What a monster of a week for court watchers. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (U.S. v. Windsor), upheld same-sex marriage in California (Hollingsworth v. Perry), neutered the landmark civil rights legislation the Voting Rights Act (Shelby County v. Holder), and punted on affirmative action (Fisher v. University of Texas).
Here are the top ten quotes from justices writing majority, concurring, and dissenting opinions this week:
- "DOMA writes inequality into the entire United States Code... [it] forces same-sex couples to live as married for the purpose of state law but unmarried for the purpose of federal law, thus diminishing the stability and predictability of basic personal relations the State has found it proper to acknowledge and protect." Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, U.S. v. Windsor.
- "At least without some more convincing evidence that the Act's principal purpose was to codify malice, and that it furthered no legitimate government interests, I would not tar the political branches with the brush of bigotry." Chief Justice John Roberts, dissenting, U.S. v. Windsor.
- "[The Majority opinion striking down DOMA] is an assertion of judicial supremacy over the people's Representatives in Congress and the Executive. It envisions a Supreme Court standing (or rather enthroned) at the apex of government, empowered to decide all constitutional questions, always and everywhere 'primary' in its role." Justice Antonin Scalia, dissenting, U.S. v. Windsor.
- "Some might conclude that this loaf could have used a while longer in the oven. But that would be wrong; it is already overcooked. The most expert care in preparation cannot redeem a bad recipe." Justice Scalia, dissenting, U.S. v. Windsor.
- "We have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation." Justice Scalia (referring to DOMA), dissenting, U.S. v. Windsor.
- "Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions." Chief Justice Roberts (referring to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act), writing for the majority, Shelby County v. Holder.
- "Given a record replete with examples of denial or abridgment of a paramount federal right, the Court should have left the matter where it belongs: in Congress' bailiwick." Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (referring to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act), dissenting, Shelby County v. Holder.
- "Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet ... Hubris is a fit word for today's demolition of the VRA." Justice Ginsburg, dissenting, Shelby County v. Holder.
- "I have several times explained why government actors, including state universities, need not be blind to the lingering effects of 'an overtly discriminatory past,' the legacy of 'centuries of law-sanctioned inequality.'" Justice Ginsburg, dissenting, Fisher v. University of Texas.
- "Slaveholders argued that slavery was a 'positive good' that civilized blacks and elevated them in every dimension of life ... A century later, segregationists similarly asserted that segregation was not only benign, but good for black students ... The University's professed good intentions [with affirmative action] cannot excuse its outright racial discrimination any more than such intentions justified the now denounced arguments of slaveholders and segregationists." Justice Thomas, concurring, Fisher v. University of Texas.
- "Legalistic argle-bargle." Justice Scalia, dissenting, U.S. v. Windsor.
Brendan Fischer, Isabel Carson, and Laura Steigerwald contributed to this article.