On Monday, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill that would grant Supreme Court justices added security for their family members.
The bill’s passage comes as protests have erupted across the country — including in front of justices’ homes — following the leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion suggesting that the conservative bloc majority is ready to undo the abortion protections that were established in the Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.
The Supreme Court Police Parity Act would amend existing statutes to expand security protection to the immediate family members of justices should the Marshal of the Supreme Court deem it necessary.
In Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-Texas) introduction of the bill, he condemned the recent protests in support of abortion rights that have taken place in public areas outside of some justices’ homes, wrongly implying that the protests have not been peaceful.
“Threats to the physical safety of Supreme Court Justices and their families are disgraceful, and attempts to intimidate and influence the independence of our judiciary cannot be tolerated,” Cornyn said in a statement.
Other commentators, including Fox News constitutional consultant Jonathan Turley, have used similar language to criticize the protests, describing them as “harassment of judges and their families” — despite the fact that the demonstrations have been peaceful, and are an exercise of citizens’ First Amendment rights.
On Monday evening, around 150 protesters demonstrated in Fairfax County, Virginia, outside the home of Justice Samuel Alito, the author of the leaked draft opinion. On Saturday, around 100 protesters gathered outside of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s home in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Many of those same protesters also marched to Chief Justice John Roberts’s home, which is nearby.
Some commentators and social media users noted how quickly the Senate was able to pass added protections for justices, pointing out that lawmakers have refused to pass desperately needed abortion rights protections in the same expeditious manner. They also blasted statements that derided the protests themselves.
“The Senate voting unanimously on a bill that would expand security protections to the family members of Supreme Court justices show [sic] how they can work fast when it’s something that benefits their own,” one Twitter user pointed out.
“The sidewalks adjacent to a powerful person’s property are not more sacred than 73 million women’s bodies,” wrote Daily Beast columnist Erin Gloria Ryan. “And yet, from the way some voices have responded to protests outside of SCOTUS homes, you’d swear the real victim here was Brett Kavanaugh.”
“Protesting at people’s homes is not my go to move unless a lot of options have been exhausted and…. *waves around* we’re here folks,” tweeted Democratic Party strategist Atima Omara. “Folks are about to lose civil rights and bodily autonomy in a democracy on the brink. When is it okay to protest exactly, when we’re in jail?”
Meanwhile, conservatives have spread false rumors alleging that justices’ lives have been in danger as a result of the demonstrations.
Ilya Shapiro, a conservative lawyer and frequent Fox News guest, said on Saturday evening that he had “heard that Justice Alito has been taken to an undisclosed location with his family” due to the protests. When pressed by Politico to explain where he had gotten that information, Shapiro admitted that he didn’t know where it had originated.
Protesters have also demonstrated in front of the home of Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine who frequently touts herself as a supporter of abortion rights but who voted to confirm three of the most recent conservative picks to the Supreme Court, dismissing warnings about their views on abortion. Earlier this year, Collins also voted against legislation that would have codified abortion protections established in Roe; she recently said that she would vote against the bill again when it comes up for a vote in the Senate this week.
Demonstrators used sidewalk chalk in front of the senator’s home over the weekend, imploring her to change her mind and support the legislation. Apparently, the chalk warranted a call to the police, who arrived at the scene and deemed the writings as “not overtly threatening.”
In a statement, Collins called the chalked message in front of her home a “defacement of public property.”
Activists have pointed out that the bill has the potential to increase interactions between police and protesters, and could result in further crackdowns on free speech and protests across the country.