After watching protests over abortion rights grow outside the homes of Supreme Court justices over the weekend, the Senate acted swiftly Monday to expand protection for the justices and their families.
The Senate passed the Supreme Court Police Parity Act, a bipartisan bill granting additional security services to members of the court, by unanimous consent Monday evening. It now heads to the House of Representatives for approval on its path to President Joe Biden’s desk.
“If the families of Supreme Court Justices have the same profile and exposure as the highest ranking officials in our government, they deserve the same level of protection,” said one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Sen. Chris Coons, D. Del. in a statement. “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.”
In the days after Politico released a leaked opinion draft on May 2 showing the court could soon overturn Roe v. Wade, protests sprung up around the country, including in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.
Although these gatherings have been mostly peaceful, “an 8-foot-tall, non-scalable fence was installed around parts of the Supreme Court building, and crews set up concrete Jersey barriers blocking the street in front of the court,” CNN reported.
Protests have also formed near the homes of several Supreme Court justices, including Justice Samuel Alito, the author of the leaked draft. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who referred to Roe v. Wade as settled precedent during his confirmation hearings, have also been targeted, according to Politico.
“The events of the past week have intensified the focus on Supreme Court Justices’ families, who are unfortunately facing threats to their safety in today’s increasingly polarized political climate,” said the bill’s other co-sponsor, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex., in a statement Monday.
As photos and videos of protests circulated on social media over the weekend, several conservative leaders called on Biden to condemn the gatherings.
“If President Biden made a statement against the intimidation of Supreme Court justices and other public officials at their very homes — that would be stand-up. A president has a magnificent megaphone, which he can use to powerful and salutary effect,” tweeted Jay Nordlinger, senior editor of the National Review.
David French, a prominent conservative writer and commentator, shared Nordlinger’s tweet, adding that the protests outside the justices’ homes to continue are a “soul of America” issue.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki released a statement Monday morning stating that Biden supports both peaceful protests and the need to keep Supreme Court justices safe.
“(The president) strongly believes in the constitutional right to protest. But that 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,” she said.
A nationwide day of protest for abortion rights is planned for this coming Saturday, May 14, according to Politico.