How Protesting At Conservative SCOTUS Judges' Homes Honors Their Position On Buffer Zones
Over the weekend, dozens of American citizens devastated by the leaked SCOTUS ruling overturning Roe v. Wade marched to the Maryland homes of Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts to use their First Amendment right to make their voices heard. No violence occurred, only chanting and sign-holding.
It seems important to note here that several of the people protesting at Kavanaugh's house were his actual neighbors, who certainly have just as much right to be there, in their own neighborhood, as anybody.
The energy is markedly more negative outside Kavanaugh\u2019s house. The anger has become much more palpable than outside any other justices\u2019 house.pic.twitter.com/zY2OY34hcA— Douglas Blair (@Douglas Blair) 1651969257
So naturally pearls were clutched all around the country over how terrible and wrong and frightening this was, both from conservatives and from Democrats looking to score some sweet Sister Souljah moment brownie points of reasonableness, by accusing the protesters of crossing a line that must never be crossed. Though given that the judges crossed a line into our very uteruses (uteri?), it's really difficult to give a shit.
If you were horrified by January 6, you should be a little horrified by the #Kavanaugh protests, which are but a half-step from breaking down his front door.— Peter Savodnik (@Peter Savodnik) 1652043359
"If you were horrified by January 6," political writer Peter Savodnik wrote, "you should be a little horrified by the Kavanaugh protests, which are but a half-step from breaking down his front door."
Those protests were about as close to breaking down Brett Kavanaugh's front door as I am close to jumping out of a second story window or taking a tube of Warm Vanilla Sugar scented hand cream and squirting it right up my nose. Sure, I am within proximity of being able to do these things, but the fact that I have no intention of doing either of them ought to count for something.
But this is beside the point. All of these calls for civility are deeply misguided, as in 2014's McCullen v. Coakley the Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law allowing buffer zones outside of abortion clinics so people didn't have to be scared that the "pro-life" protesters outside were going to get close enough to kill them, as pro-life extremists have been known to do.
"The buffer zones burden substantially more speech than necessary to achieve the Commonwealth's asserted interests," wrote John Roberts.
It is no accident that public streets and sidewalks have developed as venues for the exchange of ideas. Even today, they remain one of the few places where a speaker can be confident that he is not simply preaching to the choir. With respect to other means of communication, an individual confronted with an uncomfortable message can always turn the page, change the channel, or leave the Web site. Not so on public streets and sidewalks. There, a listener often encounters speech he might otherwise tune out. In light of the First Amendment’s purpose “to preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail, this aspect of traditional public fora is a virtue, not a vice."
That seems pretty clear. John Roberts is clearly in favor of people protesting on the street. He was also very sympathetic, in his opinion, to anti-choice protesters who not only wanted to be able to protest but to actually be allowed to interact with and "counsel" patients entering the building without clinic escorts shielding them.
Certainly, protesting and harassing someone who is just trying to go to the doctor is a pretty big violation of that person's personal space and privacy, just as much as interrupting their dinner by protesting outside their house.
Perhaps we could even say that those protesting outside Roberts and Kavanaugh's houses were simply doing "sidewalk counseling" in hopes of keeping them from making a decision they may come to regret.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse