The glass half full

I cannot remember two days in a row like this before…this is profound stuff. Affordable health care is now the constitutional right of every American citizen, bar none, and that cannot be changed ever. This is as profound as some of the most glorious events in American history, like banning slavery forever, or giving women the right to vote, or establishing social security. This is that big a deal. Health care, in this country, is now as much your right as voting is. It is as much a right as is anything in the constitution. If you are an American citizen, the government is required to see that you receive health care. And that is profound. The Supreme Court laid that on us yesterday. It’s still sinking in. People haven’t quite grasped the absolute significance of that yet. That if you are sick, it is unconstitutional for you not to have access to affordable health care.

And then today the Supreme Court declared that the last legally sanctioned discrimination against citizens of the United States was unconstitutional. Gays can marry, just like my wife and I are married. There can be no legal differentiation between same sex and opposite couples. No one can claim that their right to discriminate against somebody just because they are different is protected by the constitution. And it will be interesting to see how this is expanded. It could go incrementally in all directions. Undocumented immigrants, religious groups, women in the workplace, gun owners, marijuana smokers, white supremists, nudists, hunters, Hare Krishnas, the homeless, Scientologists, you name it. All will see this decision as precedent for protection of their own many and varied rights under the constitution. Will they all succeed? I have no idea, except I can’t see how we’re not looking at a remarkable expansion of the rights of minorities–and I don’t mean just ethnic, or racial, or gender, but any kind of minority. Just imagine, for instance, a guy covered head to toe in tattoos being denied a job at Disneyland. You couldn’t imagine that being considered discriminatory before. But now, I think, you’ll see the creeping effect of this decision making this possible. Because if a predominantly conservative Baptist state like, say, Oklahoma can no longer prevent gays from marrying, why, then, can a private company in California be allowed to discriminate against a qualified applicant just because he has freely expressed art all over his skin? I’m not saying he’d win his case. I’m just saying that courts will be much more likely to let these cases go to trial. Or not go to trial–indeed the blatantly discriminatory jailing (with a million dollars bail each) of those bikers in Waco, Texas because they were bikers just about screams unconstitutionality now. They were jailed, all of them, not on suspicion of assault or murder (which some, but not all, were involved in), but because they rode motorcycles and belonged to motorcycle clubs and looked big and mean and ugly. In ten years time the Waco case will look stunningly egregious. It doesn’t now, not yet. But as the legal concept of just what is a minority expands, circuit court by circuit court, their rights will follow. It’ll be interesting to see how this Waco mess works its way through the legal system. All those freaky, scary looking biker dads in court may look weird and even illegal. But I can’t see the justice system falling back on the old fashioned Norman Rockwell template of just what is legally acceptable looks and behavior, not anymore. Squaresville is out, idiosyncrasy in.

So this Supreme Court decision kicks wide open a door that has been blocked with various degrees of success since the nation began. The ban on same sex marriage was the last edifice of legally sanctioned bigotry in the United States. Remember–the laws this overturns were not just laws, they were even written into state constitutions. Think about that. The laws banning same sex marriage were not just laws, they were state constitutional amendments. And now they’re gone. A couple decades from now June 26 might well be a national holiday. I’m serious. It is that big of a deal.

And one more somewhat unrelated thing. Over the past seven years I’ve been hearing so many progressives tell me that electing Barack Obama hasn’t made a bit of difference. But it has. Things are so much different now than they were before he took office. Obviously this country is still a work in progress, with vast changes needed. We have to restore income parity for one thing. You could name a zillion others. But we have come a helluva long way since the nation’s modern nadir under George W. Bush. And I don’t understand how people can’t see that. I guess some people look at a glass half full, or even more than half full, and see no water at all.

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