Friday, June 28, 2013

Whose Ox Is Gored

It has been quite a week, with four heralded Supreme Court decisions; a defeat (however temporary) for opponents of women, uh, er, reproductive rights, in Texas; and passage of comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S. Senate.  And those are only the marquee events, thereby excluding news of classified information leaked by the C.I.A. to CNN's Barbara Starr, who has dutifully served the government's interest while the self-righteous call for the head of Edward Snowden or of Glenn Greenwald.

NBC's Pete Williams' said of one of the two gay-friendly Court rulings

The interesting thing here is that the court has said that DOMA is unconstitutional as a matter of equal protection -- meaning that it's discriminatory. Now, the importance of that is, if the Supreme Court had struck it down on a narrower basis -- by saying for example that the federal government doesn't have the power to determine what a marriage is, that's a matter for the states -- that would have been a very narrow ruling.

"This is a very broad ruling. If the Supreme Court is saying here that the federal government can't make distinctions between same-sex and opposite-sex couples in terms of what marriages the federal government will recognize, then this is an opinion that can be used by proponents of same-sex marriage to attack laws in other states."

Some on the left, including Steve Benen, are almost giddy.  On The Maddow Blog, Benen exults "Anti-gay activists seemed apoplectic this morning, and I'm afraid I have some bad news for them: for the right, it won't get better."

Don't pop the champagne.  While for pro-gay activists (the mirror image of "anti-gay activists"), the DOMA decision and that invalidating California Prop 8 were indeed very good news, the political tea leaves are otherwise for American society generally.  Steve M., though pleased about the Prop 8 and DOMA decisions, is left

wondering why we're moving forward on gay equality, and possibly on the cause of undocumented immigrants, while poor people, unemployed people, people who've fought with banks over their mortgages, non-whites who want to vote, union workers, abortion rights supporters, and a host of other worthy groups are regularly being kicked in the teeth, sometimes (see: yesterday) by the very same Supreme Court that ruled today.

When I consider the possibility that the difference is that powerful economic interests don't lose anything from gay equality, I think: but why does there seem to be progress on immigration? Well, the party the powerful like best, the GOP, allegedly can't win the White House without Hispanic votes. But, then, why are abortion rights under attack in just about every state where Republicans are in charge? Why do Republicans still think a hard-line stance on abortion has no political downside? And why don't they seem to feel that way anymore about gay rights? How did gay rights get decoupled from abortion as part of the traditional-values wedge-issue package that always kept Middle American whites voting for the party most unabashed in its defense of the plutocracy?

He offers a novel explanation, that support for abortion rights, the rights of blacks, the poor, unemployed, and unionized are "subject to fatigue."  Perhaps, he suggests, they are "too associated with the hated '60s and '70s," unlike "the causes of gay people and immigrants (which) seem someone new to Middle America, which is sick of hearing about all that other stuff."

That probably is a factor, but not the primary one.  A sizable number of Americans still opposes same-sex marriage, and it appears many (if not most Americans) still would like to throw immigrants under that proverbial bus.  And support for abortion rights remains among the populace about as strong as is opposition.

Back in September, Christine Adams, a professor of history at St. Mary's College of Maryland, wrote in an op-ed piece in The Baltimore Sun

Even when times are good, a woman who faces multiple unwanted pregnancies during her child-bearing years has little time to appreciate the security that a burgeoning economy with good jobs promises. There is no factor that more strongly correlates with rising educational attainment and economic advancement among women than the new availability of birth control in the 1960s, along with access to safe and legal abortion since the 1960s and 1970s. For most women, contraception is our greatest health concern and expense during our childbearing years. Again, what is more "real" than that?...

As Georgetown ethicist Rebecca Kukla points out, we do not want our bodies "understood solely in terms of reproductive function." But we cannot enjoy the same rights as other individuals — called men — without the ability to control when and if we bear children, and without the medical care that makes that possible. Without that control over our own bodies, we are no longer genuine rights-bearing individuals.

Women's health care, access to contraception, and abortion rights thus are most accurately viewed as not solely a cultural issue (or "social issue" in the misleading vernacular) but as an economic and social issue.  While Repub legislators throughout the country are setting up roadblocks to reproductive freedom, a host of prominent conservative Republicans, including Dick Cheney, Senator Rob Portman, or Ted Olson (possibly as responsible as almost anyone for making George W. Bush president)- the winning litigant in Prop 8- and Grover Norquist publicly support same-sex marriage.

Among factors advancing the cause of gay rights while other progressive causes falter, Steve M. considers "the possibility that the difference is that powerful economic interests don't lose anything from gay equality."   No speculation necessary.

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