Saturday, June 7, 2014

Wolf et al v. Walker et al

So, apparently the Constitution applies to the State of Wisconsin too.  Who knew?

Has anyone alerted Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) about this?  It’s probably something he’d want to know.  That knowledge might even inspire him to change a few of his practices and policies, though my guess is that he is so far gone in ideological fantasy that this revelation will make little difference to him.  It will certainly make no difference to his cronies, minions, and lackeys in the legislature, political termites burrowing into the joists of the American republic who have made their contempt for Constitutional restrictions and the rule of law in general vividly plain over the last four years.

It’s been interesting, having a ring-side seat at the subversion of an entire American state from within, in the liberal arts sense of the word, the way three-headed frogs are “interesting.”

For those of you who missed the news out of Baja Canada yesterday, a federal judge has ruled that Wisconsin’s laws and constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage are in direct conflict with the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution, which requires both due process and equal protection under the law for all American citizens.

The State of Wisconsin has reacted the way you’d think a one-party dictatorship unused to challenges to its prerogatives would act when suddenly faced with opposition.  In comments worthy of disdain from toddlers, our attorney general – a man so nakedly partisan it’s almost refreshing in its lack of pretense – has simply decided to ignore the court decision and declare that “current law remains in force.”  While this is of a piece with the past actions of Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) and the rogue regime he commands, all of which have been predicated on the Teabagger legal principle that “rules are meant for other people, not people like us,” it is nevertheless not a viable legal strategy in a republic based on the separation of powers and the rule of law.

Part of me hopes that they will continue to deny their responsibility to obey the law and get themselves jailed, except that they control all three branches of the Wisconsin government and such consequences will never happen (vide supra: legal principle, Teabagger). 

I said most of what I wanted to say on this issue five years ago.  Nothing has changed except that the rest of the country seems to be catching on to the idea that human rights apply to all humans, regardless of appearance, orientation, or other supposedly important qualifier.

It’s nice to be ahead of the curve sometimes.

In case you’re wondering, I have actually read the decision.  It’s 88 pages long and freely available online from any number of places.  If you’re thinking about complaining about it, my advice is to read it first.  Otherwise, you know, people may think you’re a bit of an ass for complaining about something you know nothing about.  Just saying.

It’s a fairly cautious decision, really, one that grounds itself most in the simple principle of equal protection under the laws.

Or, as Judge Barbara Crabb put it, Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) and his regime “are making the same mistake as the [US Supreme] Court in Bowers when they frame the question in this case as whether there is a “right to same-sex marriage” instead of whether there is a right to marriage from which same-sex couples can be excluded.  … The question is whether the scope of that right may be restricted depending on who is exercising the right.”  (pp.32-33)  A right given to some citizens may not be withheld from other citizens without a compelling state interest in doing so, and no such interest has been demonstrated.

The fact that laws have been put into place to deny the rights of American citizens is irrelevant.  Nor is it relevant that the good citizens of the State of Wisconsin approved an amendment to their constitution enshrining such denial into that constitution.

The thing about rights is that they are not subject to such actions.

“The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts.  One’s rights to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to a vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”   (West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 US 624 (1943), cited in Judge Crabb’s decision on p.19).

Or, as a friend of mine once said, “If they can vote to take it away from you, then it isn’t a right.”

So for the first time in years, there is good political news coming out of Wisconsin.  The government of this state is being forced to acknowledge that they are not the only power in existence, that there are greater and more powerful forces at work than their mere ideological whims. 

And more importantly, thousands of Wisconsin citizens can now marry those they love.

That, most of all, is what matters.  I have been married for 18 years now.  I cannot imagine how impoverished my life would be if that had been denied by the small-minded bigotry of others.

I am glad that marriage in Wisconsin has now been strengthened through the inclusion of those previously shut out.

It’s a good day in the Dairy State.  A good day indeed.

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