Mary Jo Melone: What a guy — Antonin Scalia on hate, guns and gridlock


Social etiquette requires that I not speak ill of the dead, but when the dead man was a U.S. Supreme Court Justice — namely, Antonin Scalia — speaking ill (civilly, although that is not in fashion) is an absolute necessity.

Especially now. After Orlando.

Scalia defended criminalizing gay sex because many people don’t like gays. “They view this as protecting themselves from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.”

He said banning gay sex was no different from banning murder.

He said protecting gays from job discrimination would give them a special right because employers can refuse to hire “Republicans,” “adulterers” or a woman who “wears real animal fur”— as if being gay was a choice, like choosing a political affiliation, deciding to cheat on a spouse, or picking what to wear.

Perhaps Scalia also believed that the gays slaughtered at Pulse should have just stayed home that night, or that their heartbroken parents should have despised them instead.

If you do not believe that there is a direct line from that hatred — from a man who had the power to circumscribe the expression of a man or woman’s elemental identity — to the self-hate that apparently drove Omar Mateen, I cannot convince you. But the stain of this massacre belongs to Scalia, and those who endorse his, to borrow a word from him, animus.

His followers had to be careful around Scalia, however. Sometimes, the great man lets them down.

He believed that the Second Amendment was not absolute. The right only belongs to commonly used guns, not the most lethal, he wrote in the 2008 decision, District of Columbia v. Heller.

Could assault weapons be limited? Maybe, although Scalia did not directly name any type of weapon. He argued that “historical tradition” prohibits “the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.”

Assault rifles are the go-to gun for mass killers now. Estimates are that these weapons comprise five to 10 million of the nation’s hideous total of approximately 300-million guns. That’s one for every one of us, who are having to accept the fact of mass murder like we accept the fact of turkey on Thanksgiving.

So Scalia offered up some hope along with his hate.

And, for good measure, despair.

The man believed in legislative gridlock of the sort that makes the rest of us ready to give up on Congress — the gridlock that has occurred because the party that enthroned Scalia blocks most reasonable, effective gun control measures, no matter that most of us long for them.

Scalia once said we “should learn to love gridlock.”

Even when 49 people are massacred?

Even when more will almost certainly die?

Even when this is supposed to be a representative government?

And the rest of us have had enough, enough?


Tampa-based writer Mary Jo Melone is a former columnist for the Tampa Bay Times.

Mary Jo Melone

Veteran columnist Mary Jo Melone is a freelance writer and an alumna of the St. Petersburg Times.


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