‘Nightmare on court’ soon to go
I have been waiting for Justice Anthony Kennedy to say the words “I retire,” for more than a quarter century.
The first time I longed to hear that phrase was in 1992 when he penned the majority decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. This was the case, originating in Pennsylvania, that was going to put the stake through the dark heart of Roe v. Wade.
Except it didn’t go as planned.
Kennedy, picked by President Reagan and confirmed by a Senate, was supposed to be the conservative vote that would finally tip the court in favor of life. He was a Catholic, a Republican, and he probably played golf. The jurist of conservative Catholic dreams.
Instead, he was the conservative Catholics’ worst nightmare.
On June 29, 1992, Kennedy read the decision he will be remembered for in pro-life circles, the one that reaffirmed the core principles of Roe and shot down any hope that unborn children would find protection under the Constitution.
As the years progressed, it only got worse. Kennedy took it upon himself to be the Great Liberator, removing the shackles from a prudish and — in his view — unjust society. He single-handedly legalized sodomy in the 2003 decision Lawrence v. Texas, and did so in the most unnecessarily generous way possible, noting that the government cannot “define the meaning of the (intimate sexual) relationship or set its boundaries absent injury to a person or abuse of an institution the law protects.”
This prompted an increasingly agitated Scalia to warn in his dissent that we had greased the slippery slope of moral relativism to the point that — crazy as it seemed — we’d be legalizing same sex marriage in a few years.
It actually took 12 more years before Scalia’s prophecy became reality, in Obergefell v. Hodges written by, you guessed it.
By that point, I’d given up on Kennedy. At least with the avowed liberals on the court, there was no hope they’d ever do anything I could support, admire or even understand.
But Kennedy had been like Lucy in Peanuts, always promising that he’d come over from the dark side and stand with his conservative brethren. He might throw us a bone like he did when he wrote the opinion banning a particularly gruesome form of partial birth abortion. Each year, on the last day of a session I’d think, maybe this is when he finally goes home to Sacramento to ferment grapes and write Harlequin novels under the pen name of DeAnthony Le Supreme. But each year, he’d say, “See you in October.”
Not this time. First, there was that amazing decision upholding the free speech rights of pro-life groups. Then came the shocking-not-shocking ruling on the travel ban. Then came the opinion against unions. And then, the 81-year-old justice announced his retirement.
I couldn’t catch my breath. It was hard to believe that the all-powerful swing justice was headed out to pasture.
Hallelujah, pass the popcorn.
We’ll finally get opinions that don’t sound they belong in Oprah’s Book Club.
And, maybe, some justice for unborn babies.