MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell on Wednesday cited former justice Anthony Kennedy's decision legalizing gay marriage as a "beautifully written" example of the Supreme Court taking public opinion into account.
Mitchell said she has heard Kennedy's decision "read at heterosexual weddings because it so glorifies what love means and what marriage means." She said it shows how Supreme Court justices are "very aware of the political winds" when they approach cases, instead of sitting in an "ivory tower" of judicial ideology.
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Mitchell was discussing the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who has repeatedly stated she will not allow personal bias to affect her decisions. But Barrett has faced an onslaught of criticism from liberal commentators and Democrats who say she harbors "extreme" views. One Washington Post writer argued that judges are incapable of being neutral, and thus Barrett has tried to "fool" Americans by promising to rule without bias.
Anchor Chuck Todd responded to Mitchell by making the case that justices can prevent harm to the country by ruling in accord with public opinion.
"If they don't [consider public opinion], they could actually end up hurting the country if they issue an opinion that may seem to make sense in an ideological belief system, but pragmatically it wouldn't," Todd said.
Former justice Kennedy wrote in his Obergefell v. Hodges decision that the Court should not consider "whether advocates of same-sex marriage now enjoy or lack momentum in the democratic process," but he did allude to how society's understanding of marriage had evolved.
"The ancient origins of marriage confirm its centrality, but it has not stood in isolation from developments in law and society. The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change. That institution—even as confined to opposite-sex relations—has evolved over time."