The politics of compromise

I’m getting tired of people suggesting state and federal legislators should pass bills with morally reprehensible amendments and carveouts/omissions just to make it “easier.” These advocates have a critically flawed, short-termist view of governance that is ultimately more harmful than helpful.

Here’s a simple rule: Do it right or don’t do it at all.

What this means in practice: Don’t amend out special exceptions that undermine the moral integrity of the overall law. Examples: Don’t leave out trans people from your employment and accommodations non-discrimination bills. Don’t leave exceptions to your death penalty bans. Don’t create loopholes against reproductive freedom (e.g. Hyde). Stop passing bills with giant gaping holes in them just to help some people, when in doing so you’ll make it harder to go back for those you left behind.

This is not a case against compromise. This is a case for understanding how compromise should function at a systemic level. This is a case for making compromise work for you in the long-term, instead of the short-term at the expense of the longer view.

Incremental compromises, when needed, should move everyone forward, not just some. It is a massive political misunderstanding to think that it’s better to establish protections and programs for some people, instead of for all people. Making laws for everyone, without carve-outs, is both consistent with the principles of equality before the law as well as politically more sound, within both the voting public and among legislators themselves.

If it’s politically hard to pass reforms and protections for some people, it’s obviously going to be even harder to do it later for a smaller subset you left out. It is easier (and morally better) to pass laws that protect & help everyone, even if you have to wait, than to sell out some of our society so that others of us are helped.

This is the principle of true solidarity: We all sacrifice a little bit longer so that we’re stronger together and no one has to sacrifice/suffer alone for our advances.

July 15, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 134

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Topics: Supreme Court rulings on marriage equality and Obamacare, order on Texas abortion clinics law; Puerto Rico and Greece debt crises. People: Bill, Kelley, and Nate. Produced: July 13th, 2015.

Discussion Points:

– U.S. Supreme Court: What are the implications of major rulings and orders on marriage equality, Obamacare, and reproductive freedom?
– Debt Crises: What’s next for Puerto Rico and Greece?

Episode 134 (47 min):
AFD 134

Related Links

AFD by Kelley: “The Supreme Court Order You May Have Missed”
AFD by Bill: “Marriage Equality Day”
AFD by Bill: “A Sinking Feeling in Puerto Rico”
AFD Posts about Greece

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And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

Marriage Equality Day

It’s a little hard to put into words my thoughts and feelings about the fantastic Supreme Court ruling today on equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. On the one hand, I worked (eventually full-time) on the issue for over two years in Delaware — something I’m very proud of — but on the other hand, I’ve been out of that line of work for almost as long (and so the big victory I was most involved in happened a couple years ago rather than today). I also definitely remain very aware how many other LGBTQ human rights are yet to be secured in many states — particularly on employment discrimination and life or death matters.

Still, the achievement today is not nothing. Far from it. It’s not just abstract that some happy young couples — congratulations! — can finally get married. There are a lot of older families that will be more legally and financially secure than they ever have been. That’s a really big deal. So this ruling is very important to celebrate today, even if there is a long way still to go in other areas. It’s a little disappointing to see a genuine achievement played down in some circles. It’s not a capstone, but it’s still significant.

We may also be in for a bumpy ride on implementation. Some folks and officials are reacting with almost as much resistance as they did to the split Roe v. Wade abortion legalization ruling in 1973 or to the unanimous Brown v. Board of Education ruling of 1954. I’m cautiously optimistic that that initial reaction will subside in the coming days, weeks, months, or maybe a year. But many social conservatives know from those two “controversial” rulings that if they resist hard enough, the Supreme Court has little way of compelling compliance and the effective impact is sharply reduced. That’s very troubling. I hope it doesn’t pan out that way.

For now, however, I’m celebrating and remembering some of the highlights of the small part I played in this some time ago. It was the right thing to do, even when it wasn’t wildly popular, and I’m glad things moved quickly enough that I could see this ultimate outcome not very long after. Sometimes governmental processes move too slowly to see citizen actions having an impact. It’s cool to see it happen this time.

Tunisia’s Rachid Ghannouchi addresses social issues

Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of the Islamist democratic party Ennahda and one of the leading practical theorists of Islamic democracy outside Turkey, continues to make the rounds with European interviewers (see previous link for more). This time he gave interviews to French journalist Olivier Ravanello for a book called “On the Subject of Islam.”

While past interviews have often focused on political or economic theory questions, the book’s pull quotes on social issues have made more waves this time (at least in the relevant, Francophone circles).

Unfortunately, because the interviews were published in French and Ghannouchi’s not an extremely high-profile person if you don’t follow this topic regularly like I do, I’m guessing it’s not getting much play yet in English-language media. The quotes are collected in the French-language Tunisian edition of Huffington Post.

He states perhaps a problematic view on some issues like blasphemy laws or inheritance rights, but made interestingly pragmatic comments on abortion & homosexuality for a relatively conservative region (though Tunisia is more liberal than the region in general). I did the translations below myself and converted idiomatic phrasing where appropriate, so these are not 1:1 translations.

Quotes on homosexuality, in principle and from a legal perspective:

“We don’t approve of it. But Islam doesn’t spy on people. It preserves privacy. Everyone lives his life as he wants to, and everyone is responsible before his creator… The law does not follow people into their private lives. … What happens in your house concerns nobody. It is your choice, and nobody has the right to enter and ban you from doing this or that.”

 
This would be an improvement over existing laws in Tunisia, which the Huffington Post article says criminalized homosexuality and can result in a three-year prison sentence. Unfortunately, Mr. Ghannouchi’s own party refused to change the law when it controlled the Human Rights and Justice Ministry during the national transition.

On the former, he endorses contraception as legitimate for women to prevent pregnancy; abortion in the first 4 (maybe 5) months, i.e. “before the development of the fetus” is possibly morally permissible. After that he opposes it on principle as an “aggression against life.” According to the Huffington Post article, this is consistent with the Tunisian law allowing abortion in the first 3 months for any reason — and for physical or mental health reasons thereafter.

Essentially, Ghannouchi’s view on abortion is approximately in line with the U.S. Supreme Court’s view in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, wherein viability was estimated to be as early as 22 weeks and states could potentially ban or severely restrict it after that… But his contraception view is a lot more pragmatic than that of many U.S. Republicans.

Dear Alabama, don’t make us come back down there.

Approximately two-thirds of Alabama counties are refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses despite the U.S. Supreme Court confirming the end of the Federal stay on a ruling striking down the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. This refusal is largely based on the state strength of notorious Christian conservative Roy Moore, who is trying to block the Federal ruling:

[Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore] told county judges that a federal judge’s decision striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was not binding on state courts and had caused confusion in the state.

Probate Judge Al Booth in Autauga County said his office will take applications for same sex marriages but won’t issue licenses until he gets clarification.

“I have the man who runs this state’s court system telling me not to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples,” Booth said. “I have the federal judiciary telling me I will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“I want to uphold my oath. But what law do I follow?” he said. “Which constitution do I uphold?”

 
Uh, here, allow me to help you with that question, your honor. The answer is the U.S. constitution. That’s which thing you uphold when it conflicts with literally any other constitution or law in the United States.

This is based on two very clear principles:
1) The Supremacy Clause of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any state to the Contrary notwithstanding.

 
IT DIRECTLY SAYS HOW TO ANSWER THE QUESTION RIGHT THERE, YOUR HONOR. IN THE ORIGINAL TEXT.

Let me repeat it so it’s even clearer: “This Constitution […] shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any state to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

2) The U.S. Civil War:
We won it. You lost it. That ended the debate. State sovereignty isn’t equal to Federal sovereignty. The end. Be glad we’re magnanimous enough let you keep your weird Confederate motif on your state flag.

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Top Mormon officials call for LGBT protections in Utah

While it’s not entirely without precedent, there was a significant shift nonetheless by senior leaders of the LDS Church today, as they called for the Utah legislature to pass anti-discrimination legislation (a bill was recently proposed again) to protect LGBT residents. Additionally, they called for passage of similar Federal-level protections. Salt Lake Tribune:

Top leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called Tuesday for passage of laws granting statewide protections against housing and employment discrimination for gay and lesbian Utahns — as long as those measures safeguard religious freedom.
[…]
“We call on local, state and the federal government,” Oaks said in a news release, “to serve all of their people by passing legislation that protects vital religious freedoms for individuals, families, churches and other faith groups while also protecting the rights of our LGBT citizens in such areas as housing, employment and public accommodation in hotels, restaurants and transportation — protections which are not available in many parts of the country.”

 
Endorsement of same-sex civil marriage remained off the table, however, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s de facto legalization of it in Utah back in July 2014.

Additionally, the Church did not appear to shift their overall doctrine that being gay is against the faith. They simply aligned themselves with the growing moderate wing of the state’s political sphere, which had called for basic legal protections against discrimination.

It remains to be seen if the more extreme side will yield to the new pronouncement.

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