Women fall within the category of “any person”

California Lawyer published an interview with Scalia in January 2011.

In 1868, when the 39th Congress was debating and ultimately proposing the 14th Amendment, I don’t think anybody would have thought that equal protection applied to sex discrimination, or certainly not to sexual orientation. So does that mean that we’ve gone off in error by applying the 14th Amendment to both?
Yes, yes. Sorry, to tell you that. … But, you know, if indeed the current society has come to different views, that’s fine. You do not need the Constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society. Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that. If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, hey we have things called legislatures, and they enact things called laws. You don’t need a constitution to keep things up-to-date. All you need is a legislature and a ballot box. You don’t like the death penalty anymore, that’s fine. You want a right to abortion? There’s nothing in the Constitution about that. But that doesn’t mean you cannot prohibit it. Persuade your fellow citizens it’s a good idea and pass a law. That’s what democracy is all about. It’s not about nine superannuated judges who have been there too long, imposing these demands on society.

Lenora M. Lapidus at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project said he was wrong.

His comments fly in the face of 40 years of Supreme Court precedent. Since the 1971 case, Reed v. Reed, it has been clearly understood that the 14th Amendment prohibits discrimination based on sex. In decision after decision, many authored by conservative Supreme Court justices, this principle has been reaffirmed.

Indeed, the text of the Constitution simply states that the government shall not deny “any person” the equal protection of the laws. The 14th Amendment does not specifically mention race and the language is intentionally broad. Clearly women fall within the category of “any person.”

Scalia’s views are extreme and out of step with the mainstream. He says that nothing in the Constitution prohibits discrimination against women; rather, it is up to legislatures to ban discrimination if they so choose. However, the Constitution provides a safety net to protect against the will of the majority when fundamental rights — such as the right to equal treatment — are at stake.

If the Constitution did not prohibit discrimination against women, the government could treat women like second class citizens in a wide range of areas. States could legally bar women from serving on juries, women could be prohibited from owning property, the government could pay women less, and women could be excluded from public schools — all things that happened in the past, before women’s rights to equal protection were enforced.

The equal protection clause is a big deal, and if it doesn’t cover you, you’re screwed. Scalia’s eccentricity on this is a little shocking.

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