William Rehnquist

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William Rehnquist
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[Rehnquist] was funny and charming, very bright and quick. He could give you all the good conservative arguments on any issue. He had no sympathy for criminal defendants — none. When you talked about the problem of the cities or the poor or blacks, it was clear he had no understanding. It was a universe he didn't comprehend.
—Former Supreme Court law clerk Donald Trautman[1]

William Hubbs Rehnquist (1924–2005) was a far-right Supreme Court Justice first appointed by Richard Nixon as an associate justice, then made chief justice by Ronald Reagan, after getting "the highest negative vote ever received by a confirmed justice" at thirty three.[2]:171. He served on the Supreme Court until his death in 2005.[3] He has been described by some as a “rigid conservative,” with one critic of him writing "If you were a homosexual, a racial or religious minority, a woman, an alien, an accused criminal, or someone facing the death penalty, you were not going to get Rehnquist’s vote.”[4] It's also said he voted "with the prosecution in criminal cases, with business in antitrust cases, with employers in labor cases, and with the government in speech cases."[5]:221


Rehnquist was infamous for his far-right opinions, especially in his early days on the court, even earning the nickname "The Lone Ranger" due to the frequency of him being the lone dissent in a ruling.[6] He infamously said in 1952, "I think Plessy v. Ferguson was right and should be re-affirmed,"[7] and although he disavowed the article where this was stated, there is have evidence of him defending segregation as a Constitutional right as late as 1993.[8] In 1970, his belief in segregation was so strong that he advocated for a Constitutional Amendment allowing local governments to segregate schools.[9]

Unsurprisingly, his opinions on LGBT people were about on the same level as his opinions on non-white people, to the point where the gay rights organization ACT UP called him one of the major figures in the fight against homosexual rights in the United States at the time.[10] In Ratchford v. Gay Lib, he essentially said that homosexuality is contagious.[11] He sided with the majority in Bowers v. Hardwick, which upheld the constitutionality of sodomy laws.[12] This same logic led him to dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned the aforementioned case.[13]