decided Bowers in 1986 by a vote of 5 to 4. The deciding justice was the moderate Virginian Lewis Powell, whose views of the case shifted, eventually leading him to concur in the majority opinion. Powell, who had never met an open homosexual, struggled to understand the behavior at issue and the true stakes of the case. Unbeknownst to him, one of his law clerks was gay. Cabell Chinnis and Powell had several awkward conversations in chambers in which Chinnis tried to explain the mechanics and metaphysics of homosexuality to his distinguished and sheltered boss. At one point Chinnis nearly declared his own homosexuality. He did not, and Powell voted to uphold Georgia’s sodomy law. The encounter has haunted Chinnis ever since. — The Nation
Imagine that conversation, and the temptation on the part of the intern to just bend his boss over, lift his robe, and, um, file a motion. Or submit a brief. Whatever.
I bring this up because we’re about to hear from these learned justices once more, when this summer they address Obamacare. Keep this anecdote in mind when you consider each justice’s tunnel vision, closeted existence, obliviousness to reality, etc., and what it is in their human experience they bring when they emerge from under their rocks to pontificate their wisdom and judgments. It ain’t pretty, and frankly, it ain’t smart.
Just hope none of them says they never met a sick person. Or a poor person. Or an uninsured person. But don’t bet on it.