Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, during the first public address since the leak of a draft document he wrote that would overturn Roe v. Wade, was reluctant on Thursday to talk about whether the public outcry has challenged relationships with other justices.
Alito, speaking to a crowd at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia, through a closed-circuit link from a room at the court, had been discussing several topics, including a disagreement on the court's decision on federal discrimination law and LGBTQ workers, reports The Washington Post.
The topic of the leaked document didn't come up until the last question from the audience, when a questioner told Alito that, "I think it would just be really helpful for all of us to hear, personally, are you all doing OK in these very challenging times?"
"This is a subject I told myself I wasn't going to talk about today regarding, you know — given all the circumstances," Alito said. "The court right now, we had our conference this morning, we're doing our work. We're taking new cases, we're headed toward the end of the term, which is always a frenetic time as we get our opinions out."
The leaked draft document showing that the five conservative-leaning justices on the court cast a tentative vote to overturn Roe sparked protests over the possibility that the guarantee of the right to an abortion could end.
Protesters have gathered at the homes of the justices, including Alito's near the George Mason campus. On Thursday, even though Alito was not physically present at the fourth annual Scalia Forum, about two dozen protesters, for and against abortion, were outside the law school building.
Many in the pro-abortion side were George Mason students, some of whom said they stopped their studies and traveled from the school's main campus in Fairfax to protest against the decision to welcome Alito for a speech.
Anti-abortion counterprotesters said they decided to attend to make sure their side of the debate was presented.
"People think we hate women, some people say we're anti-birth control," Alyssa Thoburn, a criminal justice major at Liberty University, commented. "We just want people to have the right to life."
Despite the growing debate on abortion and Roe, Alito's topic of discussion was how late Justice Antonin Scalia had transformed the review of federal laws from focusing on the text of the law, not the intent of Congress, and how he believes the method was used incorrectly in a recent 6-3 decision in the gay rights case of Bostock v. Clayton County. In that case, the court ruled that gay and transgender workers are protected by federal law forbidding discrimination.
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