Thursday, June 27, 2013

And Then There's The Voting Rights Thing, The DOMA Thing, and The Prop 8 Thing

Why the Supreme Court is considered to have any legitimacy at all is one of those Mysteries we may never be able to settle. The Court has been acting quite lawlessly since... well, some would say, since forever (given Marbury v Madison, after all), but jeeze, they really set the standard for lawless "justice" with Bush v Gore, so I'll just date their detachment from any concept of law and justice on December 12, 2000. Others may disagree.

At least for a while, they were being led around by the nose by a forthright anti-constitutionalist, one Nino Scalia -- who was the motor behind Bush v Gore. Since his descent into full on dementia, however, his theocratic-monarchism has been overshadowed by the technocratic-corporate objectivism of one John Roberts, Esq, which explains why practically every significant decision out of the Marble Halls since his Elevation has turned on some of the most arcane legal reasoning in the Court's long history.

The Voting Rights Act was made inoperative the other day, much to the chagrin of voting rights advocates, I suppose, but the Court had been telegraphing its intentions with regard to the VRA for some time, so the decision was No Surprise. There is no right to vote in the Constitution, something which for some reason has never been remedied or even addressed in any comprehensive way. Instead there have been piecemeal efforts to extend the franchise from white property owning males to various other groups over the centuries, without interfering (much) with the States' Rights principle that the States, not the Central Government, are to decide voter-criteria. It's created some icky, cobbled together monstrosities and made elections far more difficult than they need to be.

This is supposed to represent the Genius of Our Founders, but it's nothing of the kind. It's a gawd-awful mess, and it's been getting worse for many a long year.

But that's really a separate issue than the Voting Rights Act which was a measure passed and renewed by Congresses for decades to ensure that the most egregious state-sanctioned racially discrimintory voting restrictions were done away with. Itg was a way of ensuring black voters -- in particular, but certainly not exclusively -- were brought into the system rather than excluded, despite the outrage of the Good Ol' Boys, especially in the South.

In making the VRA inoperative, the Court has said to the Good Ol' Boys, "Here's your playground back. Don't do anything naughty! Haw, haw!"

These people are sickening.

There has been an ongoing long-standing effort by certain interests to tighten and restrict voting rights nationwide. Now those who would undertake to do so have free rein. But then, what's there to "vote" for anyway?  If they can't control elections from one direction, they're bound and determined to do it from another. So here we go again. It's one reason people flirt with alternatives to Our Model, which is both anachronistic and unjust.

We'll see where this leads, but outwardly it's right back to where things were before the Civil Rights Movement.

Oh, but, they struck down DOMA and let stand gay marriage! Civil Rights Live! Yes, well, this is the kind of trade off you get from this Court. Massive civil injustice (such as the disabling of the VRA) on the one hand, together with a modest and generally cynical extension of "rights" on the other. Take away voting rights, but let people gay-marry to their heart's content. Sounds fair, doesn't it?

As far as I'm concerned, DOMA was a shitty measure, and Prop 8 was just nasty, but the underlying issue was never really dealt with, and it still hasn't been. I've long advocated that government not be in the marriage business at all, that marriage qua marriage be left to the religious institutions to do with as they please. And in that context, gay marriage has been going on for decades in churches and synagogues throughout this troubled land. Some religious institutions forbid it, but some do not. To my way of looking at it, that's how religious liberty works -- and should work.

The government should have nothing (much) to say about it. "Marriage" as such should not be a matter for civil law at all. Instead, all legal unions between couples should be civil unions. And they should be gender neutral. If you want to get gay-married, find a religious institution that will sanction it. There are many. On the other hand, if you want to set up a legal-couple household, regardless of gender, go down to the civil union registry and do so.

Well, of course, this idea is too radical. It would mean changing oodles of other laws, particularly regarding benefits and inheritance and so on and so forth, all of which refer to spousal and marriage and such and we can't do that, let's just legalize gay-marriage and be done with it. Ta-da.

That would be fine if marriage were not a religious sacrament to hundreds of millions. By legally enforcing a change who can obtain that sacrament (albeit from civil authority) and under what conditions, the foundations of rule and social cohesion tremble. Simply by taking marriage out of the gambit of civil authority and leaving it to the tender mercies (or...) of the religious divines, it seems to me the issue and the problem would have been solved neatly and correctly.

But no.

So now we have this strange situation in which in essence the Court has said states can go ahead and restrict the franchise however they want at least until Congress comes up with something new to foster voting rights, and by the way your vote doesn't matter anyway, because the Court will rule any way they want to get the outcome they desire, so ha ha, suckers!

The shameful spectacle of this Court goes on and on and on...

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