Quote Of The Day

“Oh, one other example about how not just the judges and scholars believed in originalism, but even the American people. Consider the 19th Amendment, which is the amendment that gave women the vote. It was adopted by the American people in 1920. Why did we adopt a constitutional amendment for that purpose? The Equal Protection Clause existed in 1920; it was adopted right after the Civil War. And you know that if the issue of the franchise for women came up today, we would not have to have a constitutional amendment. Someone would come to the Supreme Court and say, “Your Honors, in a democracy, what could be a greater denial of equal protection than denial of the franchise?” And the Court would say, “Yes! Even though it never meant it before, the Equal Protection Clause means that women have to have the vote.” But that’s not how the American people thought in 1920. In 1920, they looked at the Equal Protection Clause and said, “What does it mean?” Well, it clearly doesn’t mean that you can’t discriminate in the franchise — not only on the basis of sex, but on the basis of property ownership, on the basis of literacy. None of that is unconstitutional. And therefore, since it wasn’t unconstitutional, and we wanted it to be, we did things the good old fashioned way and adopted an amendment”. —Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, delivered the following remarks at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., on March 14, 2005

8 Responses to “Quote Of The Day”


  • Yes and in the 1920’s black folks couldn’t drink out of the smae water fountain as white folks…Ahh the good old days for Antonin.

  • No, on the contrary, that further establishes Antonin’s Scalia’s point, it was after all, elected officials — the President and Congress — who abolished slavery.

  • That is why it took another 45 years to rid us of legalized segregation…and to this day we still have very unequal school systems…Because change, comes out of the “good will” of our congresspeople and president. Imagine, we have to rely on the good will of our elected officials.

    Scalia: Your Honors, in a democracy, what could be a greater denial of equal protection than denial of the franchise?” And the Court would say, “Yes! Even though it never meant it before, the Equal Protection Clause means that women have to have the vote.

    The inetresting aspect of this is that after the abolition of slavery there were many historical figures from JOhn Brown to HOmer Plessy, to Frederick Douglass…on and on..asking our elected officials those same words about citizenship rights….and justices, elected officials all said no…until they were practically forced to in part as a result of living in hypocricy during the cold war as we condemned the soviet union for “denying rights and freedoms to its citizens” all while we did the same here…but it took 100 yrs to create an ammendment to address it….

  • Elected officials may be slow, but they are no worse than the Supreme Court. As Thomas Sowell wrote, “People who believe in judicial activism often cite “good” policies imposed by judges and “bad” policies created by elected officials. But you could just as easily cite the reverse. It was the Supreme Court which enhanced the rights of slaveowners in the Dred Scott case and it was elected officials — the President and Congress — who abolished slavery”.

    In addition, when it is done through elected officials, it is done through democratic means, and therefore has a way of settling the issue, by giving everybody a say.

  • It was the supreme court (Brown vs. BD of Ed. who banned segregation.

  • It was elected officials that gave us the civil rights legislation of the 1960’s….etc. 🙂

  • How does the term “Equal Protection” have any meaning at all outside of what society as a whole thinks it means? And why exactly should it matter what a bunch of racist, sexist, classist people *might* have thought it meant at some particular time, when it is clear here and now what we think it means? How can a phrase like “cruel and unusual punishment” not evolve with our modern understanding of such things? Should we have to have Constitutional amendments every 10 years that say: “we now mean the Constitution to ban ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ as we currently understand it”? Or, “we now no longer consider blacks to be an ‘inferior class’ — sorry ’bout that.”? Of course we don’t — the constitution was created to incorporate modern ideas through the use of general, flexible and inherently evolving terms. The only real argument, even for Scalia, is the degree to which judges should forge ahead in pushing change or merely ratify the changes that society already deems acceptable.

  • The only real argument, even for Scalia, is the degree to which judges should forge ahead in pushing change or merely ratify the changes that society already deems acceptable.

    I agree that this debate is more about degree than fundamental principles, but even so, if you are going to modify the constitutionality of something, I would rather it be done the hard way, through elected officials, the way where everybody is included, than through a few select judges.

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