The immutable nature of liberty

Following the trends of recent years regarding the definition of “religious liberty,” the New York Times reports:

Within hours of the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, an array of conservatives including the governors of Texas and Louisiana and religious groups called for stronger legal protections for those who want to avoid any involvement in same-sex marriage, like catering a gay wedding or providing school housing to gay couples, based on religious beliefs.

They demanded establishing clear religious exemptions from discrimination laws, tax penalties or other government regulations for individuals, businesses and religious-affiliated institutions wishing to avoid endorsing such marriages.

And as if on cue, this is already happening in places like Texas:

The state’s Attorney General is inviting, really encouraging, public officials to defy last week’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing marriage for same sex couples across the United States. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is telling country clerks they may refuse to issue marriage licenses if they believe same sex marriages violate their religious beliefs.

I think the state needs a pretty good reason to make someone do something they either don’t agree with or simply don’t want to do. I’m inclined to let those with strong feelings about same-sex marriage live as they like, even if I completely disagree with them. The problem is, we continue to talk about LGBT people as though they’re doing something some of us don’t agree with as opposed to being a certain way. 

Federal anti-discrimination law covers five attributes: race, skin color, gender, ethnic origin, and physical disability. Note that none of these are things over which an individual has choice. One cannot choose to be younger or white or able to walk when physically unable to do so. In the same way, those who are emotionally satisfied in relationships with others of the same gender have not made a choice to be that way. At no point has any 8-year-old made the decision to be gay or bisexual. It just happens. Justice Kennedy called it an “immutable nature” in his majority opinion and, indeed, it is just that. 

If it’s wrong to discriminate against people due to things they have no control over, then it’s wrong to discriminate against those who need to be in same-sex marriages. If one’s religion teaches that these people are somehow evil or going against the wishes of a supreme being and less deserving of basic dignities, then we need to have the courage to stand up and say their religion (or, more likely, their interpretation of it) is wrong. As such, absolutely no exceptions should be allowed for those who choose to discriminate against those who only want to live the life they were born to live.

The First Amendment protects people of faith from being required to do anything that violates that faith in the act of practicing their faith. That means Hasidic rabbis are not required to marry those who aren’t Jewish and Catholic priests can require those seeking marriage in that church to follow the tenets of Catholicism. But being a county clerk isn’t the same thing at all. Providing a government service guaranteed by law is not “being a Christian.” The government, as the 14th Amendment assures, is required to apply its laws equally. No person acting as an agent of the government has the right to apply any factors to their work other than the civil law. Their religion-driven discomfort is not as important as another’s right to be married.

The issue is a little squishier when it comes to businesses. My company has chosen not to serve gambling or tobacco clients, but that’s different than saying a baker cannot serve a same-sex couple because of her reading of the Bible. The tobacco company has made a choice to sell the products they do but the same-sex couple is only living as they are wired to. They’re following the only path to happiness they have. Discriminating against them is exactly the same as discriminating against a couple because they’re from Pakistan. Again, one’s right to conduct business does not trump another’s liberty to simply be as they are and pursue their own flavor of happiness.

We need to call this “religious liberty” stuff exactly what it is: Bigotry. LGBT people need to be protected under the law from all forms of discrimination. Since Congress is defectively constipated, it’s doubtful we’ll see any action there. Perhaps these calls for “religious liberty” will lead to a Supreme Court ruling that once again works to make our union a little more perfect. The shield of “religious liberty” needs to be broken.

Relative nightmare

Republican candidate for governor of Minnesota Jeff Johnson, in response to the decision of Preferred One to leave the state’s health insurance marketplace MNsure, said yesterday,

Six out of 10 people who’ve purchased insurance through MNsure will now have to go through the nightmare process of purchasing another plan all over again.

This is, to be clear, the same “nightmare process” all consumers of heath insurance have to go through at some point (like, when they change jobs or their employer changes plans). It’s the same “nightmare” my company asked our employees to endure several times over the years we’ve owned it as we faced double-digit date increases on top of double-digit rate increases, all in search of a lower cost solution. It’s the same “nightmare” that was allowed to live following the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

Does it suck? Yes. It is especially unique? No. It’s a feature built-in to the American health care system.

real “nightmare” would be having a family member with a chronic illness and not being able to get insurance. Or getting into an accident or discovering cancer without having access to affordable, effective insurance. Both those issues are largely resolved under the ACA.

Sounds like Preferred One made a business bet and lost. Happens all the time. Good thing there’s a marketplace where those affected can go and get new insurance.

Wife, no. Kids? Sure.

According to Harris, two-thirds of Americans beat their children. I’m actually shocked the number is that high. I mean, I often feel guilty just yelling at my kids. I can’t imagine doing to them what I recall was done to me when I was a kid.

I recall my dad using his belt on me. One time in particular I recall very specifically. Not what caused him to do it, though. Only that it happened. I also recall being disciplined with a paddle in grade school by the principal. There was a group of three or four of us involved in whatever it was that caused it. Again, I only remember the result, not what precipitated it.

You don’t beat other people. Period. At first, my thinking about Adrian Peterson was that breaking the skin as he apparently did (and admits to) was the line too far, but the more I think about it the more I realize the appropriate thought is that you should never strike your kids for any reason whatsoever. How is it possible that we’re in a place in our societal development where striking one’s spouse just once regardless of injury or consequence is never acceptable but there are those who would actively defend stuffing a bunch of leaves in a kid’s mouth and whipping them until they bleed?

It’s not as though there aren’t consequences for the child. According to Slate:

Spanking can increase a child’s risk of aggression, antisocial behavior, and mental health disorders later in life. It slows cognitive development and decreases language skills. Spanking may not leave outward signs of injury. But the mental scars it inflicts can last a lifetime.

Meanwhile, the Vikings are allowing Peterson to come back and play. Said Zygi:

At this time, however, we believe this is a matter of due process and we should allow the legal system to proceed so we can come to the most effective conclusions and then determine the appropriate course of action.

Not good enough. He sounds like he’s saying this is purely a legal matter. That if Peterson isn’t convicted, then everything’s cool. That’s bullshit. Abuse is abuse. Hitting a family member should result in the same treatment regardless of their height, age, or gender.

I don’t know if I can stomach watching the Vikings play. Deactivating him was the right thing to do. Keeping him deactivated is the only appropriate course of action.

Apparently, in the NFL, you’re out if you coldcock your wife but are OK if you make your child bleed. So take it out on your kids.

Tyrannical

AdamSerwer_2014-Aug-12

One of the arguments against stronger gun control laws groups like the National Rifle Association like to put out there is that we, as a population, need our firearms to protect ourselves from tyranny. Just like the Minutemen, presumably. 

A couple questions.

First, how are the events and the actions of the police in Ferguson not tyrannical? I’m no expert having never lived under tyranny, but I’m guessing it looks a lot like what’s above. Put those guys in red coats and imagine they’re in Boston Common and not suburban St. Louis (that the black dude’s black is actually historically accurate) and maybe you’ll think so, too.

Nice rideSecond, we as an untrained and unarmored population are going to defend themselves against the militarized SWAT teams of today? Let alone the National Guard or the regular Army? These guys are equipped for Mogadishu, not Main Street. 

Bonus questions: Where’s the NRA in all this? Where’s the concern for our liberties being crushed under the boot of ruthless authority? What happened to our First Amendment rights to assumable and speak? 

Final question. Where the fuck is the outrage?