“The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.”
Hillary Clinton quoted these words in a recent speech in Madison, Wisconsin. This is language from Justice Kennedy’s opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 landmark case upholding gay marriage.
Two segments of this passage arrest me ..
“The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times.” Even if we do see injustice we can shrug the issue away because it isn’t a problem we share, we are too busy, someone will do something, or it is just insurmountable. There is less of an indictment of us if we are unaware of the injustice, but how often, really, is that the case? It could be that we need to be more curious as much as we need to be more caring.
” … a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.” This is a most genuine and germane description of the mandated role of our Supreme Court. It is not to be an atavistic literal interpreter of the mores and inclinations of the founders, but to be the link between the political vision of the fathers and the continually emerging realities of a maturing nation “to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.”
Yes, the Supreme Court really matters. The people appointed to serve as Justices are the moral defenders of liberty. Their intellect and logic must be mindful of the past, but also attuned to an advancing understanding of humanity.