Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Usual Suspects: Abortion and Gays

History has been swirling all around us these past few weeks.  It’s been created, changed, and dramatically altered all at once.  In the wake of a jarring decision by the Supreme Court Tuesday, which effectively gutted America’s landmark and protective Voting Rights Act of 1965, we’re on the eve of yet another string of historic and possibly life changing Supreme Court decisions. 

On Wednesday, June 20, 2013, the Supreme Court will rule on the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the recognition of same-sex marriage by the federal government and also allows states to ignore same-sex marriages legally performed in other states in Windsor v. United States; and it will also determine California’s Proposition 8 case, which was a referendum where voters overturned California’s law which made marriage equality legal in California (the lower court has ruled that the Prop 8 is unconstitutional and violates CA’s equal protection clause). 

And while I’m cautiously optimistic about how they’ll rule – DOMA will get overturned and be left to the states; Prop 8 will be a very narrow decision but ultimately uphold the lower courts decision are my guesses – there is still such shit going on in the world.  As I write this, an amazing Texas State Senator by the name of Wendy Davis is filibustering a bill in the Texas state senate which would severally limit women’s health options and access to abortion in the state of Texas, forcing 37 of its 42 women’s health clinics that provide abortion services to close.  She has been speaking since 12:18 Texas time. 

Texas has arcane and annoying filibuster rules, but among the general you are not allowed to sit or lean, eat, drink or use the restroom, or stop talking about the subject of which you’re filibustering.  If the topic on which you’re speaking is not germane to the bill you’re filibustering, a warning is issued; you only get three warnings.  Then you’re done.  So this forces the opposition to stay tuned in, to try to trip up the filibusterer.  The person can also yield to questions. 

I'd been tuning in on and off since this afternoon.  At one point, a female GOP legislator rose to see if the speaker would yield for questions.  When Ms. Davis refused to yield her time for questions, the GOP female senator spat back “not even for a woman who is also a physician?”  Nope.

After more time, she was told she was no longer discussing something that was germane to the topic of the filibuster.  She was discussing sonograms – in the context of pregnant women and access to abortions.  And she was told it was off topic.  And yet Republican after Republican has made an effort to force sonograms on women who want to terminate a pregnancy, regardless of the reason.  And now they’re saying it is not germane.  My how the hypocrisy flies in Texas.

The people’s chaos erupted in the Senate chamber when the rule-changing Chair (President of the Senate for the time being) decided to dictate who he thought was in order, and why. 

In a stunning show of solidarity, the Democrats did everything they could to continue running down the clock as the rules were repeatedly broken.  And then Leticia Vande Putte (who arrived in the Senate chamber after burying her father the very same day)  raised a parliamentary inquiry.  After she was ignored on her previous question, she asked, in an additional parliamentary inquiry: “Mr. President, at what point does a female senator raiser her hand or voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?”

It was stunning.  A total fucking mic drop.  And so true. 

She had been previously ignored when she was making a motion to adjourn a previous motion to table the appeal of the decision on the filibuster.  Confusing?  Yup.  But it’s important.

All these things add up.  Everyday we teach young girls and boys to respect each other, that they’re equal, and are their own being.   And yet as they age and see what the world is doing, women see their own body is constantly up for debate; members of the LGBT community are discriminated against and relegated to second-class citizenry.  That is wrong. 

No one likes abortion and in a perfect world – where access to contraception was unrestricted and free – the only need for an abortion would be in the case where the life of the mother is at stake.  But in a perfect world, you wouldn’t need that clause ‘cause the pregnancy would be perfect.  In a perfect world, where men didn’t rape women, you wouldn’t need a clause to allow raped women to get abortions, either.  And in a perfect world, legislators would stop telling doctors how to treat their patients through repressive, ignorant, and petty laws. 

But the world isn’t perfect. 

On Wednesday morning, shortly after 10:00 the voice of (I’m guessing) Chief Justice John Roberts will change millions of lives, for better or worse.  

I’ve always said that I was a feminist before I was a gayist.  Of course I’ve always been gay, but I found it easier to take the mantle for women's rights than about anything else when I was younger (meaning high school).  It was a social issue I was proud to stand for and by, and to loudly and unabashedly defend (thanks in large part to a now dear friend, Cathy Meiklem). 

The gay stuff came naturally (though not without a closet, of course), because it was in the same vein, we just didn't have the rights yet.  I’ve witnessed first hand -- and been a part of ground game operations -- tremendous advancements for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in this country.  And as everyone says: it’s all happened in such a short amount of time. 

I get annoyed when Senators and Representatives who voted for DOMA 17 years ago say they are now opposed to the law and it should be thrown out by the courts.  What made gay people different in the 90s?  Maybe they hadn’t met any gay people, 'cause you know, we’ve never been visible before.  

I’ve be glued to the SCOTUSblog each morning SCOTUS has come down with decisions.  That will happen again Wednesday.  The folks who run it are brilliant and amazing and should be awarded for their succinct and timely reporting on an institution that does things in an utterly traditional way.  I have no complaints about how SCOTUS issues its rulings and limits certain types of media inside the court house.  Patience are a virtue. I think it part of the reason I have such a love affair – sort of a painful one – with the Supreme Court.  It is almighty, even though it is an equal branch of government.  There is something in its luster, in its stature, that makes it grandeur than the other two.

Tonight, we still don’t know if the Texas Senate voted on SB5 illegally after midnight or if it voted on a motion to consider the vote for SB5.  Either way, it was a remarkable show of courage by Senator Davis and the team that was lined up behind her all day long in the name of women and families in the state of Texas and across the country. 

Thankfully, Wednesday will not bring a decision about restricting access to abortion from the Supreme Court.  But if we don’t keep up our diligence and continue to erupt in the peoples chaos, someday it will. 

It’s remarkable to me how I feel like I’ve a foot in two battles: one where we seem to be making great strides (LGBT rights) and the other that seems to be falling backwards (women).  I’m not giving up one-way or the other.  

There will always be work to be done, because the world just isn't perfect.