In one of the odder bits of news from the last week, Harry Potter J.K. Rowling has outed one of her characters - Albus Dumbledore -as gay, even though the subject never comes up in the books (so I'm told). Strangely enough, Michael Dorf finds that this is a good jumping off point for discussing the original intent theory of constitutional interpretation. It goes like this:
But given that the Potter books, now complete, make no mention of Dumbledore's sexuality, Rowling would not appear to have any authority to declare the print version of Dumbledore gay, straight or bi. Her views on such matters are naturally of interest to fans of her books, but the work must stand on its own.It reminds me of Ray Bradbury's recent claim that his novel Farenheit 451 is not really about censorship, but a critique of the corrosive effect of television. Not many people bought that and I'm not sure many people will buy Rowling's outing of Dumbledore. If Dorf is right, we don't have to.
These principles may seem obvious enough when considering the relation of a fiction writer's intentions to her text, but they are highly contentious when it comes to legal documents. In the balance of this column, I will explain why James Madison is no more of an authority on the meaning of the U.S. Constitution, than J.K. Rowling is on Dumbledore's sexual orientation.