Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Tried As Adults, Part 3

Today the Supreme Court struck down the practice in 19 states of putting to death criminals who committed their crimes as juveniles.  Once again the split decision was a 5-4 with O'Connor swinging to the right end of the spectrum and joining the Scalia faction in opposition to the majority, which issued an eloquent and cogent opinion rendered by Justice Kennedy.  I have long been suspicious of the term "state's rights" and have considered it little more than an excuse for the Jim Crow laws that dominated the South in the first half of the 20th Century.  Later, it became the cri de cour of those who would defend and excuse the practice of throwing queers in jail for "unnatural acts."  But how times do change!  Nowadays, state's rights (Federalism) is the only thing that allows Massachusetts to legally recognize same gender marriage.  So it is a mixed blessing.  And in our contentious political climate, it's good that we have such staunch defenders of state's rights as Scalia and Rehnquist.  The inner cynic, however, believes that Scalia's thundering denouncement of today's decision: "The court thus proclaims itself sole arbiter of our nation's moral standards" offends Scalia only because he personally disagrees.  If the court's "moral arbitration" fell on the side of conservative entrenchment rather than enlightened progress, he would find no reason to object. 

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