After making headlines earlier this year for intimating in a dissenting opinion that marriage equality needed to be overturned, Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito has returned to that discussion in a set of remarks. The speech, which were made at this year's virtual Federalist Society convention, was unusually political for a sitting justice, as Slate's Mark Stern noted on Twitter as he live-tweeted.
"That was easily the most political speech I've ever seen delivered by a Supreme Court Justice," he wrote. "Wow. Same-sex marriage, guns, abortion, contraception, persecution of the Federalist Society ... he really squeezed it all in there. Yikes."
In the speech, which was streamed on YouTube, Alito reasserts his objection to the Obegerfell v Hodges decision which secured marriage equality. This came after previously bringing up Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a Supreme Court case in which a baker declined to provide a same-sex couple with a wedding cake.
"You can't say that marriage is a union between one man and one woman," Alito said, in a part of the speech revolving around freedom of speech. "Until very recently, that's what the vast majority of Americans thought. Now it's considered bigotry.
"That this would happen after our decision in Obergefell should not have come as a surprise," he continued. "Yes, the opinion of the court meant to calm the furors of those who cling to traditional views on marriage. But I could see, and so did the other justices in dissent, where the decision would lead. I wrote the following: 'I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers and schools.' That is just what is coming to past.
"One of the great challenges for the Supreme Court going forward will be to protect freedom of speech," he said. "Although that freedom is falling out of favor in some circles we need to do whatever we can to prevent it from becoming a second-tier constitutional right."
The timing of the statement is not likely incidental.
"This was a hyper-political, partisan speech, and his message in sum was: 'I'm free to say this now. We have the votes'" Chris Geidner, the Director of Strategy at The Justice Collaborative tweeted, referencing Amy Coney Barrett's ascent to the bench, locking in a conservative majority. "This has been the path Alito has been tip-toeing down since Scalia died, but he always sort of stopped before going all the way there (outside of arguments and opinions.)"
Alito's statements begin around minute 16.