Monday, June 24, 2013

Big Week Ahead

I know we just enjoyed a quiet, extended summer solstice weekend. So are you feeling better now? I am, so I know it's now time to get back to work!

This will be a busy week here at Nevada Progressive. We are expecting some huge Supreme Court rulings, big votes in Congress, and even a final chance to reflect on the major events in Carson City this year.

So what's coming up? First, immigration reform will be back in the news as the border security deal that emerged last week finally comes up for a vote on the Senate floor.

The fate of the Senate's immigration bill likely comes down to a vote today. If it fails, it will all but guarantee that immigration reform is dead. If it passes, it will all but ensure a clear path to the finish line in the Senate, which has struggled for years to find a compromise on the controversial and emotional issue.

The pivotal vote is on a border security compromise chiefly drafted by Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota. “The offering of this amendment is a turning point,” Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Friday. “We’ve always known there would be large numbers of Democrats to support final passage of this bill in the Senate. But this amendment gives us a real chance of getting a very significant number of our Republican colleagues.”

This may finally reveal to us where Senator Dean Heller (R) will fall on S 744. If this amendment passes, he won't have any more excuses to dither on announcing his support for the overall bill. So just how strongly does he support this amendment?

But wait, there's more! The US Supreme Court will rule on not one, but two critical marriage equality cases this week. So what's at stake? Towleroad's Ari Ezra Waldman lets us know what to watch for.

1. Standing and Jurisdiction: Are the cases properly before the Court? Remember, the question in the Prop 8 case is whether the California citizens who wrote Prop 8 (the "proponents") had standing to appeal Judge Walker's original ruling declaring Prop 8 unconstitutional. The questions in the DOMA case are (a) whether Edie Windsor, having won at the Second Circuit, can both win and appeal, and (b) whether House Republicans are properly taking the role of defending DOMA. If the answer to any of those questions is NO, then the cases get tossed and the Court doesn't have to rule on anything substantive. We still win, sort of.

2. Scrutiny: The first substantive question is about the level of scrutiny, which is like asking: OK, before we see if you passed the test, we have to determine the passing grade. It's obviously a lot easier to pass when all you have to do is get a 50/100, and harder when you need a 90. If the Court takes the unlikely step of agreeing with President Obama (and rational legal thought) that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation demands heightened scrutiny" (say, an 80 on the test), then look for DOMA and Prop 8 to be declared unconstitutional. Notably, denying already married couples federal benefits and preventing them from marrying in the first place are both so irrationally ridiculous, look for a substantive holding -- if the Court gets there -- that rejects the laws under any standard.

3. Equal Protection: This will be the basis for any substantive holding: that DOMA and Prop 8 fail to treat similar people equally for no good reason. We know this argument well, and even the Prop 8 Proponents' main witness, David Blankenhorn, recanted his views and now agrees that all couples, gay or straight, should be treated equally. One thing to look out for in this part of the decision is the fate of the "slutty heterosexual" argument. This is the argument that we need marriage only for straight people because they are the only ones that can have "accidental pregnancies." Gay couples cannot. The logic of that as a rationale for denying gay couples the honor of marriage doesn't pass the laugh test, but it is a notable argument because it turns the stereotype of the sex-crazed gay man around and places that noose around the the straight people!

4. Breadth of the Decisions: How far did the Court go? It could get rid of DOMA entirely, or keep us in this strange state of flux where DOMA is ok in some places and unconstitutional in others. In Perry, the Court could restrict its decision to California, or it could reach those seven other states that having "everything but" marriage, or it could hand down a national right to marry. In addition to this narrow way of looking at the decision -- what lawyers call the "holding" -- take note of the Court's language and its statements, or lack thereof, touching on gay equality and membership in American society. These are the words, coupled with the holdings, that will serve as the bases for future victories. The broader the language -- "Our system of government does not countenance discrimination on the basis of status," for example -- the stronger precent it will be in the future.

Got all that?

This is (one reason) why all eyes are on SCOTUS this week. The lives of many LGBTQ families are at stake. And the nation's highest court may expedite the arrival of full legal equality... Or further delay it.

But ultimately, equality will come. It's just a matter of if the Supreme Court has found just the right legal argument to do so now.

And finally, pay close attention to Chris Kluwe. He's not just a NFL superstar. He also gets how American society and our system of communities is supposed to work.

John Galt talks about intelligence and education without discussing who will pay for the schools, who will teach the teachers. John Galt has no thought for his children, or their children, or what kind of world they will have to occupy when the mines run out and the streams dry up. John Galt expects an army to protect him but has no concern about how it’s funded or staffed. John Galt spends his time in a valley where no disasters occur, no accidents happen, and no real life takes place.

John Galt lives in a giant fantasy that’s no different from an idealistic communist paradise or an anarchist’s playground or a capitalist utopia. His world is flat and two-dimensional. His world is not real, and that is the huge, glaring flaw with objectivism.

John Galt does not live in reality. In reality, hurricanes hit coastlines, earthquakes knock down buildings, people crash cars or trip over rocks or get sick and miss work. In reality, humans make good choices and bad choices based on forces even they sometimes don’t understand. To live with other human beings, to live in society, requires that we understand that shit happens and sometimes people need a safety net. Empathy teaches us that contributing to this safety net is beneficial for all, because we never know when it will be our turn.

So who is John Galt? Perhaps he's just an unrealistic and incredibly selfish fantasy who Nevada should stop trying to emulate.

So stay tuned for all of this and more this week. Oh, and Happy Summer!

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