Arguing against same-sex marriage, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas claims the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee human dignity.
Writing his dissent in response to the Supreme Court’s historic decision affirming that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, Thomas took issue with the concept of human “dignity” used by his colleagues in the majority to support their ruling in favor of marriage equality.
Making his case against marriage equality, Thomas argues that there is no “dignity” clause in the U.S. Constitution, and implying that the court should be blind to human dignity when rendering its decision.
In trying to show that the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee or protect human dignity, Thomas made some offensive claims, arguing that African Americans held as slaves did not lose their dignity because the government allowed them to be enslaved, and that Japanese Americans held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them. Thomas writes:
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 is wrong. The government can take away someone’s dignity. Both slavery and the Japanese internment camps are perfect examples of the state denigrating and denying the human dignity of those inflicted.
In his opinion, Thomas wants to argue that human dignity is “innate,” thus “the government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away.” However, while it may be true that human dignity is innate, it does not follow that human dignity cannot be denied or affirmed by the state.
Indeed, a proper reading of the U.S. Constitution would suggest that it is the state’s obligation to protect and affirm the dignity of every citizen.
Yet in his dissent, Thomas wrote that there is no “dignity” clause in the U.S. Constitution, while arguing that the government could not bestow dignity upon a person or take it away.
Again, Thomas is wrong. By ruling in favor of marriage equality, the court has indeed bestowed upon the LGBT community a dignity that was lacking prior to the ruling. And if the court had ruled against marriage equality, the court would have denied LGBT people the particular dignity associated with being able to enter into the legal contract of marriage.
The real question: what motivates this perverse line of reasoning. Thomas is doing some serious mental gymnastics to circumvent reason and justice in arguing against marriage equality.
One thing seems clear: rather than allowing reason to lead him to a just conclusion, Thomas knew his conclusion before even beginning to deliberate, and tortured reason, unsuccessfully, in a failed attempt to make it conform to his particular anti-gay prejudice.
However, followers of the court will not be surprised by Thomas’ tortured and perverse logic. Previously the Supreme Court justice argued that states may establish an official state religion, and saw no constitutional problem with an individual state declaring Christianity to be the official state religion.