Monday, June 30, 2014

Observations of the SCOTUS Hobby Lobby Ruling

Well, the damage is done for another Supreme Court calendar year, finishing up with a ruling on corporations refusing to provide healthcare coverage to employees with regards to birth control medication and devices...  while I'm not a legal scholar, I've been a witness to history and American politics long enough to understand a few things:

1) The ruling clearly puts the religious beliefs of an owner over that of the employees: rather than try to find a spot between which the owner's beliefs won't conflict with the employees, the Court took a side... which hurts more people (workers and their families) more than it would have hurt the owners.

2) Justice Alito's contention that the ruling specifically affects birth control makes it clear the decision was about abortion and not religious liberty (despite what the fundamentalists think, those issues ARE separate).  The ruling didn't bring into consideration other religious arguments against various medical treatments - for example, some churches object to blood transfusions and others might object to psychiatric meds - which means the Justices were only concerned for the one that mattered to them: the religious argument against abortion.  It didn't help that all five Justices ruling FOR Hobby Lobby are practicing Catholics, whose church decrees that birth control is equal to abortion (there's a sixth Justice who is Catholic, but Sotomayor is female, which brings us to the next point).

3) The ruling was passed due to five Justices all of whom - Roberts, Scalia, Alito, Kennedy, and Thomas - were not only Catholics but also all male.  The sixth male Breyer sided with the dissent, which was where the three sitting female Justices all argued against the ruling.

3a) Not to mention that the five Justices in favor are all Republican party appointees, with the four dissenters all Democratic.

If you were a Republican operative working on any outreach programs to young unmarried women (and even married women) who are in dire need of healthcare coverage to pay for medications like birth control (some of the meds are useful outside of birth control, such as reducing risks of ovarian cysts/cancer), all of a sudden you're going to find it VERY hard to find any women with any fondness for the GOP.  The Republicans were already having problems getting young women to support the party, now it's going to get worse...

4) While the Far Right and Pro-Fetus crowd may be celebrating the ruling, it needs to be said it is easier to rally your voters around a grievance than anything else.  Meaning the motivation is now all on the Democratic side of the midterms this year.

Now the Republicans will crow that this ruling hurts dreaded ObamaCare, and that may get the Far Right base out and voting this November.  But now the Democrats have motivation by pointing out to women voters that they need to get out the vote to keep Democrats in control of the Senate this 2014: It's the Senate that approves Supreme Court Justices after all, and the sitting Justices aren't getting any younger.  If Ginsberg - eldest of the left-leaning Justices - dies or retires with a GOP-held Senate (who will press for a Far Right candidate no matter what even with Obama making the nominations), that's a vulnerable vacancy that could secure a solid block for conservative rulings for a long time.  Or if any other conservative Justices dies or retires while the Democrats control the Senate with Obama making the nominations, that could well shift the balance of power in the Court away from the current 5-vote conservative side.

Either way, if women feel threatened by a conservative Supreme Court - and I'm willing to argue a lot of them will be, not just over abortion and access to healthcare but also employment and salary equality, access to education, access to voting (!) - they have a lot of motivation now to vote Democratic for Senate seats this 2014... and to vote Democratic for the Presidency (hi, Hillary!) in 2016.

This is still the key point: despite whatever the Supreme Court rules, it's still up to voters to put into political power in the White House and the Senate (as well as the House in Congress) those elected leaders who will pass the laws and enforce the laws that the Supreme Court rules upon.  It's up to the President and the Senate to put Justices onto the Court bench when the time comes.  It's up to the people - us - to vote the right people into office who will make damn sure the Court is made up of Justices who will follow the law rather than their own biases.


P.S. point 5) This is still a slippery slope where "religious liberty" is going to get pursued in other fields of debate, such as education, social services, what have you.  Relying on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 to make this ruling is going to open up the possibility that questionable law can be argued for other ways the religious extremists can get around the restrictions and limits based on the Separation of Church and State.  This can get scary.

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