Let’s talk in real terms about what happened last week at the Supreme Court. Not the MEME’s floating about, not the BS floating hither and yon depending on what news you turn on and tune in but the reality of what all this might mean to you and me.
First SCOTUS that is the Supreme Court of the United States. Those odd birds who unlike all other branches of government are appointed for life and truthfully have far more impact on our lives than we give them credit for. As a nation we were riveted by their big decisions last week;
- Obliteration of Section 4 of Voters Right Act of 1965 aka 15th Amendment. To be clear, this section of the act provides the formula for whether a State or even a voting jurisdiction within a state uses a ‘test’ or other ‘device’ to determine a citizen’s right to vote. The formula determined the numbers of eligible citizens registered to vote and how representative of populations within districts were after maps were redrawn. The original formula was established in 1964, they were evaluated and confirmed in 1982 and again in 2006 through a bipartisan vote of Congress.1
- DOMA that special legislation where Congress and then President Bill Clinton really stepped in proverbial shit yes I said it. Finally, someone challenged it and shockingly SCOTUS by a small margin agreed DOMA had no Constitutional validity, based only on state definitions of marriage. Make sense? No, it doesn’t to me either, what the court has done is defined marriage as a ‘legal’ definition based on State standing, all 965 places in the federal law that mention marriage will apply to all marriages. If you are married in a state that allows same sex marriage, the federal government will recognize your marriage as legal, however, no states are bound by these rules and it is up to each state to determine whether they will recognize same sex marriage; today twelve states recognize same sex marriage. 2
- Along these same lines the court sent Hollingsworth-v-Perry packing based on a simple standard, the defendants did not have standing. When Perry, et al sued the State of California because they were denied marriage licenses, then AG Jerry Brown and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to defend Prop 8. Hollingsworth, et al including multiple backers stepped in to defend Prop 8 since the State would not do so. The backing for Prop 8 came from the following groups:
- Campaign for California Families
- Protect Marriage
These groups were backed by:
- Family Research Council
- California Family Alliance
- Focus on Family
- Knights of Columbus
- California Catholic Conference
- Catholics for Common Good
- The Church of Latter Day Saints
Those were the big ones, the rulings those of us who watch the court were waiting for, in essence the court split hairs. No big wins for anyone really, though on the surface striking down DOMA and sending Hollingsworth and the Zealots packing felt pretty good, this wasn’t really a win just a tie.
Obliterating Section 4, well that was a blow for anyone who understands we do not live in a society that is Color or Gender Blind, or economically fair. No less than two (2) hours after this decision was announced by those myopic naked emperors on the highest bench of the land then Governors began to announce they would redistrict and implement voter ID laws previously turned down in federal courts; Rick Perry of Texas is a perfect example of this one. Of course, if you have political stooges on the bench it is impossible not to have results such as this.4
Thanks to SCOTUS Texas now have the most stringent Voter ID laws in the nation and the model for all other states. Thanks to SCOTUS, Rick Perry and his old white man brigade will wipe the slate clean, redistrict the state and maintain the status quo insuring no woman or minority who doesn’t tow the party line is ever elected to high office. Good on you; you parochial Azzhats.
These were not the only decisions handed down by SCOTUS last week; these were not the only game changers. It is important we not lose sight of what else happened and how these decisions affect us.
The court weighed in on adoption and parental rights, specifically on the rights on non-custodial parents in the Indian nations. This is important as it shows money can still buy persons, even when deception is used as part of the argument. There is both case law and federal law in place to protect the Nations from loss of children through adoption placement; the court intentionally read the law to favor the couple attempting to adopt the now nearly three-year-old child. The State Court denied the adoption when the father asserted his rights originally when the child was 4 months old. It is a sad and convoluted case.5
Well so much for States Rights on this one! Proves the States only have rights when big business and big government isn’t involved. In this case, a woman was terribly harmed, her doctor admitted he hadn’t read all the possible outcomes of the medication he prescribed to her and she had the very worst. The state law, which required the pharmaceutical company to list all possible risks of any drug whether name brand or generic. Unfortunately, the state law ran counter to FDA rules and SCOTUS the ruling came down in simple terms as follows, “(a) Under the Supremacy Clause, state laws that conflict with federal law are “without effect.” This ruling left a woman who is forever disabled without means of support. So much for small government, so much for STATES RIGHTS. 6
Finally, we come to the last weakening of protections for women and minorities, SCOTUS pulls more threads out of the EEOC. The court narrowed rather than broadened the definition of supervisor in this case, despite the changes in today’s workplace. The plaintiff in this case brought her complaint based on a hostile work environment, her nemesis was in a position to direct her work but not in a position to ‘hire’, ‘fire’ or affect her pay. By this definition, the conservative bench determined it was not possible for there to be created a hostile work environment and relied on the definition of ‘supervisor’. It appears now, an employer only needs to slap the hand of a bigot at work to perform their duty.
There you have it, the key cases of SCOTUS last week and how they have further eroded our nation and our protections. Despite the DOMA and Prop 8 decisions, this truly was not a good week for those of us who are not middle aged White Men who vote Republican. Between Congress and the conservative court, we are slowly but surely getting all of our protections getting kicked out from under us. Worse still, we don’t realize it and thus, we are unable to fight back.
Is this truly the nation we want to live in? Is the truly the nation we want our children to inherit?
1 Voter Rights: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/12-96_6k47.pdf
2 DOMA Decision: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/12-307_6j37.pdf
3 Prop 8 Decision: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/12-144_8ok0.pdf
6 State Law vs Federal Law Disconnect: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/12-142_8njq.pdf
7 Weakens EEOC and Labor: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/11-556_11o2.pdf
C.Thomas Dissent Encourages Privacy for Sex Offenders: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/12-418_7k8b.pdf