A child faced with limits on her behavior will often lash out at the adult who is imposing those limits as being mean or hateful. We ignore or forgive such words because we do not really expect children to understand the true motivations behind adult actions.
We would expect a Justice of the Supreme Court to have a more mature response, but this week Justice Kennedy showed such an expectation to be false. That the Court struck down DOMA was not surpising, nor was the due process rationale unexpected. I don’t agree with those arguments, but I can see how reasonable people would make them.
The disturbing part of Kennedy’s claim was his amazing rhetorical leap where he claimed (slurring, in the process, a large majority of Congress, former President Clinton, and the millions of Americans who supported the Act) that the only motivation for the act was “animus.” Hatred. Hostility. That is all he can see. Now, humility is not ubiquitous among jurists, but sweeping judgments on the true motivations of lawmakers (without any evidence on the matter, mind you) is not common.
In dissent, Justice Scalia summarized the Kennedy argument better than I could:
To hurl such accusations so casually demeans this institution. In the majority’s judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement. To question its high-handed invalidation of a presumptively valid statute is to act (the majority is sure) with the purpose to “disparage,” ”injure,” “degrade,” ”demean,” and “humiliate” our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homosexual. All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence—indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race. [emphasis in original]
So, whatever your cause may be–gun rights, climate change, universal health care, abortion, tax reform, whatever—you now have license to judge the motives of those who oppose you, a justification not to give them the benefit of the doubt or not to assume they have reasons why they oppose your view, however illogical or errant those reasons may be.
Justice Kennedy has now provided you with the moral legitimacy you need. Just say it. “I’m right, so you’re a hater.”