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At SCOTUS Hearing on Gay Rights, Left Takes Page From Scalia


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Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

If there is one thing conservatives have worked hard to sell to the American public and the courts, it is the principle that only the text of a statute controls — that what legislators enacted is the law, and that judges are duty-bound to interpret the words, and only the words, in the legislative language. No more, no less. With Justice Antonin Scalia as the

for this project, they’ve succeeded, convincing even liberal jurists that textualism in the interpretation of statutes is the way to go.

On Tuesday, as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a trio of cases grappling with whether federal employment law already protects gay and transgender workers from discrimination in the workplace, Justice Elena Kagan summarized the success of Scalia’s enterprise. “For many years,” she said from the bench, “the lodestar of this Court’s statutory interpretation has been the text of a statute, not the legislative history, and certainly not the subsequent legislative history.”





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