Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
By Eric Rader
Two weeks ago, the United States Supreme Court announced a decision that will live in infamy in the history of our democracy. In a seemingly insignificant campaign finance case, the high court took the extreme position that corporations have a First Amendment right to express their opinions by spending money to promote their favored candidates in political campaigns.
Adding insult to injury, Justice Clarence Thomas justified his vote for this decision by highlighting what he saw as the tyrannical behavior of pro-gay marriage groups in California that opposed Proposition 8, the amendment approved by voters there in 2008 to prohibit same-sex marriage. Justice Thomas seems to think that LGBT citizens expressing their own First Amendment right of association are a threat to democracy, while excessive corporate money is not.
In the not-too-distant future, a California case challenging the anti-gay marriage law will likely reach the Supreme Court’s doorstep. The Supreme Court’s opinion in the campaign finance case should give the LGBT community deep cause for concern as the gay marriage case makes its way to the court.
In recent election campaigns, the mainstream media has largely ignored the importance of the federal and state judiciaries. At the federal level, presidential and senatorial candidates are rarely asked their views on the proper role of the federal courts. Yet one of the most important responsibilities of a president is the power to appoint federal judges and Supreme Court justices, while the Senate has the awesome power to confirm these lifetime positions. Once the Senate has acted on a president’s judicial selection, there is no turning back, and the nation must live with that jurist for 20 or 30 years, or even longer. Justice Thomas joined the court 18 years ago at the age of 43, and is likely only halfway through his tenure. Indeed, federal judicial appointments do make a difference.
It is quite likely that President Obama will get to make a Supreme Court appointment later this year if Justice John Paul Stevens, a positive vote on LGBT issues, retires as expected. This important seat should not go to a judge who is hostile to the civil rights issues that affect our community. We need to make our voices heard on any judicial vacancies that the president gets the chance to fill, including those in lower federal courts.
While the federal judiciary is determined by the president and U.S. Senate, state judges in Michigan are chosen directly by the electorate. This year, voters in our state will be selecting a number of local judges and two Michigan Supreme Court justices. These judges have the authority to resolve a number of issues of concern to the LGBT community, including second-parent adoption, state civil rights laws, hate crimes and the meaning of our state’s highly discriminatory marriage law.
Unfortunately, many voters walk into the ballot booth with little or no knowledge of where the candidates stand on these and other issues. It’s important that LGBT citizens be educated about the judicial candidates running for office in Michigan. One important source of information is the Triangle Pride-PAC: http://www.trianglepridepac.org/about/index.html. Pay attention to their voter’s guide and endorsements and be an informed voter in November. Contact your senators on important federal judicial vacancies.
As recent history has shown, both federal and state courts can have a significant impact on our lives, and we ignore them at our great peril.
Remind our senators that the job of the judiciary is to interpret the Constitution faithfully, protect citizens from the tyranny of the majority and create a level playing field for all people in our democracy. Contact Sen. Debbie Stabenow at http://www.stabenow.senate.gov/email.cfm, and Sen. Carl Levin at http://www.levin.senate.gov/contact/.
Contact your Michigan Senators!
Sen. Carl Levin: 202-224-6221
Sen. Debbie Stabenow: 202-224-4822.