First voting rights, second Roe v. Wade, next Obergefell v. Hodges
We have all heard the cliché that “Elections have consequences,” and we have seen it play out in real time during the 21st century through Supreme Court decisions impacting different groups of Americans. Let’s look at some of the key decisions:
The Bush v. Gore 2000 election decision, which should have been a states’ rights issue, reached the federal level and resulted in 25 electoral votes being awarded to candidate George W. Bush over Al Gore. I — sarcastically and with disdain — refer to it as “the season of hanging and pregnant chads.”
As a regular voter, that decision shook me to the core, and was it then that my faith in our elections system starting to erode.
Then, in 2002, we had Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that essentially opened the floodgates of campaign contributions thanks to an erroneous SCOTUS interpretation asserting corporations, wealthy donors and political action committees could not be constitutionally prohibited from donating unlimited amounts of money to candidates and causes. This ruling flew squarely in the face of stare decisis — or, in layman’s terms, the legal process of standing in alignment with previous rulings on similar cases. In this instance, there were two previous decisions that were ignored: Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and sections of McConnell v. FEC.
Next, we had the Shelby County v. Holder ruling from 2013, which nullified a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a decision that resulted in lack of federal oversight in states that had a history of discrimination geared at black voters. Prior to this ruling, if one of the targeted states — Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia and Alaska — or counties/townships in select states — California, South Dakota, Michigan, New York, North Carolina and Florida — wanted to change their election laws, they needed federal approval to do so. To date since that ruling, 35 states have passed voter ID laws, many of them occurring during the last White House administration, basically signaling a return to the Jim Crow laws of the early 1960s.
This was followed by the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges ruling in 2015, which held that under the 14th Amendment’s due process and equal protection clauses, same-sex couples had a fundamental right to marry, and all states must fully recognize that codified union. My husband Gregory and I decided to tie the knot before the ruling, getting married on Feb. 12 which coincided with the National Freedom to Marry Day, President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, and my brother-in-law Marcus’ birthday. So the Obergefell ruling served as another piece of wedding cake for us!
Now flash forward to June 24 this year — not a celebratory day like our nuptials ,but one of shock and horror as the Supreme Court chose not to follow the standard of stare decisis and instead overturned the Roe vs. Wade ruling of 1973.
Since 1973, there have been several key challenges to Roe v. Wade (Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, Gonzales v. Carhart, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, June Medical Services L.L.C. v. Russo), but none have been successful.
But the case that has seen the Supreme Court operate in a nearly activist capacity rather than as impartial jurists involved a state of Mississippi law passed in 2018 banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, and the ruling was leaked well in advance of its actual release, letting us know that the conservative majority on the court was indeed set to overturn Roe v. Wade. And as expected (with a lot of fake ass damage control by justices to protect the image of their institution), on June 24 the ruling was officially released, with the previous precedent officialluy overturned.
What’s next on the conservative agenda? There is no need to guess. Justice Clarence Thomas, on the SAME DAY that Roe v. Wade was overturned, released his concurring opinion calling for the court to consider consider overturning precedents on access to contraceptives and same-sex marriage.
Pardon my French but what the fuck?!?
I wasn’t surprised by his comments on same-sex marriage, which were so convoluted in his dissent in the Obergefell ruling that it was laughable, but contraceptives and fertility treatments? Really?
To read Thomas’s rationale, which would see him and other blacks as still just three-fifths human and unable to marry his white wife, visit SupremeCourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf, specifically pages 78-95.
Back to overturning Roe: I have to ask conservatives this: So, you want the baby here no matter what, but you refuse to ensure that baby is protected, refuse to make sure the child the baby will become has its basic needs met when adults are unable to meet them, needs like food, clothing, housing, education — I can go on.
I was reared in the Catholic faith, and on a personal level I don’t support abortion, which makes me pro-life. BUT, as a male lacking a uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries and a vaginal cavity to birth a baby into this world, I don’t have a dog in that fight. So that also makes me pro-choice.
But back to Obergefell v. Hodges potentially being overturned (and I believe it will be): We have a helluva lot of work to do, and that work begins TODAY. And that work can’t simply involve protests, finger-pointing at one political party or sending out emails and texts asking for donation in the name of this pending action.
We MUST get out and fucking VOTE this November, and we MUST encourage every voting age Black/African-American and all women to do the same. There will have to be a LOT of door-knocking, talking to people we would normally not engage with and setting up carpools to get people to the polls. And we MUST educate everyone who will be impacted about the importance of not allowing that cliché, “Elections have consequences,” to become the norm in this country while millions of people watch their civil rights slowing disappear with time.