Courting Equality

I’ve written once or twice before about the whole idea of minorities pursuing justice via the court system, and a Maryland circuit court judge’s ruling the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional — and state Democrats hoping the Court of Appeals quashes it so they don’t have to deal with it —got me thinking about the subject again.

And as I was considering what to post, I came across this AlterNet piece about life before Roe v. Wade, and a comment from an apparently pro-choice individual caught my attention, mainly because it echoed some of what’s usually heard from conservatives bemoaning the moments when the courts have acted as agents of social change and justice in spite of the will of the majority. 

Had Roe v. Wade never happened in 73, abortion was well on its way to being legalized on the state level…and today we’d have close to the same level of legal abortion…but with a big difference….the GOP would probably never have come into its current prominence without its main wedge issue. As a liberal who supports legal abortion, I have also come to the conclusion that Roe v. Wade is a giant noose around the neck of Democrats. It’s enabled the GOP to con the masses with its Terri Schaivo-like pseudo “culture of life” while distracting them from the economic devastation of their other policies. Liberals, you know what, if people in places like Alabama, Mississippi and Utah don’t want to have legalized abortion….we should accept that…as opposed to having a Stalinist-like approach that abortion should be legal in every square inch of the nation and in places where it’s obviously not wanted. I welcome the overturning of Roe v. Wade….it would be a disaster for the GOP. Most states would step right in to relegalize it…and when the first instance of a woman dying of a botched abortion comes in, there’d be an outcry to relegalize it where it had been outlawed.

I realize the horrible situation that existed as told by the author above … but at the same time it created a mechanism for con-artist politicians to redefine many elections around “social issues” rather than economic ones. Don’t count on Bush’s goons in the Supreme Court to overturn the GOP’s greatest political cash cow…there’s just to much political capital for milking this issue for what all it’s worth. The “culture of life” con-job will continue into perpetuity…and we’ll keep on loosing many elections because of it.

If this comment is, to any degree, indicative of growing sentiments among progressives where our nation’s courts are concerned, then conservatives have won the debate and history has been rewritten. The south has won the civil war, the segregationists were right, and we have become a confederacy.

The mob — the majority — shall rule absolutely, whether right or wrong. Minorities seeking justice face a roadblock and must simply “cast down our buckets where we are” and settle in for a long wait for those in power to concede or confer equality and justice without a demand. Even a polite request might be too uppity if the new reality is that the mob knows best and that might — in terms of sheer numbers — makes right. Even some us in the minority that could benefit from the Maryland decision seem to think it’s better that we don’t.

If the judiciary route leads to a constitutional amendment banning both gay marriage and civil unions, will activists admit that suing for marriage (rather than working for legislatively approved civil unions, or even full marriage) is counterproductive?

Once again, it seems to come down to the old argument over radical vs. gradual social change. Only now, Washington appears to be winning the argument and DuBois is on the outs. We have gone from understanding why we can‘t wait to being convinced that we must wait; and even that it’s best that we wait.

King “reasoning” has become King “rhetoric” as hostile forces use King’s name, likeness, intellect and legacy to shift the social construct toward race neutrality and away from social justice. By using “King-isms” to deflect the same arguments for racial and social equality King made in his last two books, Why We Can’t Wait and Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? … America was able to stop King’s revolution of conscience right in its tracks.

The AlterNet commenter rues that Roe v. Wade gave social conservatives an issue to exploit, and fears it has empowered them beyond progressives’ ability to counter, and suggests it would be better if Roe had never happened even if that meant that many women would continue to die from illegal abortions. The blogger for the Independent Gay Forum fears that the taking the fight for equality to the courts will result in a backlash and that it would have been better not to, even if that means that same-sex couples and their families continue to go without the rights and protections that other families enjoy.

Better to remember your place, keep your head down, and speak softly lest you draw the attention of the bully on the playground — the majority, that is — because the biggest and strongest deserve to rule based on nothing more than their might. Perhaps you can curry favor with them over time — several decades, perhaps — but until then you will simply have to live with injustice and inequality if that’s what the majority deems you worthy of. Oh, you make speak up against it if you dare; write a letter to editor or join a protest. But you may not, you’d better not, take your quest to the halls up justice because they aren’t (or soon won’t be ) in the business of dispensing that commodity unless it pleases the mob.

Retroject that into the past, and you get a lot of judicial decisions that were important for minorities that probably shouldn’t have happened. Of course Roe v. Wade shouldn’t have happened, and neither should Loving v. Virginia or Brown v. Board of Education. For that matter, neither should the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for that matter. And it goes without saying that the Lawrence v. Texas decision shouldn’t have happened either.

Neither the decisions, nor the social changes the set in motion — and the justice dispensed to the minorities who approached the courts in seeking it — should ever have happened. And not just because the courts should no longer be in the business of justice for minority citizens (or women seeking reproductive freedom of choice). Even if it means that more people would have to suffer discrimination, none of it should have happened. Those who benefited from having legal recourse against discrimination shouldn’t have benefited, and should have been discriminated against. Those who are alive because of access to safe and legal abortion shouldn’t be. 

Jesse Helms, a one-time segregationist, was right.

Helms writes in the memoir, called “Here’s Where I Stand,” which is scheduled to be published by Random House in September. “By that I mean that I thought it was wrong for people who did not know, and who did not care, about the relationships between neighbors and friends to force their ideas about how communities should work on the people who had built those communities in the first place. I believed right would prevail as people followed their own consciences.”

If the majority wanted discrimination to continue, than people should have been discriminated against. If the majority wanted abortion to remain illegal, than women who sought abortions should have continued to die in back alleys. Because the majority wanted it, and if the majority want it then it must be right.

And it’s not just because the majority wanted discrimination at the time, or preferred back alley abortions (though one can assume they did, and that they were right because they were the majority). It’s also because if you are a woman or a minority, your rights should not be the same in one state as they are in another. Of course, if you’re a member of the majority, chances are you can go anywhere you want without worrying that, say, the legal status of your relationship with your spouse or your children. But if you’re a gay family traveling through Oklahoma, if you have an accident and wind up in the emergency room you may find out that you’re not a family in Oklahoma. Because you have fewer federally protected rights that you can count on everywhere in America.

And that’s as it should be. Because the segregationists were right, the south won the civil war, and because we are (or are becoming) a confederacy after all. It may not be good for minorities, but that makes it good for America.

And now, even liberals are saying so.

About Terrance

Black. Gay. Father. Buddhist. Vegetarian. Liberal.
This entry was posted in Courts, Family, Feminism, Gay Rights, Gender, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Courting Equality

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  2. Shannon says:

    Thanks for this post.  I really liked it.  I really bristled when I read that AlterNet piece.   Abortion was NOT well on its way to becoming legalized all over.  I’m sure that if it were left up to the states, some of them would still have laws against it.  Abortion is wanted by people in Utah, Mississippi, and other states or else it wouldn’t even be an issue.  It just isn’t wanted by the people who don’t have to deal with it. 

    The law means nothing if it isn’t followed.  That’s the reason that we have the courts.  We could have the most noble, wonderful statements in our Constitution and a society in which minorities are jailed for no reason if we don’t have anyone to make sure that doesn’t happen. 

    I like the asides that you’ve added and the one about calling abortion foes people for forced-birth was a great idea (though if you read into the comments someone says that forced-childbearing would be an even better name because it captures that it takes months away from a woman).

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