Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia Dies

Antonin Scalia

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, well known to LGBT people for his antigay positions in landmark cases, has died, a Texas newspaper reports.

Scalia, 79, was found dead today at the Cibolo Creek Ranch, a resort near of Marfa, reports the San Antonio Express News. He appears to have died in his sleep of natural causes, according to El Paso TV station KVIA. He was on a quail hunting trip there, the station reports.

He had arrived at the ranch Friday with a party of about 40 people and went to his room after dinner, apparently not feeling ill, according to the local reports. But when he did not emerge for breakfast, a ranch employee went to his room and found him dead.

Scalia was arguably the most conservative voice on the high court and was a reliable opponent of LGBT equality. In his dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges, last June's marriage equality decision, his snarky advice was to ask “the nearest hippie” if marriage affords freedom of intimacy. He also asked, “Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality (whatever that means) were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage.”

He also called the majority opinion in that case “the furthest extension in fact — and the furthest extension one can even imagine — of the Court’s claimed power to create 'liberties' that the Constitution and its Amendments neglect to mention. This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.”

In his dissent in Romer v. Evans, the 1996 decision overturning Colorado’s Amendment 2 — which would have prevented any governmental unit within the state from enacting or enforcing gay-inclusive antidiscrimination laws, he wrote, “The Court has mistaken a Kulturkampf for a fit of spite. The constitutional amendment before us here is not the manifestation of a ‘bare … desire to harm’ homosexuals … but is rather a modest attempt by seemingly tolerant Coloradans to preserve traditional sexual mores against the efforts of a politically powerful minority to revise those mores through use of the laws.”

In Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 ruling overturning antisodomy laws, Scalia's dissent asserted that his fellow justices had "largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct." He continued, "Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home. They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive."

And in his 2013 dissent in Windsor v. U.S., which invalidated the main section of the Defense of Marriage Act, he called the majority opinion "legalistic argle-bargle."

Scalia often expressed antigay views outside the court as well. Speaking to first-year law students at Georgetown University last fall, he said that the court could recognize constitutional protections for racial and religious minorities, but beyond that, it did not have the power to decide who is a minority deserving of legal protection. If the court believes LGBT people merit protection, he said, it could just as well extend that to child molesters.

“What about pederasts?” he asked, with some sarcasm. “What about child abusers? So should I on the Supreme Court say this is a deserving minority. Nobody loves them. … No, if you believe in democracy, you should put it to the people.”

He also said, “The notion that everything you care a lot about has to be in the Constitution is a very dangerous notion. It begins with stuff that we all agree upon … and at the bottom of that slope is same-sex marriage.”

At Princeton University in 2013, he told a student, "If we cannot have moral feelings against or objections to homosexuality, can we have it against anything?" And just last month, appearing at a high school in Louisiana, he said there is no constitutional basis for separation of church and state. A devout Catholic, he was also a staunch opponent of abortion rights and supporter of gun rights.

His death means President Obama will have to nominate a new justice, although today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell contended that any nomination should wait until the next president is elected, NBC News reports. The Senate is in charge of confirming Supreme Court nominees.

Scalia was nominated to the high court by President Reagan in 1986, making him the longest-serving justice. He had previously been general counsel for President Nixon and an assistant U.S. attorney general. He was the first justice to die in office since Chief Justice William Rehnquist in September 2005, NBC notes.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.