“Judicial Activism” on Privacy

I’m tired of hearing the press refer to the recent Supreme Court decision solely as “a victory for gay rights.” The media, which habitually opts for the salacious and controversial over the serious, is only focusing on the lower half of the story.

The decision was a victory for citizen’s rights, declaring that the government cannot interfere in the sexual lives of its citizens — gay, straight, whatever — without some compelling state interest.

Enforced or not, it was the sodomy laws themselves that were the abomination, for they strayed so far from any common-sense notion of social good that they were appallingly deviant in nature. In a world that made sense, true Republicans would cheer their downfall.

You see, it used to be that Republicans merely wanted to be able to live their own lives and raise their families as they pleased, unfettered by “big government.” They still uphold that philosophy on some issues, as they endeavor to scale back the federal government on a range of issues, including guns, taxes, environmental regulations, health care and others.

Yet when it comes to issues that are the most personal and private in nature, like expressing one’s religious faith or choosing who to have sex with (and how), Republicans make a rhetorical about-face, insisting that the government must endorse their own lifestyles and hoist their own so-called morality onto the masses.

(As one observer noted, whenever right-wing ideologues disagree with a Supreme Court ruling, there are cries of “judicial activism.” Yet when the rulings go the other way, they are automatically seen as astute judicial wisdom.)

A few years ago, the only time I watched The West Wing, I heard a policy statement that truly made sense: It is pivotal that appointees to the Supreme Court recognize a fundamental right to privacy in the Constitution, because privacy will be one of the pivotal issues of this century. In the 1800’s, the key question was the role of government. Throughout the 1900’s, it was civil rights. And now, in this century, our dilemma will be privacy — defining the ever-blurring boundary between our merging public and private spheres of life.

It is important that we clarify these issues now, rather than allow these antiquated laws to form the legal precedent for broader, more insidious intrusions into our private lives.

I’m convinced that the courts are the best avenue to achieve that, because right now, the privacy platform of the empowered party is so contradictory, it’s incoherent.

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