The Supreme Court has rescued the country from moral insensitivity in cases dealing with gay marriage, lesbianism, abortion, bisexuality and gender change.
But some state legislatures have yet to get the message. The struggle for civil rights never ends, as Martin Luther King knew.
One recalcitrant on Supreme Court rulings is North Carolina. It is continuing a disgraceful campaign against transgender people, a drive launched by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.
Author Chase Strangio, in an article for Truthout, declared that “the lives and bodies of LGBT people are the subject of state-sponsored disdain and derision.”
North Carolina, once one of the few liberal states in the racist South, isn’t the only Southern state to legislate against transgenders. Texas is another.
The new Texas law passed by the Republican majority in the state cuts back its anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The law requires people in government buildings and in public schools to use bathrooms that correspond with their biological sex.
Lawmakers in Alabama, South Carolina and Washington have signaled their intentions to introduce similar bills this year.
Democratic lawmakers, civil rights groups and transgender rights activists condemned the legislation, predicting an economic blow to the state.
The Texas Association of Business denounced the law. “It’s discriminatory and bad for business,” Chris Wallace, association president, said.
North Carolina’s LBGT law has already cost the state $600 million. The NBA All-Star Game was pulled out of Charlotte. The NCAA yanked seven national championship games from North Carolina.
The New York Times editorialized: “Transgender people are no longer widely regarded as deviants, unfit for workplaces and a disgrace to families. But those who confided in relatives were once largely shunned. Transitioning on the job meant career suicide. ‘Coming out’ could cause transgenders to go through life as a pariah.”
This is the 21st Century. The nation’s 700,000 transgender Americans are merely seeking equal rights.
2 URGENT PARDON PLEAS
President Obama has been generous with year-end pardons in his eight years in office. Now he has two final, urgent pleas for pardons before he leaves office in three days.
• Pardoning all undocumented immigrants.
• Pardoning Chelsea Manning.
• Ending drug war.
Obama should issue an executive order granting a pardon to 11 million undocumented Latinos who are living and working in America. They are productive, fine people, lacking citizenship in name only. But: they are threatened with deportation by the incoming Donald Trump administration.
Humanitarian critic Noam Chomsky rightly says a Trump deportation would be “a horrible tragedy and moral outrage.”
As for Army Spec. Manning, she confessed to disclosing secret diplomatic archives to WikiLeaks in 2010. She admitted she was wrong. But, already having served six years in prison—longer than any other leaker in history—Ms. Manning has asked Obama for a justified pardon of her excessive 35-year sentence.
Her petition was supported by Daniel Ellsberg, celebrated for leaking a classified history of the Vietnam War, the Pentagon Papers, in 1971.
Bogus drug war. Tens of millions have had their lives ruined for using, possessing and selling now legal marijuana.
FREE PRESS PRE-DATES CONSTITUTION
The principal of freedom of the press was established in colonial America in 1735 but few people living today ever heard of Zenger.
John Peter Zenger was a printer in New York City who published The New York Weekly JOURNAL “Containing the freshest Advices, Foreign, and Domestick.” It came out every “MUNDAY.”
When the tyrannical New York Gov. William Crosby charged that Zenger was publishing seditious libels of him intending “to foster disloyalty to her Majesty’s Government,” Zenger was charged, tried and jailed.
At trial, Zenger’s lawyers offered the truth as defense against a charge of libel and that juries should decide trial verdicts, not judges. Zenger’s jury agreed, acquitting him.
The Constitution sealed the verdict, guaranteeing freedom of the press in the First Amendment.
Richard Kluger in his recent book, “Invisible Ink,” rightly called the Zenger case “the Day Star of the American Revolution.”
TRUMP BACKS UNIVERSAL HEALTH?
A recent column in the New York Times by David Leonhardt was addressed to President-elect Donald Trump. It began:
“Your position on universal health insurance has been admirably clear: you support it. You did before you ran for president and continued to do so during the campaign.
“In 2000 you wrote: ’We must have universal health care. In a Fox News debate last fall you said we have to take care of the people that can’t take care of themselves. On “60 Minutes” you said “everybody’s got to be covered.”
Fact or fiction? The Times does not knowingly deal in fake news. But this hardly sounds like the reactionary Trump who promises to end Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
So, the question is: the Lady or the Tiger?
Frank Stockton asked that question in a short story in 1882. It since has been much anthologized and made into plays and musicals. Rock bands made songs out of it and Sylvia Plath turned the subject into a sonnet.
The Wikipedia Encyclopedia calls it “an allegorical expression for a problem that has no solution. The story ends: ‘Which came out of the opened door—the lady or the tiger?’ “
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor from the University of Nevada, Reno. (firstname.lastname@example.org)