Hobby Lobby: Business or Religion?

Nel's New Day

I was born in a country that wouldn’t allow me to buy oral contraceptives or get a legal abortion. I could be denied a job because I am a woman. Homosexuality was illegal. Women could be denied health insurance by their employers because religion decrees that husbands should provide for their wives. That country is the United States.

Many people don’t know what life was like in the United States less than 50 years ago. They may find out if the religious right sends us back to the 19th century. That’s the crux of the case that the U.S. Supreme Court heard on March 25. SCOTUS’ earlier decisions on marriage equality and voting rights joined Citizens United in a trio of culture-changing court cases, one moving society forward and the other two in reverse. In the current cases, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, SCOTUS has the…

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Oregon should guard women’s rights with ERA | Opinion | The Register-Guard | Eugene, Oregon

Oregon should guard women’s rights with ERA | Opinion | The Register-Guard | Eugene, Oregon.

PUBLISHED: 12:00 A.M., MARCH 30

VoteERA.org is collecting petition signatures to give Oregonians the opportunity to vote in November for an Equal Rights Amendment to Oregon’s Constitution. This amendment will expressly guarantee that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the state of Oregon or by any political subdivision in this state on account of sex.”

VoteERA.org appreciates The Register-Guard bringing this important proposed amendment to the attention of its readers in a Feb. 14 editorial, “Dangers of a state ERA.”

That editorial suggested that “if a special section is needed to protect against sex discrimination, protection for groups or individuals lacking specific sections of their own might be assumed to be inferior.”

In making this statement, and in stating that the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon warned of this “danger in opposing earlier state ERA proposals,” it is likely that the editors were not aware that a third paragraph, added to alleviate this concern, is contained in the ballot initiative: “Nothing in this section shall diminish a right otherwise available to persons under section 20 of this article or any other provision of this Constitution.”

David Fidanque, executive director of ACLU Oregon, was quoted in the Dec. 30, 2013, Oregonian in reference to the current proposed amendment (containing paragraph 3): “I think the way it’s written now, it shouldn’t do any harm, which was our major concern in the spring.”

The substantive language of the ERA in the current ballot initiative is identical to the language of the federal Equal Rights Amendment. The ACLU, referring to the proposed federal ERA, makes these assertions:

“The Equal Rights Amendment will guarantee full equality to women.”

“Political gains made on reproductive rights and women’s health issues remain imperiled without the Equal Rights Amendment.”

“Without the Equal Rights Amendment, women’s rights remain subject to the interpretation of the Supreme Court.”

These assertions are just as applicable to the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Oregon Constitution.

It is important to specifically address the ACLU’s third point, that without explicit constitutional protection women’s rights remain subject to judicial interpretation. The Register-Guard’s editorial addressed the current protections provided by Article 1, Section 20, of the Oregon Constitution, which reads: “No law shall be passed granting to any citizen or class of citizens privileges, or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.”

Though this sounds like it protects women, when it was ratified in 1859 there was no intent that it apply to women. In 1859 women couldn’t vote, couldn’t purchase property on their own, etc. It took more than 50 years for the Oregon Constitution to be amended in 1912, granting women the right to vote. If an ERA is “redundant” to Article 1 Section 20, as the editorial states, then why was it necessary to amend the Oregon Constitution for women to gain the right to vote?

The Register-Guard editorial points to an Oregon Supreme Court decision, Hewitt vs. SAIF, written in 1982 by the late Justice Betty Roberts, a strong feminist and the first woman to serve on the Oregon Supreme Court. Hewitt specifically extended the protections of Article 1, Section 20 to guard against discrimination based on gender. However, the Hewitt opinion expressly left out protections against discrimination based on “biological differences.” Also, this opinion is only case law, which is fluid and dependent on the justices interpreting the Constitution.

Nobody can predict who our Supreme Court justices will be in the future. Without equality for women expressly written into the Oregon Constitution, Oregon women and girls will always be at risk of losing the gains they have made. The Hewitt opinion provides excellent precedent, but it does not provide for full equality based on sex in the Oregon Constitution; only a constitutional amendment can do that. Even The Register-Guard editorial admits that the ACLU of Oregon noted that an ERA “could insure against Oregon Supreme Court decisions narrowing the scope of protections under Section 20.”

This year is the centennial year of the 1914 general election, the first in which Oregon women could vote. Let’s celebrate by giving women express equality in the Oregon Constitution! Twenty-two states, including Washington and California, have ERA’s. It is past time for Oregon to pass an ERA.

Nancy Campbell of Depoe Bay is a retired Washington County circuit judge and a board member of VoteERA.org (www.VoteERA.org). The opinions expressed here are the author’s own.

Rape in the Military

Nel's New Day

Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) fought for almost a year to move major crimes outside the military chain of command for judicial review but failed to get the necessary 60 votes in early March. That 60 votes, of course, is the new majority of 100 Senate members because almost everything is filibustered except for nominees. After the failure of the Military Justice Improvement Act, Sen. Claire McCaskill’s (D-MO) bill, which maintains status quo with extra protections for victims, unanimously passed. Male senators fought to keep military commanders in control with the claim that they’ll lose their power if an independent court rules on sexual assaults. As Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said on the senate floor, “I trust these commanders. I trust them.” Gillibrand countered by saying:

“It’s not whether anyone in this chamber trusts the chain of command, the people who do not trust the chain of command are the victims…

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Oil Spends Money on Drilling, Not Cleanup

Nel's New Day

On the 25th anniversary of the  Exxon Valdez oil spill last Sunday, the Houston Ship Channel was closed after a barge spilled almost 170,000 gallons of tar-like crude after a collision with a ship. At this time of the year, tens of thousands of shorebirds are migrating, right into the oil that’s gone as far as 12 miles offshore. Dead and oiled birds are already showing up. History repeating itself.

Twenty-five years after the oil spill at Alaska’s Bligh Reef, the oil remains in the inner tidal zone.  The spill of 11 million gallons covered 1,300 miles of coastline and 11,000 square miles of ocean. Those who lost their livelihood because of the dead fish recently settled for pennies on the dollar. Twenty years ago, they were awarded $2.5 billion; the Supreme Court decided that it should be $500 million for 32,000 people. Herring licenses worth $300,000 dropped to…

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Who Are the Koch Brothers?

Nel's New Day

As the United States approaches the “oligarch” status of Russia and other quasi-dictatorships, people in the U.S. are learning our own billionaires who control the selection and decisions of the nation’s lawmakers. Fortunately, the Walton family that owns Walmart seems to stay out of politics as long as they don’t have to raise the wages. On the other hand, the Koch brothers (pronounced “Coke”) have gone full-bore into running the country. Only about half the likely voters know who they are, but half of these have an “unfavorable” view of Charles and David.

Charles, 78, lives near Koch HQ in Wichita (KS); David, 74, lives in New York. Together they run their inherited Koch Industries, the country’s second-largest private company with oil pipelines, refineries, building materials, paper towels, etc. Together they are worth over $80 billion, and David made $6 billion just last year. Buying these products will make the Koch brothers richer:…

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Women’s History Month 2014: Anita Hill

Social Justice For All

Anita Hill Today it is an honor to have the opportunity to celebrate a woman I treasure, someone who is an amazing role model for women in the United States. Today SJFA celebrates Anita Hill. I also need to thank my dear friend Jennifer Carey for inspiring me to write about  Ms. Hill.

I actually had the great pleasure of meeting Ms. Hill several years ago. No surprise, she was absolutely brilliant, gracious, and far more compassionate than I would have been. I was able to have breakfast with Anita Hill shortly after the bizarre phone message left on Ms. Hill’s answering machine demanding an apology.  I have no clue as to what kind of “Tea” our Ginni was drinking during that Tea Party.  I can hardly believe it has been nearly 23 years since they put Anita Hill on trial for being sexually harassed by the now Justice Clarence Thomas.  I…

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Guns: Public Health Issue

Nel's New Day

As Michael Cohen wrote in The Guardian, “The only thing that stops a good guy against guns is the gun lobby.” Such is the case of nominee for U.S. surgeon general, Dr Vivek Murthy. Once the right-wing element in the country, led by Fox, had polished off the possibility of highly qualified civil rights attorney Debo Adegbile to attain a position in the Department of Justice, they attacked Murthy. His sin was declaring that gun violence is a public health issue because of the high rate of deaths and injuries every year from guns in the United States.

One of the attacks was that he hadn’t done much in his career. Yet, former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher emphasized Murthy’s “impressive track record of accomplishments as an innovative and well-respected thought leader in healthcare.” Satcher served for both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

NRAsurgeon720 cartoon

The NRA, a front for…

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