You are on page 1of 26

SODOMYANDGUNS:TRADITIONASDEMOCRATIC DELIBERATIONANDCONSTITUTIONAL INTERPRETATION

WILLIAMN.ESKRIDGE,JR. *

INTRODUCTION ............................................................193 I. TRADITIONKNOWNTOTHEFRAMERSAS EVIDENCEOFORIGINALMEANING .....................195 A. Anachronism:TheChanged CircumstancesProblem................................197 B. CherryPickingProblems:HowIs TraditionInterrogatedandWeighed?........199 1. MultipleTraditionsandtheLevelof GeneralityProblem.................................199 2. WhatCountsasTradition?....................200 3. BurdenofProof? .....................................201 C. IllegitimacyProblems ...................................201 II. POSTADOPTIONTRADITIONASCONSTITUTIONAL ADVERSEPOSSESSION ...........................................203 A. Anachronism..................................................206 B. CherryPicking...............................................207 C. Illegitimacy.....................................................209 III. TRADITIONASDEMOCRATICDELIBERATION ......209 CONCLUSION ................................................................218 INTRODUCTION TheRehnquistandRobertsCourtshaveinauguratedagolden age for traditionbased argumentsin constitutional law. Allof the Justices consider such arguments, and several are amateur historians who have centered their jurisprudence on what con stitutionaltraditionsrequireofustoday.Suchargumentsarethe primarylegalbasisforwholeareasofconstitutionallaw,includ
*JohnA.GraverProfessorofJurisprudence,YaleLawSchool.

194

HarvardJournalofLaw&PublicPolicy

[Vol.32

ing presidential powers, state immunity, anticommandeering limitsoncongressionalauthority,andtherightstoprivacy,to keep and bear arms, to habeas corpus, and to be free of cruel and unusual punishment. Other areas of constitutional law, suchasequalprotectionandfreespeech,arenotdominatedby theseargumentstodaybutmightbeinthefuture. Arguments from tradition raise a central conundrum. Law yers and judges tend to interpret tradition statically and in strumentally,tomeanlegalpracticesornormsthathaveperse vered over a long period of time and that provide stable meaningthatcanbeusedtoresolvealegalissue.Thestaticun derstanding is related to the instrumental use, because lawyers and judges prefer simplicity to complexity. In contrast, histori ans approach tradition dynamically and noninstrumentally, to meanlegalpracticesornormsthatasageneralprinciplehave persevered in some ways and evolved in others. Tradition is rarely simple and univocal; it is multifarious, evolving, and complicated. This understanding creates problems for the judge wielding tradition instrumentally. That tradition is evolving creates risks of anachronism, where the interpreter reads his own values and viewpoint back into the past. That tradition is multifarious creates risks of cherrypicking, where theinterpreter(unconsciously)manipulatestraditionbyfocus ing on features she finds congenial and ignoring the rest and by interrogating that fragmentary tradition with loaded ques tions.Thattraditioniscomplicatedcreatesrisksofillegitimacy, where the interpreters misinterpretation or manipulation im posesdutiesorcreatesrightsthatobstructtheneededprojects andexperimentsofcurrentlegislatures. ThisEssayusescasestudiesofsodomyandgunlitigationto explorethreevaluesthatlawyersandjudgesfindintradition, and also to understand those values critically, from a histo rianspointofview.Traditionshallbeexaminedasevidenceof original meaning, constitutional adverse possession, and pre ceptsconformedbydemocraticdeliberation.Eachofthesede ployments of tradition is subject to the anachronism, cherry picking, and illegitimacy problems identified above. In my view,themostproblematicuseoftraditionisthefirst,tradition asevidenceoforiginalmeaning.Thebestlegaltheoryfortradi tion in constitutional law is the third, tradition as democratic deliberation.Thethirdtheoryistheonethatmostrespectsthe historians dynamic point of view; it can enlighten the inter

No.1]

SodomyandGuns

195

preterandalterhisviewsaboutcontestedmatters.Thistheory provides plausible defenses not only for a laudable Supreme Court decision, but also for two other decisions whose out comesarequestionable. I. TRADITIONKNOWNTOTHEFRAMERSASEVIDENCEOF ORIGINALMEANING

The Supreme Court and many commentators believe that a constitutionalprovisionsoriginalmeaningisdeterminativeof orrelevanttoitsmoderninterpretation.IftheConstitutionisa social contract among Us the People, whose terms dictate the governancestructureandsomefundamentaluntrumpableval uesofourpolity,thenthesharedunderstandingofwhatthose termsmeantisrelevantwhenwearelatercalledupontoapply and interpret the Constitution. 1 Traditions that can be traced backtotheframingerascanbeavaluableaidinthatprocessof interpretation.TaketheBillofRights(1791)andtheFourteenth Amendment(1868).Theoriginalmeaningoftheirtermscanbe usefullyunderstoodbyreferencetotraditionsthatwouldhave been known to the Framers, the ratifying legislatures, and the citizensofthoseeras. Assume,astheCourthaslongassumed,thatthelibertypro tectionoftheDueProcessClausesoftheFifthandFourteenth Amendments includes a substantive element: There are some liberties for whichthestatemust provide acompelling justifi cationforthedeprivationnottobearbitrary(theultimatedue processprotection). 2 Almosteverystateactiondeprivessome personsoflibertyintheabstract,yetitwouldbeabsurdtoago nize over all of these liberty deprivations; thus, only the most seriousdeprivationstriggerconstitutionalconcerns.Whichlib erty deprivations trigger such concerns is a matter of impor tance.Libertieslongunderstoodasimportantwhenaconstitu tionalprovisionwasadoptedarepotentiallyimportantcluesas tooriginalmeaning.Thereare,however,hugeepistemicdiffi
1.See,e.g.,ROBERT H. BORK, THE TEMPTINGOF AMERICA: THE POLITICAL SEDUC TIONOFTHELAW14345,15455(1990). 2.Some early sources includeMeyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923), and THO MAS M. COOLEY, A TREATISE ON THE CONSTITUTIONAL LIMITATIONS WHICH REST UPONTHE LEGISLATIVE POWEROFTHE STATESOFTHE AMERICAN UNION(VictorH. Laneed.,Little,Brown1903)(1868).

196

HarvardJournalofLaw&PublicPolicy

[Vol.32

cultiesin comingupwith theproperlistof liberties. First,the Framersandratifiersdebatedissuesatahighlevelofgeneral ityanddidnotsaymuchaboutspecificlibertyissues.Second, even when a Framer or ratifier said something specific and relevanttotheissue,itishardtogeneralizethatpersonsstated (andsincere?)viewstothepopulationofratifiersandcitizenry. And, third, discussions so long ago (1791 and 1868) operated under very different assumptions about human needs, social policy,science,andsoon,andmightnotbeeasilytransferred toissuestodaywithoutsomeinterpolation. 3 Consider Justice Whites opinion for the Court in Bowers v. Hardwick. 4 TheissuewaswhetherGeorgiassodomylawcould beappliedtooralsexinaprivateapartmentbetweenconsent ing adultshere, two menwithout violating the Fourteenth Amendmentslibertyprotection.Sodomynevercameupinthe congressional or state ratifying debates, but Justice White and those Justices who wrote concurring opinions got around this difficulty by reference to tradition: Because AngloAmerican lawatthetimeoftheFourteenthAmendment(1868)hadlong prohibitedthecrimeagainstnature, 5 andbecausetheselaws and their moral foundations would have been wellknown to the Framers and ratifiers, the Bowers majority presumed that homosexual sodomy cannot be a liberty given extra protec tionbytheDueProcessClause. 6 Thattheantihomosexualtra dition embedded in AngloAmerican law and society had flourishedduringthetwentiethcenturyalsoenabledthemajor ity Justices to conclude, without any evidence in the record, that citizens ofGeorgia intended theirgenderneutral sodomy law to reflect an antihomosexual morality, which was a ra tional basis to sustain the law. 7 At each stage of analysis, his
3.SeePaulBrest,TheMisconceivedQuestfortheOriginalUnderstanding,60B.U.L. REV. 204, 21421, 22931 (1980); Laurence H. Tribe & Michael C. Dorf, Levels of Generality in the Definition of Rights, 57 U. CHI. L. REV. 1057, 107375, 108793 (1990);MarkV.Tushnet,FollowingtheRulesLaidDown:ACritiqueofInterpretivism andNeutralPrinciples,96HARV.L.REV.781,793804(1983). 4.478U.S.186(1986). 5.Id. at 197 (Burger, C.J., concurring) (quoting 4 WILLIAM BLACKSTONE, COM MENTARIES*215). 6.Id.at19294(majorityopinion). 7.Id.at196(affirmingasarationalbasisforthestatelawthepresumedbelief ofamajorityoftheelectorateinGeorgiathathomosexualsodomyisimmoraland unacceptable).ItshouldbenotedthatGeorgianeverhadasodomylawthatfo cusedonhomosexualconduct.

No.1]

SodomyandGuns

197

torical tradition enabled the Court to resolve matters of uncer taintyaboutlanguage,publicintentions,andconstitutionalpur pose. Tradition also provided a limiting principle for the caseby case elaboration of the constitutional privacy right that the CourthadcreativelyteasedoutoftheDueProcessClause.Jus tice White emphasized this, too, in his opinion. Because the specification of due process liberty to provide special protec tions for peoples privacy against state invasion did not have concrete support in the constitutional text or framing discus sions,anexpansiveviewofprivacywouldimperiltheCourts legitimacyastheenforcerofastrictruleoflaw. 8 Unfortunately, Bowers, the exemplar of a traditionbased ju risprudenceoforiginalmeaning,alsoillustratesthelimitations orpitfallsofsuchajurisprudenceinthehandsoflawyersand judges. 9 Because originalist scholars and judges seek stability andclosurefromhistoryandtradition,theyeasilyfallpreyto criticism that their enterprise is anachronistic, ahistorical law officehistory 10 ratherthanagenuinehistoricalexplorationof thenorms,vocabulary,andworldoftheFramers. 11 Tradition is both dynamic and plastic, and that means that its deploy mentrequiresahighlevelofexpertiseandhistoricity,scrupu lousness, and prudence. Bowers is a case where the Justices flunkedthisstandardratherdramatically. A. Anachronism:TheChangedCircumstancesProblem

One problem with using tradition to figure out original meaning is changed circumstances: The practices, laws, and even vocabulary familiar to the Framers often reflect a world view very different from our own. Has the interpreter under
8.Id.at19495;accordWashingtonv.Glucksberg,521U.S.702(1997)(upholding assistedsuicidebanuponasimilartraditionbasedtheory). 9.Justice Whites account is hardly idiosyncratic to that Justice, for it draws heavilyfromtheBriefofPetitionerat2126,Bowers,478U.S.186(No.85140),and from Judge Borks opinion in Dronenburg v. Zech, 741 F.2d 1388, 1396 (D.C. Cir. 1984) (refusingto protect from regulation aform of behavior never before pro tected,andindeedtraditionallycondemned). 10.MartinS.Flaherty,HistoryRight?:HistoricalScholarship,OriginalUnderstand ing,andTreatiesasSupremeLawoftheLand,99COLUM.L.REV.2095,2098(1999). 11.See,e.g.,MartinS.Flaherty,HistoryLiteinModernAmericanConstitutional ism,95COLUM.L.REV.523(1995).

198

HarvardJournalofLaw&PublicPolicy

[Vol.32

stoodthecircumstancesofthepastandapplieditslessonsde fensiblytoamodernproblem? ThemajorityopinioninBowersv.Hardwickwasaclumsyef fort in this respect. Hardwick and another man were arrested for engaging in oral sex, which Justice White treated as the kind of homosexual sodomy that the Framers of the Four teenthAmendmentwouldhaveunderstoodasalongstanding andnotoriouscrimein1868.YetanactualAmericanlawyerin 1868 would have had no idea what homosexual meant; the wordwasnotcoineduntiltheendofthenineteenthcentury, 12 andnoAmericansodomylawhomedinonhomosexualsod omy until 1969, fully a century after the Fourteenth Amend mentwasratified. 13 IfJusticeWhitehadexplainedthathomo sexualsodomysimplymeantoralsexbetweentwopersonsof thesamesex,the1868lawyerwouldhaveremainedsomewhat baffled, for sodomy laws did not cover oral sex, another term JusticeWhitemighthavebeenrequiredtoexplain.Notasingle Americanjurisdictionin1868identifiedoralsexassodomyora crimeagainstnature,andtheEnglishauthoritiesandAmerican treatisesallexplicitlyexcludedoralsexfromcriminalprohibi tions. 14 A learned lawyer could have told Justice White what sodomywas:Itwasanalrapebyamanagainstanotherman, aboy,awoman,agirl,orananimal. 15 Exceptfora1656lawin theNewHavenColony,sex ofanykindbetweentwowomen was never sodomy or a crime against nature in the pre1868 AngloAmericantradition. 16 In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, sodomy laws were updated in most states to include oral sex (though
12.SeeLawrencev.Texas,539U.S.558,568(2003). 13.For a surveyof state sodomylaws, see WILLIAM N. ESKRIDGE, JR., DISHON ORABLE PASSIONS: SODOMY LAWS IN AMERICA, 18612003, at 387407 (2008). The firststatelawlimitedtosamesex(homosexual)activitieswas1969Kan.Lawsch. 180,213505. 14.William N. Eskridge, Jr., Hardwick and Historiography, 1999 U. ILL. L. REV. 631, 65556, 667 (collecting references to treatises and English case law as to the ambitofsodomyandcrimeagainstnaturelaws);seealsoESKRIDGE,supranote13, at 387407 (appendix identifying when each state expanded its sodomy law to includeoralsex). 15.SeeRv.Jacobs,(1817)168Eng.Rep.830(K.B.);Rv.Wiseman,(1716)92Eng. Rep.774,77475(K.B.);seealsoEDWARDCOKE,THETHIRDPARTOFTHEINSTITUTES OF THE LAWS OF ENGLAND: CONCERNING HIGH TREASON, AND OTHER PLEAS OF THECROWN,ANDCRIMINALCAUSES59(London,E.&R.Brooke1797)(1644). 16.SeeESKRIDGE,supranote13,at1623.

No.1]

SodomyandGuns

199

usuallynotoralsexbetweentwowomen),andenforcementof new oral sex bans in the twentieth century was overwhelm inglyagainstmenseekingorhavingsexwithothermen. 17 Ina centurywhenhugemajoritiesofheterosexualmarriedcouples engaged in oral (and many inanal) sex to spice up their mar riages,Americansculturallyerasedthegeneralizedwordingof sodomy laws and assumed that the real targets were homo sexuals,peoplewhosecharacteristic(ratherthanepisodic)sex ual activity was unnatural (that is, not procreative penile vaginalsex). 18 JusticeWhitehadsothoroughlyassimilatedthis culturalunderstandingthatheassumeditistranshistoricaland universal.Itisnot. B. CherryPickingProblems:HowIsTradition InterrogatedandWeighed?

Bowersv.Hardwickalsoillustratestherichnessandthepoten tial plasticity of tradition. Even if a modern interpreter can trulyunderstandthetraditionsofthepast,usingthemtocre ate constitutional lines raises cherrypicking problems for any but the most scrupulous interpreter. Where a constitutional caseraisesissuesthatgototheheartofpeoplesemotionalor cognitive commitments, as homosexuality did in 1986, no in terpreteriscapableofbeingentirelyscrupulous.Withsomuch richness and detail, using tradition in Bowers was like looking outoveracrowdandpickingoutyourfriends(toborrowfrom JudgeHaroldLeventhal). 19 1. MultipleTraditionsandtheLevelofGeneralityProblem

Traditionismultifarious:Ourcountryenjoysmanydifferent traditions, andmorethanonetraditionmightbe relevant to a constitutionalinquiry.Traditionisalsoamorphousandcanbe identifiedand characterized atvarious levels of generality. To justify protection for Hardwicks activities as protected lib erty,JusticeWhitedemandedthatHardwickestablishalong standingtraditionprotecting homosexual sodomy. 20 As Jus
17.Seeid.at4959,8599. 18.Seeid.at7684. 19.TheLeventhalquipwasmadeinconnectionwiththeuseoflegislativehis tory.SeeANTONIN SCALIA, A MATTEROF INTERPRETATION: FEDERAL COURTSAND THELAW36(1997). 20.SeeBowersv.Hardwick,478U.S.186,19195(1986).

200

HarvardJournalofLaw&PublicPolicy

[Vol.32

tice Blackmun pointed out, that was an unfairly specific in quiry. 21 DoestheFourthAmendmentsprotectionagainststate wiretaps require the citizen to show a longstanding tradition protectingtelephoneuse?ButJusticeBlackmunwasslantedin the other direction: All Hardwick had to establish was long standing tradition protecting intimate relations within the home,andhisownprivateactivitieswereprotected. 22 Doesthe right to privacy protect the man who has intimate relations withafemaleminor,simplybecausesuchrelationsareimpor tanttoeachofthosepersonsandoccurredwithinthehome? 2. WhatCountsasTradition?

Inconstructinganaccountoftradition,alltheBowersJustices focusedjustonlegalsources.Becausetherearealotofsources for guidance on the legal tradition, judgment about what shouldbeconsultedandwhatshouldbecountedisoftensub jective. And that creates additional cherrypicking problems. Forexample,JusticeWhitetreatedcrimeagainstnaturelawsas a tradition of illegality for consensual, private sodomy; he as sumed that generally phrased laws applied to consensual ac tivities. 23 Because such a broad reading cut against the public justificationforsuchlaws,Iexaminedtheirpatternofenforce mentduringthenineteenthcenturyandfoundafocusonnon consensualorpublicactivities,andsometimesboth. 24 Thisisamorethoroughmethodology,butisitabetterone? Thatreallydependsonhowtheinterpreterdefinestradition.If itisonlytheannounced,publicunderstandingsofoursocietys governing norms, then some of my evidence is irrelevant. If traditionalsoincludesthepracticalapplicationanddaytoday operation of announced norms, then my evidence is relevant butshouldbesupplemented. 25
21.Seeid.at199200(Blackmun,J.,dissenting). 22.Id.at20408. 23.Id.at19294(majorityopinion). 24.Brief of the Cato Institute as Amicus Curiae in Support of Petitioners, Law rencev.Texas,539U.S.558(2003)(No.02102)(withappendixlistingallreported nineteenthcentury American sodomy decisions); see also WILLIAM N. ESKRIDGE, JR.,GAYLAW:CHALLENGINGTHEAPARTHEIDOFTHECLOSET15666,37475(1999). 25.Thus, one might examine municipal records describing the exact circum stancesforeverysodomyarrestinsomemajorcities,toseeifsodomylawswere everappliedtoprivaterelationsbetweenconsentingadults.Cf.WilliamE.Nelson, Government by Judiciary: The Growth of Judicial Power in Colonial Pennsylvania, 59

No.1] 3.

SodomyandGuns BurdenofProof?

201

In Lawrence v. Texas, which overruled Bowers, both Justice Kennedy and Justice Scalia relied on my examination of the practicalapplicationofsodomylawstofigureoutwhatatradi tionbased original meaning might be for liberty. 26 The Jus tices,however,askeddifferentquestionsoftradition.Writingfor the Court, Justice Kennedy asked whether there was a long standing and wellknown tradition excluding gay peoples pri vateintimaciesfromthelibertyassuredallotherAmericansfor theirintimaterelationships:Therewasnot. 27 Writingforthedis senters, Justice Scalia posed a very different question, whether thehomosexualdefendantshaddemonstratedanaffirmativepro tection for homosexual sodomy in nineteenthcentury Amer ica:assuredlynot. 28 Dependingonhowyouphrasethequestion, thesameevidencecansupportdifferentconclusions. Underlying Justice Scalias interrogation was strong skepti cismtowardtheprivacyprecedents. 29 UnderlyingJusticeKen nedys interrogation was an acceptance of the privacy cases, andabaselineassumptionthatgaypeoplearedecent,normal Americans. Justice Scalia: Have the homosexuals shown me that tradition affirmatively protects them? Justice Kennedy: WhyshouldntlesbianandgayAmericansenjoythesamepri vacyasstraightones? C. IllegitimacyProblems

An early Supreme Court sexual relations precedent is McLaughlinv.Florida, 30 whichinvalidatedastatutemakingita crime for persons of different races to cohabit openly. Justice Whites opinion for the Court relied on the Equal Protection Clause rather than a due process privacy right to scuttle the
SMU L. REV. 3,44(2006)(findingnoconvictionsforsodomyincolonialPenn sylvaniascourthouserecords). 26.Lawrence,539U.S.at56772(Kennedy,J.,fortheCourt)(relyingonEskridge, HardwickandHistoriography,supranote14,at656,andtheCatoAmicusBrief,supra note24,at1617,andreplicatingchunksoftheamicusbriefsanalysis);id.at59798 (Scalia,J.,dissenting)(relyingonESKRIDGE,supranote24,at159,375). 27.Seeid.at56768,57172(majorityopinion). 28.Seeid.at59698(Scalia,J.,dissenting). 29.Forabitingattackontheprivacyright,seePlannedParenthoodofSoutheastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 98384 (1992) (Scalia, J., concurring in the judgmentinpartanddissentinginpart). 30.379U.S.184(1964).

202

HarvardJournalofLaw&PublicPolicy

[Vol.32

law, but there were much better traditionbased arguments supporting the Florida cohabitation law than there were for applyingGeorgiassodomylawtoconsensualactivitiesinBow ers twentythree years later. Not only did northern as well as southern states bar differentrace marriages and relationships alloverthecountryduringReconstruction,butthesupporters of Reconstructionera civil rights laws and the Fourteenth Amendment repeatedly disavowed any protection for inter racialsexualityormarriage. 31 Pacev.Alabama 32 enshrinedtheir understandinginbindingprecedent. JusticeWhitewasawareofthesetraditionbasedarguments, aswerecolleaguessuchasJusticesBlackandHarlan,bothhis toricistsguidedbytraditioninmuchoftheirconstitutionalju risprudence. Nevertheless, Justice White ignored tradition al most entirely in his opinion interpreting the Equal Protection Clause. 33 No one dissented. 34 Even most strict constructionists have failed to quarrel with McLaughlin, because original his torical meaning cannot be the end of the inquiry in the race cases.Americantraditionsofrace,includingslaveryandapart heid, were not only morally questionable, but also politically risky.Thedestiniesofthetworaces,inthiscountry,areindis solubly linked together, and the interests of both require that the common government of all shall not permit the seeds of racehatetobeplantedunderthesanctionoflaw. 35 As the foregoing analysis suggests, the legitimacy of consti tutionallaw,evenasappliedbyjudges,isnotjusttheapplica tion of original meaning or other legal sources to announce a constitutional rule. It also involves the ongoing evolution of ourpluralisticsociety.Noticethatsocietysevolutionwillalso affect tradition itself, which on matters of sexuality as well as racehasbeenevolutiveandnotstatic.
31.See Herbert Hovenkamp, Social Science and Segregation Before Brown, 1985 DUKEL.J.624,65657;seealsoAlfredAvins,AntiMiscegenationLawsandtheFour teenthAmendment:TheOriginalIntent,52VA.L.REV.1224(1966). 32.106U.S.583(1883). 33.McLaughlin,379U.S.at18890(discussingPaceanddismissingitasrepre sent[ing]alimitedviewoftheEqualProtectionClausewhichhasnotwithstood analysisinthesubsequentdecisionsofthisCourt). 34.TwoJusticeswentfurtherthanJusticeWhiteindisapprovingracebasedclas sifications.Id.at198(Stewart,J.,joinedbyDouglas,J.,concurringinthejudgment). 35.Plessyv.Ferguson,163U.S.537,560(1896)(Harlan,J.,dissenting).

No.1] II.

SodomyandGuns POSTADOPTIONTRADITIONASCONSTITUTIONAL ADVERSEPOSSESSION

203

n District of Columbia v. Heller, 36 the Supreme Court for the I first time in its history struck down a law as inconsistent with theSecondAmendment,whichstates:AwellregulatedMilitia, beingnecessarytothesecurityofafreeState,therightofthepeo pletokeepandbearArms,shallnotbeinfringed. 37 Hellerrecognized and enforced a right for lawabiding citizens to possess and use handguns and perhaps other firearms within the home for selfdefense. 38 This holding was in tension with the text of the Second Amendment and precedent. According to professional linguists and historians, in the eighteenth century bear arms almostalwaysmeanttouseweaponsinamilitarycontext;hence, the Second Amendments original meaning was to allow citi zenstokeepmilitaryweaponsinsofarasneededtobearthem inmilitaryservice.39 Consistentwiththatreadingoftheoperative clauseswords(italicizedabove),theprefatoryclausesemphasis on a citizen militia seems to limit the Second Amendment right to keep and bear Arms. The Heller Courts broader construc tionoftheoperativeclauseleavestheprefatoryclauseassurplu sage having no legal consequences, contrary to the canon pre sumingthateveryclauseintheConstitutionaddssomethingtoits interpretation.ThebroadreadingisalsocontrarytotheCourts only significant Second Amendment precedent, Miller v. United States, 40 where a unanimous Court limited the Second Amend mentrightbytyingittomilitiaservice. 41 Speaking for the Court, however, Justice Scalia read the Amendment more broadly than the text and precedent would
36.128S.Ct.2783(2008). 37.U.S.CONST.amend.II(emphasisadded). 38.128S.Ct.at282122. 39.BriefforProfessorsofLinguisticsandEnglishDennisE.Baron,Ph.D.,etal. inSupportofPetitionersat1828,Heller,128S.Ct.2783(No.07290);SaulCornell, TheOriginalMeaningofOriginalUnderstanding:ANeoBlackstonianCritique,67MD. L. REV.150,16364(2007)(surveyof115lateeighteenthcenturytextsusingterm beararms);DavidYassky,TheSecondAmendment:Structure,History,andConsti tutionalChange,99MICH. L. REV.588,618(2000)(sameresultforLibraryofCon gress database, 17741821). Justice Scalia responded that keep and bear arms hasabroadermeaningthanbeararms.Heller,128S.Ct.at279294.Butseeid.at 282731(Stevens,J.,dissenting)(respondingtoJusticeScalia). 40.307U.S.174(1939). 41.Id.at178.

204

HarvardJournalofLaw&PublicPolicy

[Vol.32

suggest,andtodosohereliedheavilyontraditionasevidence oforiginalmeaning. 42 HestartedwithEnglandsDeclarationof Rights:ThattheSubjectswhichareProtestantsmayhaveArms fortheirDefencesuitabletotheirConditionsandasallowedby Law. 43 According to Justice Scalia, eighteenthcentury Eng lishmenbelievedthatanarmedcitizenry,whetherpresentedas a militia or not, was a bulwark against tyranny; the monarchy would think twice before riling a citizenry that could shoot back. 44 The colonists insisted upon this right in the 1760s and 1770s,whenGeorgeIIIsoughttodisarmtheinhabitantsofthe most rebellious areas. That provoked polemical reactions by AmericansinvokingtheirrightsasEnglishmentokeeparms.A New York article of April 1769 said that [i]t is a natural right whichthepeoplehavereservedtothemselves,confirmedbythe BillofRights,tokeeparmsfortheirowndefence. 45 Tradition also helped Justice Scalia respond to the textual argument that bear arms had a military meaning in the eighteenth centuryandtothe argument thatthe draftinghis tory of the Second Amendment was focused only on militia service. 46 Justice Scalia used tradition to shift the burden of proof: Unless there is clear evidence otherwise, any text guar anteeing a right to keep and bear arms is presumptively con nected to the traditional right. A decisive answer to the Dis tricts (and Millers) view that the Second Amendments right waslimitedtomilitiausewasthatitwouldtreattheFederal Second Amendment as an odd outlier, protecting a right un knowninstateconstitutionsoratEnglishcommonlaw. 47
42.Heller, 128 S. Ct. at 2788802 (Scalia, J., for the Court) (original meaning of Second Amendments text); id. at 279799 (traditionbased evidence confirming anddeepeninglinguisticevidenceoforiginalmeaning). 43.1689,1W.&M.sess.2,c.2. 44.Heller,128S.Ct.at279799;seealsoBriefofAmicusCuriaeAcademicsforthe SecondAmendmentinSupportoftheRespondent[RatificationandOriginalPub licMeaning]at1417,Heller,128S.Ct.2783(No.07290)(developingthispointin greaterdetail). 45.Heller,128S.Ct.at2799.Formanyotherexamples,seeRespondentsBriefat 914, Heller, 128 S. Ct. 2783 (No. 07290); Brief of the Cato Institute and History ProfessorJoyceLeeMalcolmasAmiciCuriaeinSupportofRespondent[TheRight InheritedfromEngland]at1216,Heller,128S.Ct.2783(No.07290). 46.See Heller, 128 S. Ct. at 282731 (Stevens, J., dissenting) (original linguistic meaningofkeepandbeararms);id.at283136(drafting,debating,andratifica tionhistoryoftheSecondAmendment). 47.Id.at2803(majorityopinion).

No.1]

SodomyandGuns

205

Perhapsrecognizingthathisaccountoforiginalmeaningwas highly controversial (and substantially rejected by professional linguists and historians), Justice Scalia added a discussion of public understanding of the right to keep and bear arms after 1791aperiodtheprofessionallinguistsandhistoriansfailedto cover in their submissions to the Court. Justice Scalia relied on lowercourt interpretations of the Second Amendment, post 1791stateconstitutionsandtheirapplicationbystatecourts,and treatisesandcommentariestobuttresshisreadingoftheSecond Amendment. 48 [T]he examination of a variety of legal and other sources to determine the public understanding of a legal textintheperiodafteritsenactmentorratificationis,hesays, acriticaltoolofconstitutionalinterpretation. 49 Thisisanim portantpointbutnotbecausesubsequentpracticeisevidence oforiginalmeaning. 50 Thereisasecondconstitutionalvaluefortradition:Itcanbe apragmaticsourceforfillingindetailsleftunansweredbythe open texture of the Constitution. 51 Assume that the Second Amendmentisambiguousaboutwhetheritentailsanindivid ual right to possess guns in the home for selfdefense. Post adoption tradition can settle this ambiguity by coming down stronglyononesideortheother.Althoughunpersuadedofthe textualambiguity,IagreewithJusticeScaliathatthismaterial can have legal bite. Consider an analogy from contract law: If the parties practice supports a particular interpretation of an ambiguous contract provision, that practice is legally relevant andusuallydecisiveinfixingthemeaningofthecontract. 52 Or propertylaw:Ifonepartyopenlyandnotoriouslyoccupiesan otherspropertyforalongperiodoftime(thetraditionalruleis 20 years), the other party is deemed to have acquiesced in a formalshiftinpropertyrights. 53 Thesedifferentdoctrinespoint in the same direction for postadoption constitutional consen
48.Id.at280512. 49.Id.at2805. 50.See id. at 280911 (discussing Second Amendment rights of freed slaves in the1860s,whichwereinstructive). 51.See, e.g., Dames & Moore v. Regan, 453 U.S. 654, 67888 (1981) (taking ex pansive view of Presidential power to suspend lawsuits against foreign states, basedonexecutivepracticetowhichCongressneverobjected). 52.SeegenerallyBLACKSLAWDICTIONARY378(8thed.2004)(definingcourse ofperformance). 53.Seegenerallyid.at59(definingadversepossession).

206

HarvardJournalofLaw&PublicPolicy

[Vol.32

sus:ItcansettleissuesleftambiguousbytheFramers,andal low citizens and institutions to plan their affairs with reliance onsuchsettledunderstandings. Tradition as constitutional adverse possession is subject to some of the same kinds of analytical pitfalls and normative qualms as tradition as evidence of original meaning. Justice Scalias opinion in Heller is a classic example of the pitfalls as wellastheappealoftraditionalongtheselines. A. Anachronism

Although Bowers remains the champion of judicial anachro nism, even the betterinformed analysis in Heller is frequently anachronistic.AnachronismleapsofftheearlypagesofJustice Scaliasopinion,whenhereliesonthebroadmeaningofbear armstodayandimputesthatmeaningbacktotheeighteenth century. 54 That the anachronisms come in a wellresearched opinionisevidenceoftheinherenttrickinessoftraditionasan interpretive source, as judges and lawyers tend to shoehorn complicated, shifting understandings into simpler categories and boxes. And when emotional public policy issues are at stake,normativeprecommitmentsdrivetheshoehorning. 55 AstrikingfeatureofJusticeScaliasopinionisobliviousness tothefactthattheUnitedStateschangeddramaticallybetween 1791 and 2008. When the Second Amendment was adopted, ninetysix percent of Americans lived in small towns or rural areas,oftenonthefrontierbetweenEuropeanareasandNative Americanlands,andtherewereonlysixcitieswithmorethan 10,000people. 56 Insuchanagrarianfrontierculture,gunswere typically needed for a familys economic success and often their survival against attack; the community protected itself through armed citizen militias. As our country urbanized, the memory of a citizen militia evanesced, and the notion of an
54.Heller,128S.Ct.at279394(citingMuscarellov.UnitedStates,524U.S.125, 143 (1998) (Ginsburg, J., dissenting)). Justice Scalia was being playful, tweaking JusticeGinsburgfortakinganarrowerviewofbeararmsinHellerthanshedid intheearliercase.Veryclever,butitisstillananachronism. 55.ThisiswhatarecentempiricalanalysisfoundwhenitexaminedtheJustices deploymentofsourcesfromtheFoundingerainconstitutionalfederalismcases. Peter J. Smith, Sources of Federalism: An Empirical Analysis of the Courts Quest for OriginalMeaning,52UCLAL.REV.217,28283(2004). 56.THOMAS BENDER, TOWARD AN URBAN VISION: IDEAS AND INSTITUTIONS IN NINETEENTHCENTURYAMERICA3(1975)(dataasof1800).

No.1]

SodomyandGuns

207

armedcitizenryasthebestprotectionagainsttyrannybecame incomprehensibletosome.Today,Americaisanurbansociety where guns are part of an escalating culture of violence; the communityprotectsitselfthrougharmedpoliceforces.Thereis a fierce public policy debate about the efficacy of gun control laws,especiallyforurbanjurisdictionsliketheDistrictthatare surrounded by states where guns can be easily obtained. Was thereconsensusinthenineteenthcentury,astheUnitedStates wasbecomingmoreurbanandindustrialized,thatthemilitia based Second Amendment right ought to be expanded (and contracted)tobecomearightofselfdefenseinthehome?Was this consensus carried over into the twentieth century? Justice Scalia ignores these questions, whose answers might be yes (and therefore supportive of his position), and instead treats the postadoption materials as simply a continuation of what he thinks (based on slender evidence) all Americans believed duringtheFoundinggeneration.Suchastaticunderstandingis theepitomeofanachronism. 57 B. CherryPicking

Tradition is malleable in the hands of the Heller Justices, as suggested by the foregoing analysis, and that leads to cherry pickingchargesbybothsidesofthedebate.Abigdefinitional problem for postadoption tradition is what to do about the abandonment of an earlier tradition? Once the citizenmilitia ideal died, the minority notion of an individuals enforceable righttobeararmsrecededifnotdisappeared. 58 In1927,Con
57.See,e.g.,SaulCornell,DontKnowMuchAboutHistory:TheCurrentCrisisin Second Amendment Scholarship, 29 N. KY. L. REV. 657, 675 (2002). Justice Scalias majority opinion also contains smaller anachronisms that undermine his argu mentonitsownterms.Observingthatninestatesadoptedconstitutionalprotec tionsfortherighttokeepandbeararmsbetween1789and1820,hesaysthisevi denceconfirmsabroadoriginalmeaningfortheSecondAmendment:toprotect gunsforselfdefenseaswellasmilitiause.Heller,128S.Ct.at2803.Butsevenof theninestateconstitutionalprovisionsassuredtherighttobeararmsindefence of themselves [or himself] and the State, broader language than the Second Amendments text. Id. If theSecond Amendment wereasbroad as JusticeScalia says it is, why did these post1791 state constitutions not just copy the Second Amendment? Possibly, the states in question wanted a broader protection than the militiadependent protection of the Second Amendment. As a matter of tex tual plain meaning, one would expect the Second Amendment to be construed morenarrowlythanthesebroaderprovisions. 58.SeeHeller,128S.Ct.at284246(Stevens,J.,dissenting).

208

HarvardJournalofLaw&PublicPolicy

[Vol.32

gressprohibitedmaildeliveryofpistols,revolvers,andother firearmscapableofbeingconcealedontheperson, 59 andthen, in 1934, restricted the possession of sawedoff shotguns and machine guns. 60 Congress infringed the individual right to keepandbeararmsifthelatterlanguageisreadbroadlyand unconnectedtothemilitiasettingoftheprefatoryclause.Mu nicipal, state, and federal legislatures have also enacted in creasinglyregulatoryguncontrolmeasures. 61 Underthesecir cumstances,traditionasadversepossessioncutsinfavorofthe Heller dissenters as much as the majority: even if nineteenth century tradition supports a broad reading of the Second Amendment,twentiethcenturytraditiongoestheotherway. AninternalanalysisofJusticeScaliasopinionillustratesthe malleability of tradition. What the traditional right to bear arms actually entailed varies dramatically from point to point in his opinion. 62 And few if any of the sources of what the Court considered tradition understood the right in precisely thewaytheHellerCourtdid.JusticeScaliastatedthathisread ingprotected a lawabiding individuals right topossessand carry weapons in case of confrontation. 63 That is much broader than the 1689 English Declaration of Rights, with its as allowed by Law check, 64 and it is narrower than the 1776 PennsylvaniaDeclarationofRights,whichprotectedarightto bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state. 65 In deed, Justice Scalias announced right has no connection with theactualtextoftheSecondAmendment,eveniftheprefatory clause is rendered legally irrelevant. Neither the lower court noranypartytothecasehadarguedfortheprecisedefinition oftherightrenderedbyJusticeScalia.Thisoddrenditionsug geststhatthenationsleadingtextualistandmostardenttradi tionalist had to compromise with his more evolutive Brethren inordertosecureaCourtmajority.Whatwasgoingon?
59.ActofFeb.8,1927,ch.75,44Stat.1059. 60.NationalFirearmsActof1934,ch.757,48Stat.1236(codifiedasamendedat 26U.S.C.5861(2000)). 61.Amici Curiae Brief of District Attorneys in Support of Petitioners at 79, Heller,128S.Ct.2783(No.07290)(discussingfirearmsregulatingordinancesand statutesintheUnitedStates). 62.SeeHeller,128S.Ct.at279299. 63.Id.at2797. 64.1689,1W.&M.sess.2,c.2. 65.PA.CONST.of1776,ch.I,XIII.

No.1]

SodomyandGuns C. Illegitimacy

209

A legitimacy problem with tradition as constitutional ad verse possession is that it potentially clashes with more con crete legal sourcesconstitutional text and structure, drafting and ratifying history, and binding precedent. The plasticity of traditioninthehandsofaskilledjuristoradvocate(sometimes thesameperson)canbedeployednotonlyinaresultoriented way,butalsotodestabilizewhatappeartobehardersources of law. Thus, Justice Scalia skillfully marginalizes the Second Amendments prefatory clause because taking it seriously wouldrendertheSecondAmendmentanoutlierinthatera. But the Second Amendment was an outlier if you take its text anddraftinghistoryseriously:ItreflectedtheVirginia(George Mason and James Madison) approach to militia insurance. 66 Likewise, Justice Scalias deployment of tradition radically re visesMiller,reducingitsholdingabouttherelationshipsofthe prefatory clause to the operative clause to dictum and essen tiallylimitingthatprecedenttoitsfacts. 67 Thisisadversepos sessionwithacuttingedge. Forthoseconcernedaboutjudicialactivism,wherejudges readtheirownpreferencesintoconstitutionalprovisionsinor der to trump democratic regulation, Justice Scalias tradition saturated opinion in Heller ought to be a matter of concern. Heller rewrote the Constitution. In Heller, the Second Amend mentnotonlylosestheprefatoryclause,butgainsnewnontex tual limitations on the right. The Heller Second Amendment effectivelynowreads:Therightoflawabidingpeopletokeep Arms in their homes, for selfdefense purposes, shall not be subjectedtounreasonableregulation. 68 Suchadrasticrevision requiresalotmoreexplanationthantheCourtprovides. III. TRADITIONASDEMOCRATICDELIBERATION

Thereisathirdwayofunderstandingtraditioninconstitu tional interpretation that better reflects the learning of profes sional historians and engages the Supreme Court in a more productive dialogue with the democratic process. Many Su
66.SeeHeller,128S.Ct.at2835(Stevens,J.,dissenting). 67.Seeid.at284546. 68.Seeid.at2822(majorityopinion).

210

HarvardJournalofLaw&PublicPolicy

[Vol.32

premeCourtopinionsexplicitlyorimplicitlycomprehendtra dition the way historians doas an evolving interaction amongnorms,institutions,andpractices.Themostfamousex pressionisJusticeHarlansdissentinPoev.Ullman, 69 anearly privacy case. He was guided by the balance struck by this country, having regard to what history teaches are the tradi tions from which it developed as well as the traditions from which it broke. That tradition is a living thing. 70 Justice Harlansunderstandingofthelivingandevolvingtraditionsof American law is inspired by the common law methodology itself,andperhapsalsobythephilosophyofEdmundBurke. 71 An evolutive approach to tradition in constitutional law amelioratestheanachronismproblemsexaminedherebutdoes not solve the cherrypicking or illegitimacy problems. Indeed, this kind of approach drives traditionalists like Justice Scalia absolutely crazy, because they do not see how an evolving or living tradition can have any coherence, and certainly cannot seehowitcouldprovideguidanceforjudgesorattorneys.This is a fair point and can be illustrated by reference to both sod omyandguns.TheLawrencemajorityandtheHellerdissenters would understand tradition as evolving away from old fashionedagrarianvalues,thevaluesheldbymostcolonialand postIndependence Americans. The norms dominating early Americanpubliclawincludednotionsthatsexualurgesshould bechanneledintoprocreativemarriages,thatamanshomeis his castle governed by his directives, and that every man shouldhavegunsandotherweaponstodefendhishomeand family. That America is long gone, and the norms for a mod ern, urbanized America include notions that citizens have a wide array of sexual and relationship choices, that a man or womanscondoisapresumptivelyprivatespace,andthatpo lice are the primary source of protection against malefactors, whoshouldbedisarmedbythestateifpossible. Thisisnot,however,theonlystorythatcouldbetoldabout an evolving tradition. Another account supports Bowers and Heller.TheUnitedStateshaschanged,andmostAmericansto
69.367U.S.497(1961). 70.Id.at542(Harlan,J.,dissenting);seealsoWashingtonv.Glucksberg,521U.S. 702,765(1997)(Souter,J.,concurringinthejudgment)(quotingJusticeHarlan). 71.See Ernest Young, Rediscovering Conservatism: Burkean Political Theory and ConstitutionalInterpretation,72N.C.L.REV.619(1994).

No.1]

SodomyandGuns

211

day do not follow any of those norms that dominated early Americanpubliclaw:Theydonotlimittheirsexualactivitiesto procreativemaritalsexandtheyviewgunsinthehomeasdan gerstochildren.Thisisashiftinpracticesandmajoritybeliefs, butithasnotobliteratedtheoldtraditionsthatmadethiscoun tryexceptionalandgreat.Forthisreason,therehasbeenavig orous revival of traditional valuesprocreative marriage and guns as the citizens first line of selfdefensein America. 72 If this country enjoys an evolving [living] tradition, then Rev erend Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority, Phyllis Schlafly andStopERA,andCharltonHestonandtheNRAmaybejust as important leaders and institutions as Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood, the womens liberation of Betty Friedan, andtheguncontrolmovementledbySarahandJamesBrady. Inshort,ifacademicandjudicialcriticsofastabilityoriented tradition want to insist on a more complicated understanding of tradition as evolutive, they have to grapple with genuine complexity.Oncetraditionisunderstoodcriticallyandevolut ively, cherrypicking problems become even more abundant thanbefore,unfortunately.Thereisathirdwayofconceptual izingtraditionthathelpsusanswerthisquestioninamorere sponsibleway.Thisapproachtotraditionnotonlyavoidsmost problems of anachronism, but also reduces the illegitimacy problems. The third approach is tradition as ongoing democratic deliberation. In our democratic constitutionalism the authorita tive value of tradition is greatest when it is recognized and elaboratedbylegislaturesafteropenandpublicdeliberation.If the institutions of democratic governance, with popular feed back, reaffirm a tradition or rebuff efforts to reform it, that counts as evidence in favor of traditional understandings. If those institutions, on the other hand, question a tradition or reform it in part, then that reform counts as evidence against traditionalunderstandingsor(moretypically)asevidencethat traditionalunderstandingsshouldberecalibratedinsomeway. Traditionasdemocraticdeliberationmightsoundoutofplace in judicial decisions interpreting the Constitution, but consider
72.See,e.g.,ESKRIDGE,supranote13,at194228(discussingthenewpoliticsof preservation responding to the freedom of choice and gayrights social move ments);RandyE.Barnett,Foreword:Guns,Militias,andOklahomaCity,62TENN. L. REV.443(1995)(discussingtheriseofcitizenmilitiasandanewpoliticsofguns respondingtoeverexpandinggovernmentalregulation).

212

HarvardJournalofLaw&PublicPolicy

[Vol.32

thefollowing argument. Important institutions andpractices of governance as well as many fundamental values in the United StatesareenshrinednotintheConstitutionstextsorprecedents, but rather in state and federal statutes. Family law and voting rulesaretwoexamples.Theseregimesofgovernanceandnorms existwithintheframeworkoftheConstitution,ofcourse,butit isnotunusualforstatutorypressurestoinfluencetheSupreme CourtsunderstandingoftheConstitution. 73 Shouldnotlegisla tiveinvestigations,reports,statutes,andotheractionscontribute totheCourtsconstitutionalcommonlaw? 74 Traditionasdemocraticdeliberationhelpsusappreciatewhy theBowersJusticeswerenotwillingtoprotecthomosexualsod omy as a privacy right in 1986. Although nineteenthcentury sodomy laws had nothing to say about oral sex between two men,between1879and1935legislaturesalloverAmericadelib eratedthematterandconcludedthatoralsexwassimilartotra ditional sodomyanal sexbecause it was sex for pleasure aloneandthereforewasmorallyabominableforthesamereason as anal sex. 75 Then, through the middle of the twentieth cen tury, state legislatures and local police departments focused enforcement of updated sodomy laws on a highly disfavored minority, homosexuals, men whose incapacity for procrea tivemarriageraisedsuspicionsofpredatorynaturesandwhose cruisinginpublicplacescreatedconcernsfornuisanceandcor ruption. 76 Although half the states repealed their consensual sodomylawsbetween1961and1986,mostoftherepealswere carried off by sneaking sodomy reform below public radar as part of the Model Penal Codes modernization of criminal
73.CompareLassiterv.NorthamptonCountyBd.ofElections,360U.S.45,5354 (1959) (rejecting claim that state literacy tests unconstitutionally burden black peoplesrighttovote),withSouthCarolinav.Katzenbach,383U.S.301,334,337 (1966) (upholding Congresss authority to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment throughsuspensionofliteracytestsintheSouth). 74.ThisistheargumentofWILLIAM N. ESKRIDGE, JR. & JOHN FEREJOHN, A RE PUBLICOFSTATUTES(forthcoming2009). 75.ESKRIDGE,supranote13,at5055. 76.Id.at73108(theantihomosexualKulturkampf,orcampaignofdiscipline and erasure); John DEmilio, The Homosexual Menace: The Politics of Sexuality in ColdWarAmerica,inPASSION& POWER:SEXUALITYINHISTORY227(KathyPeiss& Christina Simmons eds., 1989). See generally DAVID K. JOHNSON, THE LAVENDER SCARE: THE COLD WAR PERSECUTION OF GAYS AND LESBIANS IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT(2004).

No.1]

SodomyandGuns

213

law. 77 Only inCalifornia didthelegislature openly debate the progay implications and still opt for sodomy reform (1975); two other states (Idaho, 1972, and Arkansas, 1977) reinstated theirconsensualsodomylawswhenthemediaalertedthemto thegayrightsimplications. 78 TheDistrictofColumbiarepealed itsconsensualsodomylawin1981,amovethatwasvetoedby the Democratcontrolled House of Representatives, 281 to 119. 79 AIDSphobiaafter1981madehomosexualsodomyeven moreindefensibleformostAmericans.BetweentheStonewall riotsof1969andthepeakoftheAIDSepidemic,around1990, nine states revoked criminal sanctions for consensual hetero sexualsodomybutlefthomosexualsodomyacrime,precisely the line that Justice White drew in Bowers. 80 In Reaganera America,thedemocraticprocesshad,decidedly,notembraced theideathathomosexualsdeservethesameprivacy protec tionsasheterosexuals.AndneitherdidtheSupremeCourt. Tradition as democratic deliberation, moreover, provides a legal basis for distinguishing Lawrence from Bowers. Public opinion underwent a sea change between Bowers in 1986 and Lawrencein2003,asthesensethatAIDSwasthehomosexuals TrojanHorserecededandasmanyAmericanscame,instead,to understand lesbians and gay men as ordinary neighbors and coworkers, often with partners and families. 81 Once it became clear that consensual sodomy, like penilevaginal intercourse, could be the basis for committed family relationships, it was much harder to deny gay people the privacy rights accorded straight people in the contraception, abortion, and interracial sexuality cases. 82 Twelve states abandoned their consensual
77.ESKRIDGE, supra note 13, at 11827 (during Illinoiss sodomy repeal, homo sexualitywasalmostcompletelyinthecloset);id.at14447(sodomyreforminthe 1960s failed when legislators detected the prohomosexual effect); id. at 17684 (substantialprogressinrepealofconsensualsodomylaws,inlargepartbecause therepealwasenvelopedinadoptionoftheModelPenalCode). 78.Seeid.at197201(Californiarepeal);id.at18284,38889(IdahoandArkan sasreenactconsensualsodomylawsaftermistakenrepealswereexposed). 79.Id.at21318. 80.Arkansas, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Ten nessee,andTexas.Seeid.at387407(appendixofstatesodomylaws). 81.Themostdramaticmovementinopinionpollscamebetween1990and1995. See Patrick J. Egan et al., Gay Rights, in PUBLIC OPINION AND CONSTITUTIONAL CONTROVERSY 234, 23637 (Nathaniel Persily et al. eds., 2008) (surveying public opinionpolls);seealsoESKRIDGE,supranote13,at26768(similar). 82.SeeESKRIDGE,supranote13,at26978.

214

HarvardJournalofLaw&PublicPolicy

[Vol.32

sodomylawsbetween1986and2003,asdidtheDistrictofCo lumbiain 1994,withnarya peepoutof Congress. 83 Although state legislatures and voters were rejecting samesex marriage all over the country in statutes and some constitutional amendments,therewasvirtuallynopublicinterestinreviving consensualsodomylaws.Bythetimetheissuereturnedtothe SupremeCourt,inLawrence,itwasalloverbuttheshouting. How about Heller? As Stephen Halbrook has demonstrated, congressional deliberation and action is surprisingly illuminat ing.84 In1892,CongressmadeitacrimeintheDistrictofColum bia(overwhichCongresshasplenaryjurisdiction)tocarryacon cealed pistol, except in ones business and dwelling house.85 Permitsforcarryingconcealedweaponsinpublicwereavailable for necessary selfdefense. 86 A brief legislative discussion suggested that Senators were sensitive to citizens natural righttocarrythearmswhicharenecessarytosecuretheirper sons and their lives. 87 In 1906, Congress authorized the Dis trictitselftoenactallsuchusualandreasonablepoliceregula tions...as they may deem necessary for the regulation of firearms, 88 butcontinuedtoenactitsownmeasures. In1932,Congressenactedacomprehensivefirearmslawfor theDistrict. 89 Section3ofthe1932Actbarredanyoneconvicted ofaviolentcrimefrompossessingapistolintheDistrict. 90 Sec tion 4 prohibited anyone in the District from carrying a con cealedpistolwithoutalicense,exceptinhisdwellinghouseor
83.Seeid.at26974,28998(statebystateanalysisofsodomylawrepeal,1992 to2000);seealsoid.at387407(appendix). 84.SeegenerallyBriefforAmiciCuriae55MembersoftheUnitedStatesSenate, the President of the United States Senate, and 250 Members of United States House of Representatives in Support of Respondent, District of Columbia v. Heller, 128 S. Ct. 2783 (2008) (No. 07290) (authored by Stephen P. Halbrook); Stephen P. Halbrook, Congress Interprets the Second Amendment: Declarations by a CoEqualBranchontheIndividualRighttoKeepandBearArms,62TENN. L. REV.597 (1995)[hereinafterHalbrook,CongressInterpretstheSecondAmendment]. 85.ActofJuly13,1892,ch.159,27Stat.116. 86.ActofMar.3,1901,ch.854,855,31Stat.1328. 87.23CONG. REC.5788(1892)(statementofSenatorMills,objectingtothepro posedbill);id.at5789(statementofSenatorWolcott,defendingthebillasconsis tentwiththeconstitutionalrightofanycitizenwhodesirestoobeythelaw). 88.ActofJune30,1906,ch.3932,4,Pub.L.No.59401,34Stat.808,809(codi fiedasamendedatD.C.CODE1303.43(2001)). 89.ActofJuly8,1932,ch.465,Pub.L.No.72275,47Stat.650. 90.Id.3,47Stat.at651.

No.1]

SodomyandGuns

215

placeofbusinessoronotherlandpossessedbyhim. 91 Section 14 prohibited anyone in the District from possessing a ma chine gun, sawedoff shotgun, or other dangerous weapons; therewasnodwellinghouseexceptionforthatrule. 92 The1932 Act remains in effect, as amended by Congress and later sup plementedbylawsenactedbytheDistrictofColumbiaCoun cil,suchasthestatutoryrestrictionsinvalidatedinHeller. 93 Legislators also crafted national firearms legislation in re sponse to a growing problem of dangerous use by criminals and malefactors. Congress in 1927 prohibited mail delivery of pistols, revolvers, and other firearms capable of being con cealedontheperson, 94 andin1934prohibitedthepossession of sawedoff shotguns and machine guns, 95 the law upheld in Miller. 96 TheSecondAmendmentwasnotemphasizedinthese debates,butneitherdidCongressregulatepossessionofhand gunsforselfdefenseinthehome.AtthesametimeAmericans were becoming accustomed to great amounts of government regulation, they were also becoming more jealous of retaining privatespacesunregulatedbythegovernment.Followingboth tradition and practicality, the home was the natural situs for suchalocationalunderstandingofprivacy. This balance between public safety and private sanctuary wasexplicitin theProperty Requisition Act of 1941, 97 enacted ontheeveofPearlHarbor.TheActauthorizedthePresidentto requisitionprivatepropertyfornationaldefensepurposes,but CongressstipulatedthattheActnotbeconstruedtoauthorize the requisitioning or require the registration of any firearms possessed by any individual for his personal protection or sportortoimpairorinfringeinanymannertherightofany
91.Id.4,47Stat.at651.Alicensecouldbegrantedtoanyoneshowinggood reason to fear injury to his person or property. Id. 6. The committee reports brieflynotedthat[t]herightofanindividualtopossessapistolinhishome,or onlandbelongingtohim,isnotdist[ur]bedbythebill.S. REP. NO.72575,at3 (1932);accordH.R.REP.NO.72767,at2(1932). 92.ActofJuly8,1932,ch.465,14,47Stat.at654. 93.CongressionalamendmentsincludeActofNov.4,1943,ch.296,Pub.L.No.78 182,57Stat.586,andActofJune29,1953,ch.159,PubL.No.8385,67Stat.90,9394. 94.ActofFeb.8,1927,ch.75,Pub.L.No.69583,44Stat.1059. 95.National Firearms Act of 1934, ch. 757, Pub. L. No. 73474, 48 Stat. 1236 (codifiedasamendedat26U.S.C.5861(2000)). 96.307U.S.174(1939). 97.ActofOct.16,1941,ch.445,Pub.L.No.77274,55Stat.742.

216

HarvardJournalofLaw&PublicPolicy

[Vol.32

individualtokeep and bear arms. 98 Therewasafairamount ofdebateoverrequisitioningorregistrationoffirearms,anda number of Representatives and a few Senators from the more ruralsouthernandborderstatesinsisteduponthesecaveatsfor Second Amendment reasons. 99 Although hunting was repeat edlymentioned,theprimaryjustificationwastheonemadeby Representative Hall of New York: A hallmark of totalitarian regimes (Communist Russia and Nazi Germany) was disarm ingcitizens;todistinguishourlibertyprotectingconstitutional ismfromtheirs,Congressoughttoassuretheindividualsright totheprivateownershipoffirearmsandtherighttouseweap onsintheprotectionofhishome,andtherebyhiscountry. 100 TheGunControlActof1968 101 establishedwhatisnowour primarynationalregimeforfirearmregulation.Thisisabroad and infringing regime, but Congress rejected proposals for nationwideregistrationofhandguns,andthe1968Actisnota ble for not regulating gun ownership by lawabiding citizens forselfdefense.Section101ofthestatutesaysthatitisnotthe purposeofthistitletoplaceanyundueorunnecessaryFederal restrictionsorburdens on lawabiding citizenswith respect to the acquisition, possession, or use of firearms appropriate to thepurposeofhunting,trapshooting,targetshooting,personal protection,oranyotherlawfulactivity. 102 Althoughthisisthe sort of cheap talk Congress often engages in for political pur poses,itdoesexplaintheregulatorychoicesmadeinthestatute Congress enacted. Indeed, in the Firearms Owners Protection Actof1986, 103 Congressamendedthe1968Actinminorways tofurtherprotecttherightsofcitizenstokeepandbeararms underthesecondamendment. 104 None of these legislative materials was even cited by Justice ScaliainhisHelleropinionfortheCourt,butitisapparentthat the precise contours of the constitutional right Justice Scalia
98.Id.1,55Stat.at742. 99.SeeHalbrook,CongressInterpretstheSecondAmendment,supranote84,at623 31(collectingquotationsfromvariouslegislators). 100.87CONG.REC.6778(1941). 101.Pub.L.No.90618,82Stat.1213(1968)(codifiedat18U.S.C.921note). 102.Id.101,82Stat.at121314. 103.Pub.L.No.99308,100Stat.449(1986). 104.Id.1(b)(1)(A),100Stat.at449;seealsoid.107,100Stat.at460(codifiedat 18 U.S.C. 926A) (preempting state laws barring interstate travel with lawful firearms).

No.1]

SodomyandGuns

217

says he discovered in the original meaning of the Second Amendment came instead from twentiethcentury congres sional and presidential consensus. Yet Justice Scalia kept these more recent sources in his constitutional closet, suggesting that hewasnotwillingtomakeanykindofevolvingconstitutional meaningargument.Butitisasuperiorargumenttotheoriginal meaning argument Justice Scalia tried to run. The twentieth centurymaterialssuggestthepossibilityofaroughconsensusin American law that Congress (and by extension the District of Columbia)maynotbarlawabidingcitizensfromkeepinghand gunsintheirhomesforselfdefensepurposes.Thisnormisone thatCongresshasrepeatedlyfollowedinlegislationfortheDis trict and for the nation, that most recent Presidents have en dorsed, and that the Supreme Court did not address in Miller oritsearlierdecisions. Inshort,ifIcouldbepersuadedtoreadtheSecondAmend ment dynamically to create a right independent of the militia context, I would end up with something very close to Justice Scalias limitations on that right. It is also worth noting that a dynamic approach to tradition also suggests a statutory solu tiontotheproblemaddressedinHeller.Asuperiorroutetothe Heller result, from a legal point of view, would be a statutory argumentofthefollowingsort:Congresshasplenaryauthority overtheDistrictofColumbia.Ina1906umbrellastatute,Con gressexercisedthatauthoritytoallowtheDistricttoenactall such usual and reasonable police regulations...as they may deem necessary for the regulation of firearms, projectiles, ex plosives, or weapons of any kind in the District of Colum bia. 105 In light of Congresss 1932 Act and other statutes sur veyed above, theDistricts regulation of home use of firearms is neither usual nor reasonable under the 1906 statute. 106 This would have resolved the case in a more rigorous legal way, would have protected the norm, and would have re spectedprecedentaswellasoriginalmeaning.

105.ActofJune30,1906,ch.3932,4,Pub.L.No.59401,34Stat.808,809(codi fiedasamendedatD.C.CODE1303.43(2001)). 106.The Supreme Court has authority to construe both congressional statutes relatingtotheDistrictandtheDistrictsownstatutes.

218

HarvardJournalofLaw&PublicPolicy CONCLUSION

[Vol.32

Ihavearguedthattraditionitselfhasmorethanonemeaning andseveralplausiblemethodologiesinconstitutionalcases.My goalistoinsistuponhistoriographicalaccuracyandnuancean insistencethatunderminestheutilityoftraditionasevidenceof originalmeaning.Iftraditionitselfevolvesandifmultipletradi tionsbearonaconstitutionalissue,mynotionoftraditionason going democratic deliberation best addresses concerns that un accountable judges will cherrypick tradition to impose their valuesontotheConstitution.