Why you should be happy Scalia’s gone

No, I am not celebrating Scalia’s death. I am celebrating him not being on the Court any more. I am happy that he can no longer cause harm. I would be just as happy had he merely resigned. CbIYxk6UAAAdFXX

Much of the problem with Scalia concerned his religious beliefs. He believed in a literal devil — that Satan was coercing other people to support gay rights and liberal politics. Since Scalia saw himself as doing God’s work, therefore anyone who held a different position from him was not only wrong, but evil. That is a dangerous and frankly unAmerican view for someone on the Supreme Court to have.

Intertwined with that was his conviction that not only should we consider what the Founding Fathers wanted when they wrote the Constitution, but his belief that he, and he alone, knew exactly what that was — and, amazingly, it always fit perfectly with his own views!

I’ve ranted against this kind of Constitutional fundamentalism before, pointing out that writing from the time clearly indicates that even the Founding Fathers disagreed. Hell, within a few years there were cases before the Supreme Court to determine the meaning of the Constitution because they couldn’t agree.

This attitude of “there is only one interpretation of the Constitution and it’s mine” falls squarely into his religious belief again, since he had the same view of the Bible.

And then for him to pretend that politics had nothing to do with his decisions! He’d claim to care about “state’s rights” unless a state wanted to manage its own electoral process (“but that could allow Gore to be President and we can’t have that!”). He’d say “we can’t overturn the decisions made by a democratically elected legislature” while striking down the Voting Rights Act passed by a huge majority. The only consistent thing about his decisions were his arrogant opinions that insulted everyone who disagreed with him.

But mostly I loathed the man for being so evil, so hateful of anyone different from him — for comparing gays to child molesters and saying blacks should attend lesser colleges because they’re not as smart as white people; for not caring if innocent people get executed; for arguing that discrimination against women was perfectly fine; for saying the sort of thing that, had he been head of the KKK (where he’d fit right in), you would all be saying “I’m glad he’s gone.”

Scalia is one of the main reasons that trust in the Supreme Court has dropped over the years. We used to hold our Court in high esteem, because they were the best and brightest, separate from politics, incorruptible. Then Scalia came along, thumbed his nose at Court ethics (claiming that he didn’t have to follow the same rules other federal judges follow concerning conflict-of-interest laws, “gifts” from people who had cases before the Court, and so on), insulted the other judges in his opinions, ranted publicly about “homosexual agendas” while commenting about upcoming cases, pushed the court to make political decisions like Bush v. Gore, and otherwise did everything he could to ruin hundreds of years of the Court’s image.

Damn right I’m glad he’s gone.

 

 

Nothing Civil About this Disobedience

by Guest Blogger Michael Strauss

The United States has a proud tradition of civil disobedience. And this tradition is one that is heralded by those on both the right (Boston Tea Party, Cliven Bundy) and left (Ferguson, Baltimore). Once again the cry and hue for civil disobedience is being raised, this time primarily by Republican legislators and elected officials, in response to the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges (legalizing gay marriage nationally).

But this raises a rather simple question: Is this actually civil disobedience?

As an old friend stated, there seems to be nothing civil about this disobedience. And while it was meant as a humorous quip, it is also rather on the nose as well.

First and foremost, civil disobedience, at its core, is still disobedience. When you disobey the law, no matter your reasons, you are punished for that disobedience. That is the side of civil disobedience we always seem to conveniently forget.

Texas AG Ken Paxton ignores the oath he took to uphold the Constitution

Texas AG Ken Paxton ignores the oath he took to uphold the Constitution

Despite the fact that he was one of the most peaceful men ever born, Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested 30 times for civil disobedience. He understood he would be arrested. In fact, mass arrests were literally part of his plan for building publicity for his movement. He never struggled against those arrests and actually refused to accept bail in some cases, in order to show support for his cause.

MLK understood that part of civil disobedience means that you accept your punishment willingly. That is why, no matter how much liberals applauded Bree Newsome (the woman who scaled the flagpole at the SC capitol and removed the Confederate flag), it is right and appropriate that she was arrested and will be tried. If she truly believes in her cause, she should plead guilty.

And then there is Ken Paxton. Ken Paxton would have you believe that he is following in the footsteps of MLK with his civil disobedience against the Supreme Court ruling, but his isn’t. Even if you accept his rather flimsy argument that he is fighting for the rights of religious Americans (that for some reason always seem to be Christians, despite the fact that both Jews and Muslims are likely to hold the same beliefs on “traditional marriage”), rather than against the rights of non-heterosexual Americans, he still isn’t engaging in civil disobedience.

Unlike MLK or Newsome or those patriots in 1773, he simply is unwilling to suffer the penalty for his disobedience. Just the opposite. He explicitly told the clerks and probate judges of Texas that they would have to suffer for obeying his order to invoke religious liberty, in direct violation of the Supreme Court ruling, but that he would be safe in his Ivory Tower. That isn’t civil disobedience. That is simply an abuse of power.

Which brings us to the second reason that Paxton and Abbott and Jindal (and any other elected or appointed official following this path) isn’t engaging in civil disobedience. As my old friend said, there is nothing civil about it. The word “civil” is a reference to Joe or Jane Q. Public. Martin Luther King Jr., the Tea Party patriots, Bree Newsome, Susan B. Anthony and even Cliven Bundy all share a common trait. None of them wielded direct legislative, judicial, or executive power.

Unlike Jane and Joe Q. Public, government officials have legal power and tools to try to change laws. Even Supreme Court rulings can be overruled (the Dred Scott decision is no longer the law of the land). The process may be ponderous, but those tools are available to people at pretty much every level of government, especially to state governors. The average citizen doesn’t have those tools or power, which is why they engage in civil disobedience. Anyone who uses power invested in them to violate the law is simply being a fascist dictator.

If Ken Paxton truly wishes to engage in civil disobedience, then he needs to follow the example of Linda Barnette, the woman who quit her job as a Grenada county clerk rather than issue marriage licenses to non-heterosexual couples. Whether you agree with her stance or not, her decision is a shining example of the correct way to object to this Supreme Court decision. Linda Barnette, a simple county clerk, made a principled, legal stand for her beliefs.

Why are Paxton and Jindal incapable of following her example?

Michael is a New Jersey native that somehow landed in Pittsburgh.  He is a writer by trade and an amateur political commentator by choice.  He enjoys tweaking the noses of liberals and conservatives alike.

What the Court’s Gay Marriage Decision Really Says

By Guest blogger Terri Lynn Coop

June 26, 2015 was one of those days when the wheel of history turned. At the center of the social media celebration and barrage of rainbows is the 35-page opinion on marriage equality penned by Justice Kennedy.

As both a lawyer and an ally, I find the opinion to be succinct, elegant, iron-clad, and a doorway to further equal rights activism here in the good old USA. After I held a series of light-hearted law “lectures” on the subject on Facebook, Mike invited me here to the ‘Quest to take a look at some of the key parts, both obvious and less so, of the opinion.

Overall, the Court grounded the opinion firmly in the 14th Amendment rights of Due Process and Equal Protection under the law. Out of that principle has sprung the right to privacy in what the court calls “intimate relations.” Kennedy went straight to the keystone cases such as Loving that struck down racial bans on marriage and Griswold that protects the right of married people to use contraceptives (yeah, that had to be litigated).

“This Court has invoked equal protection principles to invalidate laws imposing sex-based inequality on marriage . . . and confirmed the relation between liberty and equality . . .”

Strong words right there. We can’t have personal liberty without equality.

“The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.”

Part of deciphering judicial opinions is to look for the key words and phrases. Here it is “may not.” In other words – NO. No as in Grumpy Cat NO. Nyet. No way, no how are same-sex couples to be deprived of the fundamental civil right to marry.

The Court went on, conflating liberty and personal identity:

“The fundamental liberties protected by this Clause include most of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights . . . In addition these liberties extend to certain personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices that define personal identity and beliefs.”

The Court has just connected being gay with personal identity, autonomy, dignity, and civil rights. That sets up a key statement from later on in the opinion.

This Court is heavy on precedent. It is a thread through their decisions. This Court backed this pronouncement up with three cases where marriage rights were affirmed for mixed-race couples, prison inmates, and men who were behind in child support cases. Bottom line, other than the requirements that the parties be of age, of mental competency, and not related by a certain degree of marriage or blood, American citizens have the right to marry whoever they want to.

Answering the “traditional marriage” naysayers, the Court held that times change. Society changes and marriage has changed. Traditionally, women were essentially the legal property of their husband under coverture laws. As society began to accept that women were, you know, people, the equal protection laws were used to throw out the old laws.

“These new insights have strengthened, not weakened, the institution of marriage. Indeed, changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations, often through perspectives that begin in pleas or protests and then are considered in the political sphere and the judicial process.”

In other words, there is no such thing as traditional marriage. There is only marriage as defined by the mores of society. The odd argument that same sex marriage will cause the demise of opposite sex marriage was dismissed as being “without logic.” That is judicial shorthand for “that’s just weird, shut up now.”

The last big issue addressed was the question of states’ rights and use of the legislative process to parse civil rights. The answer was another resounding NO.

The states’ rights argument centers on marriage being traditionally left to the states to regulate under the 10th amendment. Kennedy says “Okay, you asked for it . . .”

“Yet by virtue of their exclusion from that institution, same-sex couples are denied the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage. This harm results in more than just material burdens. Same-sex couples are consigned to an instability many opposite-sex couples would deem intolerable in their own lives. As the State itself makes marriage all the more precious by the significance it attaches to it, exclusion from that status has the effect of teaching that gays and lesbians are unequal in important respects.”

Inherent in the right to regulate is the responsibility to regulate fairly. Or else SCOTUS will step in and make you play nice.

A nod is given to the “religious conscience” opposition movement, but doesn’t bode well for the flurry of what I call hate-pizza laws sure to come pouring out of statehouses in the red states.

“Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises, and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here. But when that sincere, personal opposition becomes enacted law and public policy, the necessary consequence is to put the imprimatur of the State itself on an exclusion that soon demeans or stigmatizes those whose own liberty is then denied. Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right.”

Object all you want on a personal level, but when you codify it into law, well then you’ve poked the bear and that bear has big sharp legal teeth. This opinion uses the word “but” like a ninja sword.

More proof that the Court does watch TV and knows what is being said about “activist” and “imperial” courts. This is a reminder of the role of the courts delivered with straight and hard with a verbal clue-by-4:

“An individual can invoke a right to constitutional protection when he or she is harmed, even if the broader public disagrees and even if the legislature refuses to act. The idea of the constitution “was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. This is why “fundamental rights may not be submitted to a vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”

BOOM! We don’t vote on the rights of our fellow citizens just like they don’t vote on ours. That’s why they are called rights. Also another warning to states that are toying with discrimination laws – the Court is ready and waiting for you.

This opinion is full of this type of elegant direct language. However, toward the end of the opinion is a single sentence that is easy to miss and could be a game-changer:

“And their immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment.”

Immutable nature. Civil rights language. In that sentence the Supreme Court of the United States just said that being gay is not a choice, that it is an unchangeable part of a person’s personal identity. That opens the door, really kicks down the door, to sexual orientation becoming a protected class. Twenty-nine states now allow employment discrimination on the basis of being gay. This could be the first pebble in the landslide that buries those and other laws.

That big rainbow out there shines on everyone. We are watching history every bit as important as women getting the right to vote and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It’s a good time to be an American.

Thanks for the invite!

Terri Lynn Coop is a lawyer by education, a writer by profession, and an unapologetic geek the rest of the time. She’s been known to blog at Readin’ Ritin’ & Rhetoric. Her first novel, a legal thriller, “Devil’s Deal,” is available through Amazon.

Grunt! Oog! Obamacare bad because written by women and minorities!

Me just caveman lawyer. Your modern world confuses and frightens me. But me know one thing:  Obamacare bad because written by white women and minorities.

At least three of these people will probably disagree with the idea that women don't understand the Constitution.

At least three of these people will probably disagree with the idea that women don’t understand the Constitution.

This, almost literally, is what the chief lawyer who argued recently before the Supreme Court about Obamacare said.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he said that this law was different because it was written by “white women and minorities.”  If you can understand why that makes it different from any other law, please enlighten me, but apparently, to Attorney Michael Carvin, that makes it suspect and clearly unconstitutional.  As we all know, we need white men making these decisions about our laws.

Hey, if nothing else, the fact that the people who hired him see nothing wrong with this statement tells you what kind of people are behind this latest attempt to overturn the will of the majority.

Editorial cartoon: The world according to the Supreme Court

Supreme Court: Corporations over women

A few days ago, we learned that dead people have more rights than women.  Now we learn that corporations have more rights than women, too.

As you probably know, Hobby Lobby won their ridiculous case (I wrote about that here, here, and here months ago).   While I am sad, I am not shocked.

I remember being shocked in law school when I read an opinion from Scalia that dealt with a similar issue, as to whether an employer could refuse to provide contraception for women (including abortions) but still provide it for men, and Scalicorporations-over-wethepeoplea’s logic was that the law did not discriminate against women — it merely discriminated against pregnant people.

Later, he ruled that the 14th Amendment which says that there can be no discrimination against “people” didn’t apply to women who wanted to be treated as equals in the military. “That’s different,” he said.

So this is nothing new. Women, in Scalia’s mind, aren’t really “people.”

This is what happens when you make corporations into people. They start having religions and then want to force everyone else to live by their religious laws.

So now religious law is more important than the secular law — but only for employers.  Got that?

Why do these people get to decide how to spend my money?  Health benefits belong to me, just like my salary.  Why does my boss get to decide how I want to use them?  Can my boss dock my salary if I decide to spend it on things he doesn’t like?

That’s the bottom line many people don’t get.  This is about who decides, and once more the Supreme Court has ruled that the power in this country belongs with the corporations and 1%, not with “we, the people.”

I see that the anti-gay religious folks are thrilled. After all, if the religion of the employer is more important than the law, then clearly employers can now discriminate against gays and lesbians if it offends their “deeply held religious views.”

And why stop there? I’m sure there are religious employers whose religion tells them they can discriminate against Jews, or women, or blacks.

Heck, there are enough gods out there that you can easily find one to worship that will allow you to ignore just about every law you want.

So what do we do?  How can we overturn this decision?

Well, you can’t.

What you can do is vote.  Vote in every election, not just the Presidential one.  Fill our government with Democrats who will put into place a single-payer system that we should have done in the first place.  That will solve many problems as well as make this decision completely irrelevant and moot.

Supreme Court once again ignores the Constitution

church

The Roberts Supreme Court has once again shown that it cares little for the Constitution, legal history, or precedent.  It recently decided that it is perfectly fine for our government to favor one religion.

Yeah, I know, right?  You’d think the explicit words of the 1st Amendment make it amazingly clear.  You’d think anyone who could read would agree that wouldn’t be allowed.  And, in fact, that’s the way it’s always been.

But just like how they decided that (a) the 2nd Amendment applies to individuals and not the military;  (b) money is “speech” and the government doesn’t have the power to regulate campaign contributions;  (c) schools cannot make their own decisions concerning admission policies; (d) the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t have the power to protect the environment … anyway, I could go on.  In case after case, a slim majority of the Court overturned years of precedent to promote its conservative agenda, and damn the Constitution.

And the public knows that this is political.  It’s so blatantly clear that public support for the Court has dropped from 90% confidence to 44%.   (Still higher than Congress, though.)

Anyway, the Court held that there is nothing wrong with a government leading everyone in a Christian prayer every day.  The basis for this argument was “What Establishment Clause?”  They also completely rewrote American history by arguing that many of the Founding Fathers were Christians and therefore would agree.  (Well, yeah, but they specifically made sure that their religion stayed completely separate from the government by writing things like, oh, I don’t know, The Establishment Clause.)

Christians who rail against Sharia Law thought this was the greatest decision ever.  They only object when it’s someone else’s religion being used.  (And yes, I am aware that there are indeed many Christians who support the Constitution and disagree with this decision.)