As a person of color, I am constantly amazed at the contradictions and inconsistencies in policy and practices in the U.S. There are days I wish I didn’t read the news, and other days I’m amazed at what can be learned with one keystroke and internet access.
Members of our team struggle some days and are lighter on others. We provide space for expressing whatever emerges on any given day. I have had great teams over the years, but this group at North Sound ACH is really special and I’m honored to be working with them, and with you. June 30 was a hard day for our team as they reconciled the final decisions of the Supreme Court this term.
It was a strange Supreme Court month – their early decisions were surprising (‘maybe it isn’t as bad as we feared’) only to end their term with a couple of decisions that used something called the ‘major questions doctrine’ – per Wikipedia “a principle of statutory interpretation in United States administrative law which states that courts will presume that Congress does not delegate to executive agencies issues of major political or economic significance.” So this begs a serious question – does Congress pass laws without delegating responsibility to federal agencies to carry out laws? It could be an oops, or it could be intentional; either way, it seems like a major fixable flaw.
Intersectionality was front of mind for me on June 30. As a lesbian and person of color, I was trying to understand what the court was saying to me, my children, and my family. We give the Supreme Court so much power to rule, overrule and guide the values of this country, and I wonder if we’re missing a fourth stool in this democracy – the branch of government that is looking at what we need for the future, to ensure that we have a future.
Parts of our globe are under smoke domes, heat domes, flooding, tornados, out-of-control fires, war, famine, and violence. For several weeks now every day has broken a heat record in cities across this country. None of us are immune to these changes, no matter where we live. Which branch of government is trying to navigate our future and the impact of today’s choices on that future state?
The court can pick and choose which cases to hear – which I often think wields more power than the decisions they make. They announced on June 30 that next year they will hear a case about whether someone under a domestic violence restraining order can possess a gun. Anyone who has ever experienced domestic violence is wondering when and if the court will consider the victim’s right to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’
To celebrate the 4th of July, five days after hearing that a business (regardless of whether they are actually in business) can intentionally decline to serve me because of my choice of identity, Nanc and I went with friends to see a play in Bellingham – “What the Constitution Means to Me.” I was not prepared for the scope of this small play, but I walked away with one realization. The Supreme Court has not yet made a decision that says that anyone besides white men are full and whole human beings with full rights in this country. That kind of blew my mind.
When I graduated from high school women could not get a credit card without a spouse or father co-signing, were not entitled to a jury of their peers, and there was no such thing as sexual assault by a spouse.
When given the opportunity to decide whether women can access contraception, the court said yes, if a doctor and their husband say yes. When deciding whether a woman and her children, who had a restraining order against an abusive husband, could count on the police to respond when her spouse abducted her children, the court said no. Even knowing that the husband killed those children. The court ruled that he had a right to take those children and the wife had no right to expect law enforcement to respond.
In the past year, federal agencies have come together around the Vital Conditions for Health and Well-being. It is nearing 50 federal agencies who have signed onto a federal plan for equitable recovery. It’s worth checking out; it is the same framework that the North Sound ACH Board adopted in December 2020. It is time for us to find ways to control our destiny; maybe this is a strategy that will find federal agencies ready to do this work with us. Well, my fingers are crossed on this.
Back to the play, two other tidbits – there has only been one justice from west of the Mississippi in the history of the court; doesn’t that make you want to ask “hey what???” I wonder if that can possibly be true. But then I think of the New York Times articles recently about how unhealthy air is on the east coast with all the smoke. They are right, but I’m not sure that I saw this level of national news when the smoke was covering us here on the left coast.
The main part of the play ended with a recording of Ruth Bader Ginsburg as she was asked about women on the Supreme Court. Her response “I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough? And when I say ‘when there are nine’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” It was a thought-provoking way to spend the 4th of July.