Justice Clarence Thomas on Friday wrote a fiery dissent in response to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision that gay couples have a constitutional right to marry.
In it, he took issue with the concepts of “liberty” and “dignity.” He argued that the petitioners in this case were not deprived of their liberty, as they have been allowed to travel and settle freely without government intervention.
This is why, Thomas wrote, the majority led by Justice Anthony Kennedy focused its opinion on the petitioners’ “dignity.”
But Thomas wrote that there is no “dignity” clause in the US Constitution — and that, even if there was, the government could not bestow it upon a person or take it away.
To make his point, he invoked the examples of slavery and internment camps. From his dissent:
The corollary of that principle is that human dignity cannot be taken away by the government. Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them. And those denied governmental benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because the government denies them those benefits. The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away.
Thomas went on to write that one’s liberty and dignity should be shielded from the government — not provided by it.
“Today’s decision casts that truth aside. In its haste to reach a desired result, the majority misapplies a clause focused on ‘due process’ to afford substantive rights, disregards the most plausible understanding of the ‘liberty’ protected by that clause, and distorts the principles on which this Nation was founded. Its decision will have inestimable consequences for our Constitution and our society,” Thomas wrote in conclusion.
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