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Pro-choice Washington Post deputy editorial page editor Ruth Marcus condemned the harassment of conservative Supreme Court justices in a recent piece, claiming that specifically picketing at Justices’ homes is “beyond the pale.”
Marcus’ column followed the recent reports that Justice Brett Kavanaugh was chased out of Morton’s steakhouse in D.C. by protesters on Wednesday night.
A rep for Morton’s confirmed the reports, and decried the harassment of their guest, stating, “Politics, regardless of your side or views, should not trample the freedom at play of the right to congregate and eat dinner. There is a time and place for everything. Disturbing the dinner of all of our customers was an act of selfishness and void of decency.”
Even though Marcus strongly disagreed with the Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade in its recent decision in the Dobbs case, her Washington Post column mirrored Morton’s sentiment that this level of harassment is wrong.
“I’m heartsick — I’m furious — over the conservative majority’s brute force move to do away with a half-century of reproductive freedom and precedent,” Marcus stated, adding, “My sympathies are with the protesters. And I’m steadfast in my support for free speech rights; my job and my country depend on robust support for the First Amendment.”
Though despite her pro-choice views and support for the right to protest, she insisted “The pickets at justices’ homes — they’ve primarily targeted Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh — are beyond the pale. As I’ve written before, they’re unnecessary; protesters can make their views amply known at the court itself.”
Marcus added her belief that the protests are “counterproductive” and just a way for protesters to vent their anger, nothing more. “Maybe making justices’ lives miserable will make people feel better, but it won’t accomplish anything beyond that,” Marcus declared.
The columnist asserted, “Justices, and their families, deserve as much protection from bombardment within their own homes as abortion doctors do.”
After making her main point, Marcus explained that there is legal justification for the government to put limits on these residential protests that do not violate the First Amendment.
She first acknowledged that yes, “Streets — even quiet, suburban streets — are considered traditional public forums. That means they can’t be placed off-limits to protests,” citing the Court’s observation in a 1968 case. “But as long as they’re not drawing distinctions based on the content of the speech — for example, allowing pickets for labor organizing but not for other purposes — governments can impose carefully drawn restrictions on protesting,” she added.
For these reasons, “A Montgomery County ordinance provides that protesters ‘must not picket in front or adjacent to any private residence.’ They are allowed to march in residential areas, but ‘without stopping at any particular private residence,’” Marcus detailed.
She then pointed out the double standard other pro-choice people have on this issue. “Those who share my pro-choice views recoiled at protests targeting abortion providers and clinic employees at their homes, and they were not reluctant to connect those actions to clinic bombings or murders of physicians.”
Marcus concluded her column with one last appeal to sanity: “It should be possible to find ways to express justified outrage at the conservative justices without terrorizing them and their families. Can we not at least manage that?”