Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Behind the Blogger: Waiting for SCOTUS, and The Other Half

I've resigned myself to blogging much more sporadically than I used to. Discovering--after eight years of doing this--that I'm under no obligation to post anything if not motivated has been kind of liberating. A strong argument could be made for giving up the venture, it being an unpaid, generally unacknowledged effort in the first place. But I enjoy having my own tiny corner of the internets, a place to shout out to the universe about whatever is on my mind.

Though I have much more time this year and this summer to blog, I'm finding that time isn't really the issue. It's a changing world, with social media making it so much easier to consume data, interact and comment on what's going on, and frankly, making it more difficult for me in particular to focus on a single subject at a time. I'm a multi-screen, multi-tasking, fragmented, near-ADD level media consumer these days. I spend far too much time doing all of the above, and with the freedom to do so, I'm still struggling with the whens, the hows, and the whys of having my butt planted in a chair in front of my screens when I could be doing something else.

Even when I force myself to change my venue, going out to get exercise, running errands, working on projects, I find myself with my screens (smart phone, touch-screen car media center) and my headphones, still consuming, still taking in data, stimulation. You'd think that this would spur more blogging activity later, not less. But I have often taken to commenting right there in Facebook, Twitter, the comments section, the letters to the editor. I've found my butt back in that chair when I didn't mean to, and the blog still gets ignored. Sorry about that, dear reader (if you actually exist!).

Summer has begun, and I've got some social obligations on the horizon, so the ramping up of chores and events and errands is about to hit in earnest. The Other Half--currently an absentee around here, as he's still commuting for an indeterminate time--returns after a lengthy time away, at the same time that friends and family are converging at our new home. Also, the Supreme Court of the United States is set to announce life-changing and politically explosive decisions in the space of the next week. Obamacare (of which I may soon be a consumer) and marriage equality (of which I've already consumed!) cases will be decided either Thursday, Friday or Monday.

When The Other Half and I moved to Ohio, we left a state where we were (only recently recognized as) legally married, fully equal to any other married couple, and to a state where we were not recognized. We will also soon be moving into a world where we don't have secured health insurance, with his retirement. So, both decisions are huge for us. It feels odd having such large question marks looming (especially since the question of future careers also loom in front of us), to be decided rather arbitrarily by nine people. Or even one person, if these cases come down to a 5-4 SCOTUS split.

For the most part, I'm relatively optimistic that both cases will be a win for the "liberal" side. I think the ACA/Obamacare case hinges upon a rather obviously partisan, paper-thin argument. A conservative win there would be just as transparently a political decision, more than a well-reasoned legal argument. On the marriage equality argument, a win seems even more certain, with virtually every indicator pointing toward 50-state legal equality for gay couples to marry. But SCOTUS has shocked us before.

Citizens United, Hobby Lobby and the gutting of the Voting Rights Act are all cases that stomp around the edges of my certainty. All of those decisions were WTF moments for people who look at things logically, not just because they were losses for my "side," but because the arguments for them seemed so bad, and the ramifications so obvious. Whenever I see someone say that the court wouldn't decide on my two cases in the conservative affirmative, because of the legal chaos it would create? I think of these other cases, where the chaos was either ignored, or even predicted by SCOTUS as "not going to happen."

If the ACA case goes to the conservatives, millions of Americans could lose their insurance, and people will die, directly because of the decision. That's relatively indisputable when you realize that nobody has a Plan B. If the marriage equality case goes to the conservatives, tens and tens of thousands of gay couples' rights are thrown into question, and the equality of unmarrieds seeking to marry becomes more of a patchwork than it already is. More chaos. But let's face it, would Scalia care?

Still, I'm optimistic. Though the court has in the past made manifestly political decisions, I'm hopeful that with these two decisions, legacy is the more important factor. For some of these justices--given their ages--legacy has got to be important. As they head into the sunset of their careers, do they really want to have deciding negatively on either of these huge cases as the thing they're remembered for? For the relatively youthful Chief Justice, does he want preside over negatively deciding them, only to have to revisit each issue again, and potentially have them overturned, or to have them overturned by the next guy? Either of these scenarios would cloud their legacies. So, that's one hope for me.

Another hope is that both cases will actually be decided on their merits, on legal precedent, and on simple logic. That may be a high hope, but if it happens, we win again. The case against marriage equality is just weak, weak, weak. I've followed this closely for its entire existence, and the one constant is just how bad the legal arguments are against equality. And the ACA case, as previously stated, comes down to intent versus semantics, and there is ample precedent that intent should win out over political sentiment over what "the state" means.

Timing over how these things are released adds to my suspense and frustration, and you have to wonder how much of the SCOTUS calendar is engineered by necessity, and how much is for dramatic effect. From my perspective, gay rights cases in general have been dragged out for as long as is possible by nearly every court. Though it seems like an incredibly fast progressing issue to many, when you follow it, it is glacially slow. But SCOTUS seems determined to wait until as late as they possibly can to tell us their decision. The wait is excruciating. And the timing is going to be momentous either way.

See, religious objectors? Not married in church, but at this
awesome city hall in Palm Springs. No Jesus, no "holy
matrimony." So, chill out.
The Other Half and I got married during the 2008 marriage equality "window," the time period between legal same-sex marriage in California and when Prop 8 shut it down. For five long years, I followed every legal wriggle, and watched the marriage equality progress in other states (including in Nevada where I then lived, and Iowa, The Other Half's home state). And finally, one day before our five-year anniversary--which we were spending back in California with our wedding party in tow--we were fully legal again, thanks to SCOTUS. Now, two years later, I'm waiting again for my home state to join the other two-thirds of the country in recognizing my marriage. And I'm waiting for The Other Half too!

If SCOTUS announces on Thursday or Friday, it will be just ahead of our anniversary again, and right before NYC's gay pride festivities. If it announces on Monday, it will be immediately after The Other Half's return. A positive announcement (hopefully in both cases) will provide a very jubilant summer. A mixed bag is going to hurt, no matter what. My best guess is a slightly mixed bag. I have a feeling we're going to get a mostly liberal victory on both of these things, but somehow tempered by the conservative justices.

With the ACA case, I'm not enough of an expert to know how they'd split the baby. But I'll bet they'll try. With the marriage equality case, I'm betting we get 50 state recognition with--at a minimum--recognition of marriages performed in other states, but possibly leaving in-state marriage up to the states. This would be a loss for our side, but would still have the practical effect of legalizing same-sex marriage everywhere. And that last domino would likely eventually fall. More likely, we'll even win on the "can get married anywhere" side, but conservative justices will muddy the win by tacking on some sort of BS "religious protections," or other minimizing language to coddle the conservatives a bit.

In short (I know, too late), I'm betting that the liberal side gets plenty to celebrate, and a little bit to bitch about, and the conservative side will be dealt big losses, but have a few nuggets to cling to. I hope that my prediction is at least what comes to pass, and that it actually comes out better. A worse case scenario is likely to drag down my summer, and drag me back to some blistering blogging.

Either way, I'm optimistic, but nervous.

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