WASHINGTON ― The U.S. Senate unanimously passed legislation on Monday expanding security protection to families of Supreme Court justices after demonstrators gathered in front of several justices’ homes over the weekend to protest the court’s apparent decision to gut abortion rights.
The bill was introduced last week by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito indicated that the high court would overturn the landmark decision Roe v. Wade.
Close to 100 protesters chanted and waved signs outside the Maryland home of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, then marched to the nearby home of Chief Justice John Roberts before police ordered them to disperse. More protests over the leaked draft are planned for this week.
“The time for civility is over, man,” a protest organizer told Bloomberg.
Republicans immediately cried foul, accusing the activists of attempting to intimidate Supreme Court justices before the court issues its final decision on Roe later this summer.
Several GOP lawmakers, including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) — who voted to object to the 2020 electoral results after a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 — accused Democrats of “embracing mob violence” and called on President Joe Biden to denounce the protests.
“Trying to scare federal judges into ruling a certain way is far outside the bounds of normal First Amendment speech or protest. It is an attempt to replace the rule of law with the rule of mobs,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) added in a floor speech.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted Monday that Biden “strongly believes in the Constitutional right to protest” but that it should “never include violence, threats, or vandalism.”
“Judges perform an incredibly important function in our society, and they must be able to do their jobs without concern for their personal safety,” Psaki added.
The organizers of the protest stressed that it was a peaceful demonstration; people marched, carried signs and yelled slogans such as “No uterus, no opinion.” The protesters maintained that they are simply exercising their right to protest a decision that could affect millions of Americans.
Coons, the Democratic sponsor of the Senate bill, argued that families of Supreme Court justices deserve the same level of protection as families of other high-ranking officials in the U.S. government. He notably invoked the latest Supreme Court appointee, who was appointed by a Democratic president.
“Millions of Americans who tuned in to Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearing couldn’t miss seeing her husband and daughter on national TV,” Coons said in a statement last week. “We must take threats that come from extremes on both sides of the political spectrum against Supreme Court justices seriously, and that makes this bill an unfortunate necessity.”
It’s not clear when or if the House is expected to take up the bill.
The Senate is also expected to hold a vote later this week on legislation aimed at safeguarding abortion rights across the country. But that effort is expected to fail in a straight party-line vote due to a likely Republican filibuster.