Wednesday, July 03, 2013

I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree

My reaction to the Supreme Court's striking of the historical formula for determining the need for federal oversight of voting rights rules in such hotbeds of racism as Alaska (sorry, I'll strike that as it seems somewhat leading) is that if laws aren't informed by any currency of context, then they completely lose their effectiveness -- and, in the main, their legitimacy.
Two current examples leap out at me.
First, the "other" SCOTUS big decision striking down the Defense Of Marriage Act was, in my mind, a proper decision that is informed by the increasing legitimacy and normalization of 'non-traditional' family living arrangements. The fact that many states have legalized such relationships is less important than the fact that the preponderance of Americans have legitimized them. Since there is little or no public appetite to delegitimize gay marriage, it is 'fitting and proper' to provide the same legal protections and encumbrances that other families have.
Right now, that is the only "defense" I can see against legalized polygamy; there's a pretty strong consensus that it's wrong. But how long can that hold?
Second, several states have attempted to -- and succeed in -- modifying the latest date at which a woman can terminate a normal pregnancy from 23 weeks (let's call it "2/3 baked") to 20 weeks (let's call it "half baked"). Again, the preponderance of societal judgement is that we have to compromise between total disregard for the child and the complete loss of control by the mother. "Forcing" the woman to make her choice within the first four months has now become the rallying cry for a war on women. It's difficult not to get snide about that attitude -- at what point does "I'm getting around to it!" cease to be a legitimate response? -- but the consensus will continue to push that date earlier as technology improves our understanding and ability to support the development of the child outside of the womb.  There will come a day when the gap between popping a Plan B and "ma'am, we'll take those cells out and give them to someone that wants to care for the child" will be a tiny sliver of hours.
You might want to consider whether the right color of sneakers will change that debate.

So, yes, I believe that the facts on the ground have changed in the last 50 years, in most places, in most states, such that a separate legal framework for some places simply isn't justified by the facts on the ground. When we started this, trying to register was life-threatening. Now, the most fervent complaints are that the rules subject you to the ennui of having to wander down to the DMV sometime in the year preceding an election. This is not precisely Kafkaesque, at least in the same way that fighting a privately-administered speed camera that catches you going 35 while stopped at a light is, or trying to appeal felony* finger-gun possession by a six-year-old can be.
* Just a teeny bit of hyperbole there.

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