Justice Alito under fire for KKK joke during oral argument

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito faced backlash Tuesday for joking about a child in a Ku Klux Klan robe visiting a black Santa during arguments in a high-profile free speech case.

The justices were weighing the case of a Christian graphic designer from Colorado who objects to designing wedding websites for same-sex couples when Alito proposed a hypothetical scenario, asking whether a black person dressed as Santa could refuse to take a picture with a child dressed in a KKK robe.

Colorado Solicitor General Eric Olson, who is representing the state in the challenge against its law, responded “No,” because Ku Klux Klan outfits wouldn’t be protected under public accommodation laws.

Justice Elena Kagan chimed in, saying Olson’s response wasn’t based on the race of the child wearing the outfit.

In an awkward moment, Alito responded: “You do see a lot of black children in Ku Klux Klan outfits, right? … All the time.”

Justice Samuel Alito came under fire after making a joke during oral arguments about a black child in a KKK outfit.
Getty Images

Earlier, Justice Ketanji Brown-Jackson asked whether a photography store in a shopping mall could refuse to take pictures of black people on Santa’s lap.

“Their policy is that only white children can be photographed with Santa in this way, because that’s how they view the scenes with Santa that they’re trying to depict,” said Jackson, one of the court’s two black justices.

Although in the moment Alito’s quip drew laughter from some of those present in the courtroom, on Twitter it sparked a firestorm of criticism.

Sherrilyn Ifill, former president and director counsel for the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, weighed in on Alito’s “upsetting” comments.

“The joke about Black kids in KuKluxKlan outfits? No Justice Alito, these ‘jokes’ are so inappropriate, no matter how many in the courtroom chuckle mindlessly,” she wrote.

Another user, Victor Shi, fumed: “How can anyone — especially Gen Z who saw this court literally overturn the right to an abortion—take this court seriously with people like Alito & (Justice Clarence) Thomas on the bench?”

Yet another commenter, Charles Campisi, called Alito’s words “sickening, despicable, outrageous & disgusting.”

Lorie Smith is pictured
Web designer Lorie Smith will argue before the Supreme Court why she should be able to refuse making wedding websites for same-sex couples.

Katherine Franke, a law professor at Columbia University and director of the school’s Center for Gender & Sexuality Law, took Alito to task for making off-color jokes while deciding an important case that could have far-reaching consequences for the LGBTQ community.

“Justice Alito is resorting to KKK jokes. Ha ha ha,” she tweeted. “As if what’s at stake here is funny, and isn’t taking place in a context in which LGBTQ people feel like we have a target on our backs. And, ahem – Klan jokes aren’t funny under any context.”

The Colorado case comes amid growing concerns that the Supreme Court, which is controlled by a conservative majority, might overturn its decision declaring a nationwide right to same-sex marriage — just months after ending constitutional protections for abortion.

The White House is awaiting final passage in Congress of a bill protecting same-sex and interracial marriage.

With Post wires

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