I am very encouraged by some major steps forward these past few days to secure the overdue freedoms and rights for LGBTers and women in the US. The journey is far from complete, but we are headed down the right path in this country in spite of some protests from the evangelical right. Unfortunately, two other steps were taken that will either dampen some of this momentum or heighten it. Either way, we should shine a light on the issues.
First, the major positive steps. Yesterday in Washington state, the State House of Representatives approved same-sex marriage following a similar move by the State Senate. The Governor should sign the bill into legislation soon. This legislation had the backing of three global employers based in the Northwest – Starbucks, Nike and Microsoft. This public backing is huge for a multitude of reasons as will be noted below.
Second, the State of California Appeals Court ruled that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional. Further, it said the current law was an insult to gay and lesbian Californians and trampled on their rights as citizens. This will eventually go up to the US Supreme Court, but it is huge step in eliminating discrimination against gays and lesbian Americans.
This movement is clearly the future and is long overdue. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights protect the rights of all citizens to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They did and do not limit these rights to those who worship a certain way or have a certain sexual preference. In fact, the only limitation in the Constitution was for slaves who were at best counted as 3/5 a person for congressional representation. Fortunately, our country remedied this in 1863 and refined it further in 1964. So, this is the time for the LBGT Civil Rights movement. I reference earlier the backing of the three global employers. They know what is right, but know their target demographics as well. Over 70% of the US population between the ages of 20 and 34 support same-sex marriage, as compared to only 39% of those over 55. These are their predominant customers today and tomorrow. So, when certain conservative groups say they will boycott these companies, the companies have already done the math.
The other positive change was the quickly amalgamated support for Planned Parenthood when Susan B. Komen said they would cease funding this organization. I am huge believer in Planned Parenthood and Susan B. Komen. I believe the latter made a very poor decision that was righted after the public scrutiny. Planned Parenthood does a significant amount of good for women and family health issues. They are an outlet for the impoverished and middle class as well to get reasonable advice on family planning and women’s health issues. The data is overwhelming on the numbers of people they help and they have probably prevented far more unwanted pregnancies than the number of abortions they have helped facilitate. I hope Susan B. Komen has not harmed themselves too much as it is otherwise a fine organization.
So, while these positive steps were occurring, a couple of steps backwards occurred as well, although one was well-intentioned, but poorly executed. The well-intentioned change was to extend the contraceptive requirements under Health Care Reform to the non-church businesses of the Catholic Church, primarily hospitals and universities. 28 states have similar laws in place and the recommendations are consistent with the recommendations of the panel who looks at best practices. While I see the wisdom of what was recommended and I have always felt that the employment laws that other employers must abide by to protect their workers should apply to such employers, the timing is very poor. So, while well-intentioned and intellectually more reasonable, the President has done a disservice to his campaign and I hope his more progressive mantra does not suffer in the election.
Speaking of elections, the other troubling occurrence was the rallying around Rick Santorum in the GOP caucuses held this week.. Being in the “anyone but Romney” camp of the GOP, his evangelical following may carry the day as people tire more of Romney. Unfortunately, for independent voters, we see Romney as a moderate Republican who is electable. He is not perfect, but he is far more reasonable than the remaining candidates. I could tolerate him in the White House more than I could the others.
My fear is Santorum could carry the day as he is more Reactionary than the others (using an old term which seems to fit) and if the economy does not continue to improve, he could get swept into the White House. That would be unfortunate and would truly take our country back-wards, that is. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I think the voters are seeing Newt for what he is, so between the two, I would take Santorum, but neither is good for this country from my view.
So, focusing on the positives, it has been a good ten days. I hope the President will backtrack off his position a little, but he may have caused too much damage with this change.