Re "Scalia says abortion, gay rights are easy cases" (Tribune, Oct. 5):
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is highly intelligent, but he's also an idiot.
Concerning whether capital punishment is unconstitutional, he recently said, dismissively: "The death penalty? Give me a break. It's easy." Scalia thinks it's OK to execute people because the framers allowed it in their day.
The framers wrote the Constitution in general terms so later generations could fit it to their circumstances, which they knew would evolve. That's why in the Bill of Rights they banned "cruel and unusual punishment," expecting that society's definition of "cruel" would change.
Ditto for gay rights. The authors of the 14th Amendment didn't conceive that "equal protection of the laws" would be applied to women's rights, let alone homosexuals' (a word that didn't even exist then), but they expected future generations to apply that principle to their needs and situations.
Thomas Jefferson worried about straitjacketing future generations with his generation's views. In retirement, he reflected that "laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind ... we might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy."