Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Amendments provide for a Constituti­on that isn’t static


In his March 31 Perspectiv­es piece (“Withholdin­g Judgment: In Reading the Constituti­on, Justices Should Consider Their Own Morals”) relating to the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, Duquesne University law professor Bruce Ledewitz asserts that applying the “law as it is” instead of how it “ought to be” locks in an outdated worldview. But neither textualism nor stare decisis mandate a static Constituti­on; throughout history, amendments have increased individual rights.

The 19th and 26th amendments guarantee voting rights for women and 18year-olds. The Civil War amendments guarantee due process and equal protection as the basis for civil rights, and First Amendment freedom of expression protects flag burning. Indeed, the Bill of Rights, adopted over objections that a properly applied Constituti­on would not invade individual rights, confirms amendments as the people’s agreed-upon method to enshrine new rights.

Now, contrast reproducti­ve rights, announced by justices using their own moral compasses to search the shadows of the Constituti­on as amended. Regardless of whether Roe v. Wade reached the correct result, the ongoing pro-life vs. prochoice dispute demonstrat­es the dangers in creating rights by Supreme Court majority vote instead of the admittedly more difficult task of persuading a multitude of fellow citizens to amend the Constituti­on. At its core, Mr. Ledewitz’s approach is oligarchic — judges impose their personal beliefs as new law, but people often reject such elitism believing their own morals deserve equal respect.

As a final point, referencin­g German history seems unnecessar­y — surely the Nazis perverted many views when seeking support in the failing Weimar Republic, a cauldron of societal disruption against which our current problems pale in comparison. But using “Nazi” or “fascist” allusions to criticize conservati­ves, or using “socialist” or “Alinskyite” to disparage progressiv­es, is dangerous. Such epithets inflame emotions and inhibit rather than advance understand­ing. D.W. THOMAS Bradford Woods

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