THE STORY OF RUTH: JUSTICE JUSTICE SHALT THOU PURSUE

Much has been discussed lately about the health of United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.   My thoughts and prayers go out to her and her family.

Today, though, I want to personally express to her my deepest gratitude and celebrate with you her tremendous achievements as a lawyer who became the consummate champion of women’s rights.

She is the lawyer who literally fulfilled Susan B. Anthony’s dream that women would possess the same legal rights as men.  She accomplished this feat through her legal brilliance, steely determination and courageous dedication at a time when strong “career” women were treated with hostility and contempt.

A mere ten years after she strategically annihilated the legal barriers that may have deterred me from my chosen profession, over 50% of the students in my law school class were women.  The impact of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the lives of women in America cannot be overstated.  As the biblical Ruth was told of her undaunted devotion to Naomi, “may God bless you for your kindness.”

 

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the first Jewish female Justice of the United States Supreme Court.  Some might believe that the modifiers “Jewish” and “female” are irrelevant.  However, each justice brings to every opinion of the Court her own unique life experiences.   Today, she is the only woman on the Supreme Court at a time when the Court has become more conservative in its opinions regarding a woman’s reproductive rights.  

 

”]Hell hath no fury like Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Madame Justice’s status as a woman, a Jew, a mother, a wife, and a daughter of European Jewish immigrants have shaped her as a person and consequently her career as a legal advocate for women’s rights and as a judge.  She has endured the struggles and limitations of gender and religious discrimination in both her personal and professional life.  The obstacles she has faced underscore the magnitude of her achievements.

Imagine the state of our nation today without the resounding voice of Thurgood Marshall, who almost singlehandedly toppled an institutionalized racially biased legal system as the tenacious lawyer for the NAACP before becoming the first African American Supreme Court Justice.  Legal scholars and President Clinton proclaimed Ruth Bader Ginsburg the Thurgood Marshall of erasing gender discrimination in this country.

 
  

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Justice Bader Ginsburg displays in her chambers artwork in Hebrew depicting the command in Deuteronomy,

“Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof”: Justice Justice shalt thou pursue.

 Her brilliant  career  as a lawyer demonstrates her commitment to justice.  Partly inspired by the book The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, she chose to devote her legal acumen to eliminate the societal injustice of  gender discrimination that she endured  and saw reflected in the lives of all women.  

The path she has chosen in her life, shaped by her response to the adversity suffered by others, demonstrates her devotion to the Judaic principle of “tikkun olam”, the duty to repair the world.  Her subsequent service as a federal appellate judge and as one of the two women Supreme Court justices in the history of the Court further testifies to her efforts to repair the world through her pursuit of equal justice for all.

In her career as a lawyer prior to becoming a federal appellate judge,  she was involved in numerous civil rights and women’s rights groups, co-founding the Women’s Rights Project (WRP) of the American Civil Liberties Union.   As the architect of the legal strategy to end gender based discrimination, she carefully devised a plan to gradually bring a series of cases before the Supreme Court.  She first sought to educate the all male Court about the negative effects of gender bias demonstrated in the discriminatory experiences of ordinary Americans, brilliantly selecting both male and female clients.  Once enlightened, she urged the Court to apply the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to laws involving gender discrimination.

 

 

 

 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, circa 1972

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, circa 1972. Click picture for biography.

The facts of the last case she argued before the Supreme Court illustrate the impact of the small strategic steps she took to eradicate gender discrimination.  The state of Missouri had a seemingly obscure statute that allowed women to opt out of jury duty.  Professor Bader Ginsburg successfully challenged the law believing that optional jury duty demonstrated that women’s voices were deemed unnecessary to important governmental functions.  Equal rights requires equal responsibilities.

Justice Bader Ginsburg won all but one of the cases she presented to the United States Supreme Court and in the process changed the federal courts’ treatment of gender‐based complaints by eliminating discriminatory laws against women.  She paved the way for women to take control of their own destinies by harnessing the immense power of the Court she now serves. In doing so she remained true to her heritage:  Justice Justice shalt thou pursue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on February 11, 2009 at 1:00 am  Comments (4)  

Separation of Church and Hate

“NO ON 8” RALLY: FRESNO CALIFORNIA

   

Lesbian mother, Robin McGehee, was kicked off the PTA of St. Helen’s Catholic School for Participation in Fresno’s “No on 8” Rally

Robin McGehee, a lesbian mother in Fresno California, was recently kicked off of the PTA of her five year old son’s Catholic School because of her appearance at a “No on 8″ Rally.  This occurred despite the church’s prior knowledge of the sexual orientation of the boy’s lesbian parents.  St. Helen’s Catholic School claimed that her appearance at a “No on 8″ Rally went against “church teachings”.  Apparently the church teachings allowed the school to accept a known lesbian couple who was able to pay its hefty tuition and the church teachings permitted the membership of a paying known lesbian on the PTA.  One must conclude that the church teachings only condemned the known lesbian from implicitly “outing” the school by exercising her First Amendment right to participate in a rally.  Is this consistent with …the “don’t ask don’t tell” passage of the holy scripture??  Or is this just another example of a church’s willingness to “turn the other cheek” when it’s profitable to do so?  

THE CHURCH WILL ABANDON US WHEN “NECESSARY”

I believe that church leadership is so out of touch with its base that individual closeted “gay” churches, like St. Helen’s, are afraid (with good reason) of being “excommunicated” and ostracized like gay people if its tolerance of unrepentant homosexuals is outed to “upper management”.  Despite the love, trust and funds we provide these institutions, when faced with the prospect of administrative discipline they will abandon us.

There are a few exceptions.  These sparsely numbered exceptional churches are paraded and honored by our community.  And I am not saying they shouldn’t be.  But the fact that we feel the need to publicly “praise” these rare beacons of light in a sea of religious darkness accentuates our plight.  Sunshine should light the religious seas we travel.  Our ability to worship without secrecy or fear should be an unadulterated right, not an arbitrary privilege.  A church’s right to accept gay people without secrecy and fear should likewise be an unadulterated right. 

Father Geoffrey Farrow  was ousted as a Catholic Priest for his opposition to Proposition 8

The Rev. Geoffrey Farrow expected an uproar.

Father Geoffrey Farrow was defrocked as priest of the Catholic Church because of his outspoken opposition to proposition 8.  Despite pressure placed on him by his own bishop urging priests to support the church definition of traditional marriage and advocate for Proposition 8, Father Geoffrey told his congregants that he felt obligated to “break a numbing silence” about church prejudice against homosexuals. 

 

THE LIE: THE CHURCH LOVES THE HOMOSEXUAL BUT HATE HIS/HER ACTS

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The sham that churches love the homosexual but hates his/her homosexual acts is nonsense.  I have been labeled a “homosexual” because I engage in homosexual acts.  To condemn my homosexuality is to condemn a part of who I am.   Furthermore, the initiation and passage of constitutional amendments like proposition 8 blatantly shows us that the church and many of its parishioners do condemn us as people beyond the bounds of our “homosexual acts”.  The right of gay people to marry has nothing to do with homosexual acts but everything to do with love and commitment.  The rationale of many churches, parishioners and their lofty spokesperson, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in banning gay marriage, is that we as people are inherently immoral, unfit and inferior.  That is not an articulation of love for us as people.  It is condemnation tantamount to hate.  It implies that our “homosexual acts” only demonstrate that we as individuals are so immoral, unfit and inferior that our marriages would obliterate the sanctity of holy matrimony itself.   Their proposals to statutorily ban gay people from adopting or fostering neglected and abused children only further reveal their hatred for us and not just our acts.

Following a direct financial appeal from its president, Mormons provided 50% of Proposition 8 donations

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$16,000,000 (Mormon) / $32,000,000 (Total)

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The Mormon church is currently tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. This status requires an organization to not be in an action organization or a group that attempts to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities, according to the IRS Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations (Publication 1828).The IRS decides what constitutes substantial.   

According to the official resource for News Media, Opinion Leaders, and the Public of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, on June 28, 2008, a letter was sent from the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Church leaders in California to be read to all congregations on 29 June 2008.  The letter stated “We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman. Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage.”


THE POWER OF ECONOMIC WITHDRAWAL

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about the immense power of economic withdrawal to fight discrimination in his “Mountain Top” speech.  He said:

“Always anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal. Now, we are poor people. Individually, we are poor when you compare us with white society in America….[But] collectively we are richer than all the nations in the world with the exception of nine…We [1968 African American community] have an annual income of more than thirty billion dollars a year, which is more than all of the exports of the United States, and more than the national budget of Canada…Now that’s power right there, if we know how to pool it.”

Rosa Parks - Bus Boycott by Ann Alto.                   

montgo11The civil rights movement started with the economic withdrawal of the public transportation system in Montgomery Alabama.  What started off as a one day boycott, went on for a year until the United States Supreme Court ordered integration of public transportation. The bus company almost went bankrupt and voluntarily desegregated in an effort to lure African Americans back.  The boycott also had a significant impact on the shops in Montgomery because fewer African Americans were coming into the city center. While store owners opposed integration, they faced losing their livelihood if the boycott continued.

THE GAY COMMUNITY SHOULD CONSISTENTLY USE ECONOMIC WITHDRAWAL AS A TOOL TO ACHIEVE CIVIL RIGHTS

Unlike the disproportionately poor $30 billion African American community of 1968, the gay community is disproportionately rich.  We can’t even fully comprehend the magnitude of our collective wealth because we have divided ourselves up into tiny little factions.  But others know the strength of our collective economic resources.  That’s why people and entities who secretly believe that we are immoral, unfit and inferior pretend to “tolerate” us, just like St. Helen’s.   We can stop this shameless exploitation and harness this tremendous economic strength to our collective benefit by pooling our financial resources together to deter our enemies and reward our allies.   Money talks.  It worked for the Mormons.

STRENGTH IN COMMUNITY ACTION: ONE CIVIL RIGHT LEADS TO ANOTHER

I recognize that each faction of our broader community may have different priorities.  Many people don’t care about gay marriage.  But one civil right leads to another.  Despite our different priorities we all have the same fervent goal to achieve the full range of civil rights enjoyed by every other American.  We can achieve those rights despite the formidable obstacles set before us if, driven by the urgency of this pivotal moment in history, we join together as one unified force and develop a cohesive strategic plan.  The passage of proposition 8 has galvanized our nationwide community.  Now is the time to use that momentum and determination to achieve the rights to which we are entitled as American citizens.