The world has become a tough place for tough decisions. Or maybe it always has been, and we’ve been able to periodically ignore that fact when convenience and privilege allowed. In anyone’s lifetime, however, the time to ignore this fact disappears when the conversation gets personal. Whether it’s race, religion, orientation, legal rights, or state-sanctioned access to resources, the need to fight rather than converse becomes real when the conversation hits home. .

Last June, millions of women across the country felt conversation time shrink when the Supreme Court overturned the original 1973 Roe v. Wade that guaranteed federal access to abortion. Emotions erupted on both sides of the row, with opponents of the decision fearing a loss of federal legislative rights and, on a more personal level, the loss of access to medical resources that for many had hitherto been available throughout their lives. Proponents of the rollback argued on the basis of ensuring proper legality and setting a precedent for the potential limitation of federal oversight in these laws, essentially giving more power to the states.

The case featured a memo from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, citing that the ruling “concerns the constitutional right to abortion and no other rights.” Judge Clarence Thomas immediately contradicted Alito’s words with his own, stating that indeed the same legal rationale behind the decision could be applied unilaterally when it comes to decisions such as legalizing same-sex marriage, decriminalizing homosexuality and the right to access contraceptives. He continued that “for this reason, in future cases, we should reconsider all” precedents.

And here is the moment when open conversation is so desperately needed and yet remarkably rare. Much of what we are all talking about as Americans right now comes down to basic humanity, or rather, humanity. Most adults can conduct a civil conversation with another adult assuming the topic stays in a safe zone that doesn’t allow for a lot of differences of opinion, for example, an impending hurricane. We can all agree that hurricanes are bad news and we should probably fill our cars with gas and close our windows. Easy enough. However, when that same conversation takes it to the next level, whether to vent or not, most people still manage to have a constructive conversation, regardless of their personal decision. Provided of course that everyone has access to the same resources (money, car, where to go), we are content to make our own choices and move on… or not. Jump one level until you reach a mandatory evacuation. People have lost their autonomous choice, and some are going to be upset about it. Most can see though that this is a decision based on protecting the greater good, or at its coldest and most calculated level, a decision based on the metric that determines how many lifeguard lives will be endangered and how many resources will be sacrificed by the city or state. But no one ever has to discuss a hurricane that people are forced to stay in. Let’s imagine that a category 4 roars in our direction and suddenly an order is issued and a blockade is placed. Even if the powers that be maintained that we had put ourselves in such a position by choosing to live in a sensitive area, it would not go over well. Conversations turn into fights when we have to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

The concepts of legal precedence and the mechanisms of constitutional law fall apart when the rights that govern our whole lives are put on the table. When bodies and marriages come into consideration, the world bows and feels a little less safe. As a woman, who has been legally married to another woman for over a decade (at the state level prior to the 2015 federal decision), I can personally say that while I appreciate the legal semantics and legislative, this game is of no importance. interests me when it directly affects my well-being and that of my family. I would be happy to have endless theoretical conversations about marriage or LGBTQ history. Fascinating. Harmless. Informative. Encourages reflection. All the things a conversation should be. What I am not interested in is mounting a defense of my right to share tax and medical implications or parental rights with my spouse.

Maybe the federal legal structure supporting same-sex marriage isn’t perfect. But, it serves as a course correction where needed. Maybe Roe v. Wade should never have gone the legal route he did. Same for Brown v. Board of Education. Or Loving v. Virginia. I’ll concede a point to Thomas (which I never thought I’d do), but with one major caveat. Yes, the federal government, or more specifically nine people representing all of our diverse country, should not have to decide human rights cases. But, we live in an imperfect world and in a country with a skeletal system built in a much simpler time.
Problems arise when conversations stop and conflict begins. Conflict begins when people are threatened. When people are threatened, they turn to a more powerful entity for help. I personally want to feel protected by my government and welcome decisions, like Loving v. Virginia, who we now see, in hindsight, was taken in the best interests of humanity and in response to those who fought when they needed it, and asked this higher entity for help. This, this that is the purpose and importance of such decisions.


About Author

Comments are closed.