War on Women Rally, Utah State Capitol, 4/28/12

Equality and Justice Are Not Just Catch Phrases

by Rocky Anderson

Our nation is being transformed – our Republic is being undermined – and we are all at risk.  We must stand together and take sustained action to make it clear that we the people will not stand for it any more.

Our nation is facing a dangerous onslaught of bigoted, authoritarian policies and practices pushed not only by an extremist right-wing group of fanatics but by people thought by most to be more mainstream, including Republicans and Democrats alike.

These are people who seem to have no moral compass — no personal core guided by long-time American traditions, values, and constitutional principles such as due process, equal protection, and the right of privacy – the right of each of us to be left alone by government.  The vicious attacks against women are part of the undoing of the American dream of equality and justice.

These attacks reinforce the need for a renewed fight – this time a successful fight – for an Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Let us consider the attacks against women throughout much of our nation in the larger context of the current general undermining of our Republic and its grandest traditions and values.

During both the Bush and Obama administrations, protections for people here at home and around the world have been severely diminished, to the point that we now have a dangerous imperial presidency, an irresponsible and timid Congress, and a judicial system that too often steps aside as a check on abuses of power, including illegal conduct, by the executive branch.

We are a nation that now, for the first time in our history, goes around the world kidnapping, disappearing, and torturing people, all with impunity because our current president has decided, in the manner of a tyrant who has no regard for the rule of law, that the law will not be applied to certain wealthy and powerful people.

We are a nation that now, for the first time in our history, targets U.S. citizens for assassination, without any semblance of due process.

We are a nation that now stands by, with a Congress that continually fails to live up to its constitutional responsibility, and permits a president to make war against several nations, killing hundreds of innocent civilians by unmanned drones, without the constitutionally mandated authorization of Congress.

And we are now a nation that, for the first time in our history, has a Congress and a President who pass and sign into law a provision that would allow our President, again in the manner of a tyrant, to target anyone, including U.S. citizens, to be kidnapped, disappeared, held incommunicado in a military prison, indefinitely – up to the remainder of the their lives – without charges, without a trial, without legal assistance, and without the right of habeas corpus.

All of this is un-American – so subversive of our shared values since our nation’s founding – the values of freedom, equal opportunity, security, and compassion.

In the context of the current civil- and human-rights-abusing trend among both Democrats and Republicans, we are witnessing an equally bold and disgraceful attack against women by elected officials and activists – both men and women.

In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker recently signed the repeal of the state’s equal pay law.  State Senator Glen Grothman, the Republican Assistant Majority Leader of the Wisconsin Senate, pushed the repeal of equal pay, arguing – and I quote – “You could argue that money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe they expect to be a breadwinner some day.”

There you have it: The perfect merging of bigotry, idiocy, and poor grammar – all in two short sentences!

The same Senator Glen Grothman proposed a state law requiring that the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board must consider single parenthood a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.

As a single father for 24 years, I’ll put up my parenting against Grothman’s any day.  Can you imagine what he is teaching his children about kindness, compassion, and the value of diversity in our world?!

Although he is an equal opportunity ignoramus and bigot toward single parents, applying his proposal against fathers and mothers alike, his aim is obviously against gays and lesbians, and against women in particular, since the vast majority of single parents are women.

Our Utah Legislature did him one better: They made it impossible for unmarried couples to adopt children in Utah – with gays and lesbians their target.  Imagine the thousands of children who would benefit from the love and stability as a result of being adopted by gay and lesbian parents.  These children are being deprived of having permanent families for the rest of their lives because of the harsh, bigoted, and ignorant judgments of a majority of Utah legislators.

In September of last year, Topeka, Kansas, repealed a law prohibiting domestic abuse. In the following month, there were at least 35 reported cases of domestic battery or assault and 18 people jailed were released without facing charges.

A proposed law in Arizona would require women to prove to their employers that they are taking contraceptives for reasons other than preventing pregnancy in order to get insurance coverage – and that if they don’t offer such proof, their employers, on the basis of their moral objections, would be able to terminate the employees.

The Georgia legislature passed a law criminalizing abortion after 20 weeks.  Referred by many as the “women as livestock bill,” the legislation was supported by Rep. Terry England, a Republican, who compared pregnant women carrying stillborn fetuses to the cows and pigs on his farm.  According to Rep. England, if farmers have to deliver calves, dead or alive, then a woman carrying a dead fetus, or one not expected to survive, should have to carry it to term.

South Dakota Republicans proposed a bill that would allow the killing of a doctor performing an abortion.

In Virginia, the Governor and Legislature wanted to force women having abortions to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound – so they could see the fetus and hear the heartbeat.

And, of course, there are the requirements of a waiting period for an abortion – as if women simply show up at clinics for an abortion on a whim – not having given due consideration to the often heart-rending decision that ought to be theirs – and theirs alone.

And on and on it goes. These are just a few of the outrages constituting the War on Women.

They are outrages that are demeaning of women.  They are outrages that affect women in the most intimate areas of their lives – economically, emotionally, medically, even spiritually.  They are outrages driven by the ignorance and narrow judgments of legislators and activists – fanatics who seem perversely obsessed with sex and with telling everyone else how to behave, just as Jimmy Swaggert, Jim Bakker, and Ted Haggard loved to hypocritically tell everyone else how to live their lives while they were cavorting around with their prostitutes and others.

We’re all in this together. To protect the rights of all, we must stand together.

Let us take the offensive. We must be the leaders, making it clear that there will be a heavy political price to be paid by anyone serving in public office who will not stand up for all of our rights and liberties.  As with any major movement for social progress in this nation, it can be accomplished, if only we will organize and join forces together.

Let no woman be demeaned by any public officials who think they know best how women should live their lives.  Let no woman’s freedom be affected by any public official who would supplant his or her judgment for that of the women whose lives are impacted.  And let no woman’s quality of life, including income, be compromised by anyone who is not committed to equality under the law and justice for all.

Equality and justice are not just catch phrases.  Equality and justice must continue to define what our nation stands for and what we, the American people, will continue to fight for.  It is up to each and all of us, standing and fighting tenaciously, together.  Let us stand tall and stand proud – and fight for the rights and liberties of all, united in our purpose.