I’ve been known to get a little political on this blog every so often, and I fully admit to a more liberal stance on most issues although I like to think I’m fiscally more conservative. Most of my friends are of the same political persuasion, with a few notable exceptions (including most of my family), so when heated political issues come up or election seasons comes around – it does sometimes feel like an “us versus them” battleground. Then I saw this picture on Twitter the other day, and I started thinking (yet again) about what a mess our political system is and how it really doesn’t serve the very people who it’s supposed to.
I mean… what are we actually fighting for if in the end, it doesn’t actually help us out?
A federal judge in Michigan today ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman wrote that “The court finds the Michigan Marriage Amendment impermissibly discriminates against same-sex couples in violation of the Equal Protection Clause because the provision does not advance any conceivable state interest.”
Citing similar rulings in Texas, Kentucky, Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia, Friedman’s ruling affirms that Michigan’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage violates the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, keeping in line with the Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act.
Unlike the rulings in states like Texas and Virginia, Friedman’s ruling has not been stayed pending appeal, meaning same-sex couples in Michigan would likely be able to marry relatively soon. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced Friday evening he’s filed an emergency request for Friedman’s order to be stayed and appealed.
It’s no surprise that I’m not a fan of Michele Bachmann (R-MN). Her misinformation regarding the HPV vaccine during the last presidential race pretty much destroyed her credibility for me as a physician and public health practitioner. Her controversial opinions on same-sex marriage, the Constitution, and the President are really just adding more water to the sinking ship that is my taste for Bachmann.
And then… she became the jerk of the week.
During last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Bachmann sat down with radio host Lars Larson and discussed the recent veto of Arizona bill SB 1062 by Governor Jan Brewer. Bachmann wasn’t happy with Brewer’s decision and was quick to blame the gay community and LGBT activists for the downfall of the bill. She states,
There’s nothing about gays in there. But the gay community decided to make this their measure. I think the thing that is getting a little tiresome, the gay community, they have so bullied the American people, and they’ve so intimidated politicians. The politicians fear them, so that they think they get to dictate the agenda everywhere.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the LGBT community is a group of bullies, going out there stealing lunch money from the American people and scaring politicians. The group as a whole is SO powerful that politicians are shaking in their boots, therefore the gay community can walk all over them. No folks, the LGBT community are not a victimized minority but rather an intimidating minority dictating the political course of our country.
Which definitely explains why so many states were able to pass laws and constitutional amendments banning marriage equality. And it definitely explains why Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act were done away with oh so long ago in our nation’s political…
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway was originally named as one of the defendants in the lawsuit contesting the state’s ban on the recognition of same sex marriages. A federal judge in Louisville ruled four days ago that the state must recognize same-sex unions performed in other states. Today, the governor of Kentucky announced he would be seeking outside counsel in order to appeal the judge’s ruling… because Jack Conway decided that he wasn’t going to.
You can read Jack Conway’s announcement below (lifted from his Facebook page). I, for one, would like to applaud Mr Conway.
Statement from Attorney General Conway:
As Attorney General, I have vowed to the people of Kentucky to uphold my duty under the law and to do what is right, even if some disagreed with me. In evaluating how best to proceed as the Commonwealth’s chief lawyer in light of Judge Heyburn’s recent ruling, I have kept those promises in mind.When the Governor and I were first named as the technical defendants in this lawsuit, my duty as Attorney General was to provide the Commonwealth with a defense in the federal district court, and to frame the proper legal defenses. Those who passed the statutes and the voters who passed the constitutional amendment deserved that, and the Office of Attorney General performed its duty. However, it’s my duty to defend both the Kentucky Constitution and the Constitution of the United States.
The temporary stay we sought and received on Friday allowed me time to confer with my client and to consult with state leaders about my impending decision and the ramifications for the state.
I have evaluated Judge Heyburn’s legal analysis, and today am informing my client and the people of Kentucky that I am not appealing the decision and will not be seeking any further stays.
From a constitutional perspective, Judge Heyburn got it right, and in light of other recent federal decisions, these laws will not likely survive upon appeal. We cannot waste the resources of the Office of the Attorney General pursuing a case we are unlikely to win.
There are those who believe it’s my mandatory duty, regardless of my personal opinion, to continue to defend this case through the appellate process, and I have heard from many of them. However, I came to the inescapable conclusion that, if I did so, I would be defending discrimination.
That I will not do. As Attorney General of Kentucky, I must draw the line when it comes to discrimination.
The United States Constitution is designed to protect everyone’s rights, both the majority and the minority groups. Judge Heyburn’s decision does not tell a minister or a congregation what they must do, but in government ‘equal justice under law’ is a different matter.
I am also mindful of those from the business community who have reached out to me in the last few days encouraging me not to appeal the decision. I agree with their assessment that discriminatory policies hamper a state’s ability to attract business, create jobs and develop a modern workforce.
I prayed over this decision. I appreciate those who provided counsel, especially my remarkable wife, Elizabeth. In the end, this issue is really larger than any single person and it’s about placing people above politics. For those who disagree, I can only say that I am doing what I think is right. In the final analysis, I had to make a decision that I could be proud of – for me now, and my daughters’ judgment in the future.
May we all find ways to work together to build a more perfect union, and to build the future Commonwealth in which we want to live, work and raise all of our families.
The Huffington Post yesterday pulled some data from the Commonwealth Fund about the amount of money going into Medicaid expansion. As you may or may not know, the 2012 Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) made Medicaid expansion optional for the states. So far, 20 states have opted out of expansion (although a few are renewing their push to expand).
It turns out that rejecting expansion also means rejecting billions of dollars in federal funding. Two of the states that would have benefited the most? Texas and Florida, who stand to lose more than $9 billion and $5 billion, respectively, by 2022. If there was anything to make a political campaign on… this just might be one of them…
I know I’m a little behind on this (even though I live tweet, I don’t quite have the time to live blog) but there were two HUGE developments today with regard to LGBT rights.
First, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer ultimately decided to veto a controversial bill that passed through the Arizona Legislature earlier in the week that would have allowed businesses that asserted their religious beliefs the right to deny service to gay and lesbian customers.
While Brewer affirmed her commitment to traditional marriage, she noted that the bill had the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve. It could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine and no one would ever want.” She concluded by noting, “Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value, so is non-discrimination.”
The other huge news of the day was in Texas. I have to say, I never thought that marriage equality would ever become the law of the land in Texas without a judgment by the US Supreme Court, but a federal judge in San Antonio struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban. Deeming the law unconstitutional, Judge Orlando Garcia noted in his ruling that the current prohibition has “no legitimate governmental purpose.”
As with similar rulings in Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia, Judge Garcia’s decision will not take effect immediately, as it has been stayed while the case works its way through the appeals process.
In case you missed it, on Monday the president of Uganda signed a bill into law that calls for a sentence of 14 years in jail for first-time offenders of “homosexual acts.” The law sets life imprisonment as the maximum penalty for a category of offenses called “aggravated homosexuality,” defined as repeated gay sex between consenting adults as well as acts involving a minor, a disabled person or where one partner is infected with HIV. The new law also creates the offenses of “conspiracy to commit homosexuality” as well as “aiding and abetting homosexuality,” both of which are punishable with a seven-year jail term. Those convicted of “promoting homosexuality” face similar punishment.
If there’s any good news, it’s that the law originally called for the death penalty for some homosexual acts; that penalty was removed from after an international outcry forced the hand of the Ugandan legislature. But that’s where the good news stops. The situation for LGBT individuals in Uganda has clearly worsened, and yesterday a Ugandan newspaper published a list of what is calls the country’s “200 top” homosexuals, including outing some Ugandans who previously had not identified themselves as gay. And the witch hunt begins…
The whole time during the Olympics, we were worried about Russia, while Uganda was actively working to promote this law (which is highly supported in the country). The US response to the passage and signing of the law has been swift, with John Kerry noting that the State Department would be reviewing it’s relationship with the Ugandan government and potentially changed its stance on US aid to the nation. Desmond Tutu denounced the law, referring to Nazi Germany and apartheid-era South Africa as prime examples of what happens when politicians legislate love. He noted that “there is no scientific basis or genetic rationale for love. There is no scientific justification for prejudice and discrimination, ever. And nor is there any moral justification.”
But the recent actions in both Russia and Uganda raise a critically important question that many in the international community aren’t prepared to face. Are we demonstrating cultural imperialism by denouncing countries that pass laws like Russia and Uganda or are we merely fighting the good fight for human rights? Are we too quick to judge other countries’ social policies… and quite frankly are we hypocritical when many states in our own nation have “legislated” against love?
I do think it’s easier for those of us who sit comfortably in Western societies, protected by a backdrop of laws that guarantee certain freedoms, to criticize nations we believe to be less progressive and tolerant. But this week’s news from Arizona shows us that perhaps we aren’t as progressive as we would like to think. Should we perhaps be more sympathetic to another nation’s social policies?
I firmly believe in this case the answer is no. We aren’t talking about universal health care or socialized welfare. We’re talking about a law that potentially commits you to life in prison for marrying the person you love. We’re talking about people living in fear that they will be “discovered” as homosexuals. We’re talking about a law that potentially allows those seeking retribution to accuse others of being gay with potentially horrendous resulting punishment. We’re talking about a law that also imprisons directors of NGOs or foreign companies for merely assisting any LGBT individual; a law that affects individuals from other nations who travel to Uganda and are now afraid to provide humanitarian aid out of fear that they will be imprisoned.
It’s easy to say “oh that’s their social policy, leave them alone” when you’re sitting “across the pond” and will never be affected by it. But someone must speak up. For if we’ve learned anything from history, both that of our own nation and of the world, bad things happen when people don’t speak up. Martin Niemoller’s “First they came for the Socialists” quote is a glaring reminder of the dangers of silence.
I can’t say that I’m the biggest supporter or follower of Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi), but I saw this tweet the other day from her and couldn’t help myself. I actually think it applies more broadly than Uganda and probably to more than the LGBT community, but it’s an important sentiment.
Individuals without health insurance are quickly coming up on an important deadline. According to regulations in the Affordable Care Act, individuals must purchase health insurance for 2014 by March 31st or face a penalty when filing their taxes. With the looming deadline, the Obama Administration is aggressively pursuing these individuals. But maybe those efforts don’t need to be nationwide…
It turns out that half of the nation’s uninsured live in relatively small geographic areas. Half of uninsured adults under 65 live in just 116 of the nation’s 3,143 counties, while half of all 19-39 year olds without insurance live in 108 counties. This last group is critically important to success of the Affordable Care Act because they tend to be young and healthy – a group that costs insurance companies less and will ultimately subsidize insurance for older and sicker individuals.
In fact, nearly 2 million uninsured individuals live in Los Angeles County, which accounts for roughly 5% of the national uninsured population, while nearly 30% of residents in Harris County, Texas (home to Houston) are uninsured. Federal efforts have shifted somewhat to metro areas like Dallas, Miami, Atlanta, and Philadelphia – particularly since these cities are located in states that are not running their own insurance exchanges.
A federal judge ruled late this evening that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional.
The decision by US District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen makes Virginia the second state in the South to have a ban on same-sex marriage overturned.
U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen’s decision makes Virginia the second state in the South to have a ban on gay marriages overturned. Her ruling comes the day after a judge in Kentucky ruled that the state must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
In her decision, Judge Allen writes that “The Court finds Va. Const. Art. I, § 15-A, Va. Code §§ 20-45.2, 20-45.3, and any other Virginia law that bars same-sex marriage or prohibits Virginia’s recognition of lawful same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions unconstitutional. These laws deny Plaintiffs their rights to due process and equal protection guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”
Judge Allen has issued a stay on her decision pending appeal, therefore same-sex couples may not yet marry in Virginia. Attorney General Mark Herring previously announced he would not uphold the state’s ban on gay marriage.
Interestingly, Virginia becomes the 9th of the original 13 colonies to allow marriage equality.
Well, the folks at the Washington Post are at it again. In advance of Valentine’s Day, Will Feltus and Mike Shannon published a piece regarding the correlation between candy consumption and politics. You may recall that the Post recently described the correlation between alcohol brand and politics.
The authors admit that there doesn’t seem to be too much correlation or an obvious connection between candy types and partisanship. Maybe because candy brands aren’t seen as an expression of values, unlike a car (think hybrids vs gas guzzler) or a fast food chain (Cracker Barrel or Chick-Fil-a). There were some differences though. Democrats tend to prefer their candy be filled with extras like almonds, raisins and rice, while Republicans are more likely to favor peanuts, creamy fillings and darker chocolate.
One think that was crystal clear? There was one brand that seemed to have something for everyone in the political spectrum: M&Ms.
Check out the graph below and see where your candy preferences put you. I have to say that I don’t necessarily agree with this one as much. But at least we can all agree on M&Ms of some variety.
For years, regulation has been the strong armed tool of the government with regard to ensuring the public’s health. In their viewpoint piece in the September issue of JAMA, Dave Chokshi and Nicholas Stein lament the inherently politically charged nature of public health policy. This should come as no surprise. One only need recall the New York City “soda ban” debacle, with New Yorkers charging that Mayor Bloomberg was treating them like children. President Obama’s Prevention and Public Health Fund has been derided as a “liberal slush fund” by conservative opponents of the Affordable Care Act. The authors note that “public health regulation is often falsely portrayed as a choice between responsibility (of individuals) vs restriction (of freedom).” Certainly, public health regulation has often been seen as a form of “nanny state” control by the general population, but proponents argue that the government needs to play a central role in public health, citing to the progress made by regulations for tobacco control and nutritional interventions with regards to increased life expectancy.
Part of the problem is that public health interventions go largely unnoticed by the general public, and most individuals receive little direct benefit from most public health programs. Small, vocal groups and the occasional large powerful corporate interest tend to dominate the headlines in many public health debates. The failure of the New York City “soda ban” could easily fall under that category of discourse. The authors suggest that perhaps it’s time to reshape the politics surrounding public health.
One approach is to change the conversation. Rather than view public health regulation as the choice between individual responsibility versus restriction of freedom, public health advocates should sharpen their focus and argue that inaction is inherently a regulatory action, with the resulting public health outcomes as a direct consequence of that inaction. The authors cite the absence of workplace smoking bans as an active policy decision to expose employees carcinogens, thus increasing their risk for heart disease and lung cancer. Instead of constantly championing the liberal left, public health advocates should embrace common sense approaches from moderates and conservatives that may offer more broad appeal. Similarly, moderates and conservatives are much more likely to respond to appeals that are low cost or even revenue generating. As an example, Mayor Bloomberg may have had far greater success at taxing sugary beverages rather than imposing a ban on sodas. As revenue generating policies, taxation regulations on “unhealthy behaviors” often carry broad political appeal as a source of deficit reduction while simultaneously encouraging individuals to make healthier choices. These same policies can appeal to consumers who are increasingly indirectly paying for one another’s health choices, as taxing sugary beverages shifts the burden of payment onto those who continue to consume them.
Certainly, there is an important and legitimate debate about the role of the government and regulation in public health. That debate will continue ad nauseum, with an appropriate system of checks and balances both within government and the great public. But indeed the time has come to move that conversation away from individual responsibility and “nanny state” paranoia, from liberal versus conservative, toward a conversation about the consequences of inaction and the legitimate costs and benefits of any particular regulatory action.
Swiped from a friend’s Facebook status… perfection.
For those of you who missed it or who don’t pay attention to such things, let me summarize this for you. Last night the President gave his State of the Union Address. That’s a fancy name for speech. He said some good things and he said some not so good things. A bunch of people focused on the good things and that’s what they’re talking about today. A bunch of people focused on the not so good things and they’re crying like spoiled children today. But in reality, it was just a speech and it has very little substantial impact on our country. Actions speak louder than words and remember, our political system is broken. Ignore the hype and have a great day.
We’re fond of highlighting how much more the United States spends on health services, but an idiosyncrasy that receives less attention is how much less we spend on other social services. …
Of course, in the political arena, the discussion isn’t framed as “expanded coverage or expanded social policy”. Instead, we’re stuck with polemics about “expanded coverage… or not.” As complicated as insurance is, we default to it in health policy because it seems the most facile way to confront medical problems. That doesn’t make it the most effective way—but it’s hard to be optimistic about changing the terms of the debate.
~Adrianna McIntyre (The Incidental Economist)
I’m curious what Dr Martin Luther King, Jr would have though about this quote in his time, given his relentless fight to change the existing reality of discrimination in America. That said, one could argue he fought to build a new system. Still seems fitting for today.
You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.
~Richard Buckminster Fuller
Last month’s ruling from a federal court in Utah certainly sent shockwaves throughout LGBT and conservative groups alike when the court decided that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. While that case is currently under a temporary stay due to an order from the Supreme Court, another court in another highly conservative state is making waves… and this time it’s in Oklahoma.
A federal judge in Oklahoma ruled today that the state’s constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage violates the federal Constitution. In his ruling, Judge Terence C. Kern of United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, in Tulsa stated that the ban is “an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental benefit.” The amendment, he said, is based on “moral disapproval” and does not advance the state’s asserted interests in promoting heterosexual marriage or the welfare of children.
The ruling will not immediately take effect, pending an appeal from the state, one that Oklahoma is almost guaranteed to pursue. Given the recent ruling in Utah, Judge Kern smartly stayed his decision in anticipation of an appeal by Oklahoma to the same appeals court where the Utah case is being heard, the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver.