The Supreme Court breaks things that are not broken

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, with some rights acknowledged and others stripped away. Future historians will have a field day examining the changes that occurred to American society in the month that ends today, but for those of us living through it, it's been a very bumpy ride.

In all areas but one, the Supreme Court seems to have been operating on the principle of "If It Ain't Broke, Break It."

It gutted the Voting Rights Act, giving districts with a proven history of discrimination a free hand to gerrymander their borders in a way that dilutes the minority vote. It made it harder, if not impossible, for workers to sue their employers claiming harassment or discrimination.

At the same time, in its same-sex marriage rulings, the court recognized that public opinion has shifted dramatically on matters of sexual orientation, to the point that discrimination was no longer acceptable. Yet it does not accord the same respect to poor and minority voters or employees whose rights are being trampled in the workplace. Go figure.

And then there was Texas -- why is there ALWAYS Texas?-- but more on that later.

Theoretically, the Voting Rights Act ruling could benefit either party. But in practice it's a boon to the Republicans who control 26 states, compared to 18 controlled by Democrats and six that are split.

A winner-take-all decision, it allows those Republican legislatures to construct permanent majority votes with no federal oversight. Unless, that is, Congress decides to address the court's objection by updating the parts of the act that were struck down as being out of date.

This presents a great opportunity to subject all areas of the country to the same level of scrutiny, not just those with historically racist policies. Pennsylvania, for example, did not need advance clearance to impose its draconian voter ID law, which disproportionately impacts poor and minority citizens -- all in the name of "fixing" an imaginary problem with voter fraud that was never demonstrated because it doesn't exist.

Perhaps some oversight would have blocked that measure, and all the similar ones that have been pushed through by Republican governors and lawmakers. But chances are not good for such legislation to make it through this Congress, which could not agree that the Earth is round if put to a vote, and the court's conservative justices know that perfectly well.

So, instead of protecting some minority voters from discrimination, the court has opened the gates to discriminating against all of them. Anyone who doubts that outcome need only look at Texas, which waited a whole two hours after the decision to enact its racist -- er, I mean sweeping restrictions.

Speaking, as we so often must, of Texas and discrimination, the state GOP's overwhelmingly male lawmakers and their whack-job governor, Rick Perry, are determined to destroy women in order to "save" them. They have gall to insist that shutting down almost all the safe, clean and legal abortion clinics in a state with more than 26 million people will "protect" women. Clearly, they learned nothing from the case of Kermit Gosnell, the convicted Philadelphia doctor (not a gynecologist) who ran a "chamber of horrors" clinic that preyed on poor and minority women who had nowhere else to turn..

Enter Wendy Davis, the Democratic lawmaker from Ft. Worth, who fought these execrable restrictions with a one-woman filibuster, talking for 13 hours without eating, leaning or going to the bathroom. Social media got the word out and throngs of supporters crowded into the state house to cheer her on. When the frustrated Republican leader shut her down on trumped-up pretenses, supporters shouted and chanted "Let her speak" for 15 minutes, making it impossible to take a vote until the deadline passed.

Ms. Davis became an overnight hero, with memes all over the Internet. Many are odes to her pink sneakers, but I'm partial to the one that has her dressed like Uma Thurman in her famous Quentin Tarantino role, wearing a yellow jumpsuit and brandishing a sword, under the headline "Kill (the) Bill."

As for Supremes' rulings on worker's rights, one held that for purposes of sexual harassment, a "supervisor" has to have the power to hire, fire or promote. That gives leeway to immediate bosses who harass underlings but lack those powers. The other decision requires that victims of discrimination prove racism, sexism or other discrimination was the only factor in their treatment, not one of several.

The only court decisions that actually upheld any rights were in the area of marriage equality. With their characteristic 5-4 split, the justices struck down the Defense of Marriage Act that barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages in states where they are legal. They also declined to rule on an appeal regarding California's Proposition 8, clearing the way for gay and lesbian couples to legally marry again.

This happened in the same week as a big announcement from Rick Santorum, the right-wing religious scold who used to be a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania until the voters invited him out. He will be heading up a new faith-based film company, presumably to counter all the leftist--liberal atheist anti-American anti-family pro-terrorist garbage coming out of Hollywood.

Mr. Santorum has long characterized same-sex unions as a threat to marriage. Perhaps his first film will feature a heroic senator whose marriage is murdered by gay spouses with one arm. The protagonist transforms himself into the Wedding Avenger Husband, WAH for short, traveling the country in a black mask and tux, disrupting marriage ceremonies of same-sex partners, water ballooning their receptions and toilet-papering their yards.

I can't wait to see it.

opinion_commentary - sallykalson

Sally Kalson is a columnist for the Post-Gazette (, 412-263-1610).


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