Hocus Pocus on SCOTUS
Thousands of people across the country were enthralled with the amazing performances of Erik Weisz. For a decade, beginning in 1907, Weisz traveled from town to town as the main-stage event. Erik Weisz, of course, was better known as Harry Houdini. His escape routines were extremely difficult and captivated audiences with seemingly impossible escapes.
Houdini’s most famous act was his escape from a Chinese Water Torture Cell, in which he was suspended upside down in a locked glass and steel cabinet, full to overflowing with water. He was able to hold his breath for three minutes, giving him enough time to safely escape.
Many people today are collectively holding their breath as Brett Kavanaugh makes his escape from properly answering questions asked by various senators. Facing his own Congressional Testimony Torture Cell, Kavanaugh has thus far been able to remove the rhetorical handcuffs presented to him by such folks as Kamala Harris and Cory Booker.
In some editors’ minds, Harris and Booker are using this forum to test the waters for a presidential bid in 2020. But this assumption is short-sighted and disingenuous; it overlooks the depth of concern over getting honest answers from a man who may spend forty years or more on the Supreme Court.
The opening session of nominee introductions and statements was littered with outbursts from the gallery and parliamentary maneuvers from Democratic Senators. The hearings eventually settled into an expected rhythm of Republican softballs and Democratic curve balls.
What makes this hearing difficult to accept is that Kavanaugh has one of the longest trails of documents and court decisions of other recent nominees, thanks to his decade-long tenure on the D.C. Court of Appeals, his five years as part of the White House Counsel’s Office in the George W. Bush administration, and his three years’ service with the Ken Starr independent counsel investigation of Bill Clinton.
“My judicial philosophy is straightforward,” Kavanaugh said. “A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law. A judge must interpret statutes as written. A judge must interpret the Constitution as written, informed by history and tradition and precedent.” See how those handcuffs are slipping off his wrists, as he twists his way out of the straitjacket? But the hocus pocus on SCOTUS is not all about Brett.
Other magicians include those whose expertise is making things disappear. David Seth Kotkin, better known by his stage name David Copperfield, had a tremendously successful career as an illusionist. He became the youngest member of the Society of Amateur Magicians (SAM) at age twelve (Houdini served as President of SAM during his career!).
Recent Supreme Court rulings are making LGBTQ rights disappear. The June, 2018 ruling on behalf of Masterpiece Bakery, the Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, has opened the door to further legal action against the LGBTQ community. This is being coordinated on behalf of those whose religious beliefs do not view gay relationships and lifestyles as acceptable—or even legal. The door to further discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity has been left ajar by the sleight of hand on SCOTUS.
It was interesting, then, that on August 30 the Supreme Court declined to provide injunctive relief to Catholic Social Services (CSS) in Philadelphia. They had appealed to Justice Samuel Alito for such in light of having funding withheld from their adoption services. The City of Philadelphia stopped funding them after they discovered in March, 2018 that two Catholic foster care placement agencies were excluding gay couples.
“No child should ever be denied a safe and happy home because of who their qualified prospective parents or guardians are,” Susan Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Council, stated. “In a nation of over 400,000 foster children, it is inexcusable that some would choose to play politics rather than prioritize the security and well-being of children in need of a loving family.”
The question remains, however, what tricks SCOTUS will play in the coming session and beyond. Making the Statue of Liberty disappear was one of David Copperfield’s best-known illusions. This television event in 1983 had a group of 20 tourists seated beside Lady Liberty. A curtain was raised around the statue and lowered a few seconds later. It disappeared! A helicopter overhead confirmed that it had disappeared, leaving only the circle of lights around its base shining on empty space.
Before making the statue reappear, Copperfield explained why he wanted to perform this illusion. He wanted people to imagine what it would be like if there were no liberty or freedom in the world today, and what the world would be like without the freedoms and rights we enjoy.
How prophetic his words seem today. Thank goodness he ended his illusion by restoring Liberty to her rightful place. Let us hope SCOTUS will do the same. Here, take a card…any card…. ▼
David Garrett is a straight advocate for equality and inclusion. He is also the proud father of an adult transdaughter. Email David Garrett