By David Hirzel
The Republican party’s desperate rush to confirm their president’s newest nominee to the Supreme Court is more than unseemly, it threatens the very fabric of our society. Sure, we can all suspect Amy Coney Barrett’s personal views might end up having some bearing her decisions—that abortion is “always immoral,” or that “a legal career is but a means to an end … and that end is building the kingdom of God.”
But the threat we all need to take most seriously is this: She does not believe in the legitimacy of our Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment—the one upholding citizenship rights and equality under the law for all Americans. The Amendment on which all subsequent civil rights acts are based, including the momentous Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, discrimination in public accommodations and federally funded programs.
The 14th Amendment includes key wording now known as the Citizenship Clause, the Privileges Clause, the Due Process Clause, and the Equal Protection Clause. It confirms that everyone born in the United States is a full citizen, with the full rights due to a citizen, who can’t be deprived of those rights unless they’re given due process of law.
Barrett is one of those who question the legitimacy of this Amendment, on the unfounded argument that it was proposed by a Congress in 1864 that did not include the Southern states who had seceded and formed their own Confederacy. But those states had all been readmitted to the Union by July of 1868. Shortly thereafter seven of them ratified the Amendment, adding their votes to the twenty-eight states then required to ratify an amendment (per the Constitution itself). In short, there is no question whatever of the validity of the Fourteenth Amendment, and of all subsequent legislation based on it.
This questioning of its legitimacy is a legacy of racist legislation that arose in Georgia in 1957, intended to deny civil rights to Black Americans. Those who continue to question it clearly have in mind that not all Americans deserve equal protection. One of them is Ms. Barret, who has raised the question more than once during her judicial career, including this: “Congress has to decide whether to … rely on the power conferred by the possibly illegitimate Fourteenth Amendment.”
Really? Is she the right person for the job, someone who very carefully and systematically has laid out her lack of faith in the Constitution, the guiding document of the nation and the supreme law of the land. She, like all those Republicans now in office, must swear to defend that Constitution and bear true faith and allegiance to it.
If their intention is to undermine its validity and power, they can have no better ally on the bench than Ms. Barrett. Should any challenge to the Civil Rights Act come before it, especially one driven by the big corporate and financial interests in a position to mount such a challenge, we know where they can find a friend. And don’t be at all surprised if the next challenge is to the second amendment, the one that allows you to read this argument in your local paper.
Which leads us once again to question the Republican Senate—why the rush? It’s not really a question. Some of us already know.
(David Hirzel is a Bay Area author and frequent op-ed contributor to this newspaper. Anyone interested in writing a My Turn essay may contact editor Sherm Frederick at email@example.com.)