Major Election Concern – Supreme Court

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On Monday, the US Supreme Court begins its new term without a full bench. The vacancy left by the untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia remains unfilled.

President Barrack Obama has put forth a nominee, Merrick Garland. The Senate has refused to consider his appointment, saying the empty seat should not be filled until the next President is elected.

In addition to Scalia’s seat, with the ages of the current Justices, there is a real possibility the next person to fill the big chair in the Oval Office may have the opportunity to appoint up to four other people to the High Court.

At stake is the ideological bent of the Supreme Court, which has been decidedly conservative for decades, to a more liberal persuasion.

Yet on the campaign trail we have heard only a small amount of talk of such an important duty of the presidency.

As the new term begins and the Presidential Election just over a month away, what do voters think of the Court?

In timely fashion, Pew Research has revealed the results of its most recent subject on the highest court in the land and Americans opinions about the Court.

As can be readily seen from this chart, the Justices are viewed much more favorably than the other branches of government. Americans with a 60% sentiment look kindly on the Court.

favorability

But there is a sharp difference in how Republicans and Democrats view the Supremes.

partylinesIndependents and Republicans may have a majority favorable view of the Supreme Court, it is much lower than the opinion of Democrats.

When Americans look at the Court from an ideological perspective, there are diverse ideas.

ideologyAs the chart depicts, Democrats see the Constitution as being a living document and changing with changing times. Republicans tend to interpret the Constitution to say what it means and meaning what it says. Independents tend to be evenly split between the two points of view.

Moderates tend to be evenly split between POVs, while conservatives and liberals are decidedly encamped in opposing perspectives.

How does appointments to the Supreme Court factor into your decision on who should be the next Commander-in-Chief?

Does it have any sway?

Here are five takeaways identified by Pew:

  1. Americans’ opinions of the court hit a 30-year low last year after controversial decisions, but have rebounded after a quieter term.
  2. There is a significant partisan gap in views of the court.
  3. Partisans have starkly different views over how the justices should interpret the Constitution.
  4. Conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are particularly likely to see court appointments as very important to their vote.
  5. Most Americans disagree with the Republican-controlled Senate’s decision to not hold hearings on Obama’s court nominee.

Get the details: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/26/5-facts-about-the-supreme-court/

From the Cornfield, as I continue to evaluate the candidates – Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and Evan McMullin – who gets to make these vital appointments to a term for life is a  deciding factor.

Conservative Justice Unexpectedly Dies

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Conservative and often controversial Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, 79, was found dead of apparent natural causes this morning.

Scalia, who was appointed to the high court by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, was a stalwart of the conservative bent of the Court.

Often his remarks and actions were seen as a pox by the liberal portion of the nation while endearing to the right.

Scalia was a guest at the Cibolo Bend Ranch in the Big Bend area of Texas when he was discovered dead this morning.

Many had thought a vacancy may occur on the Court earlier, but presumed it would be Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She, however, opted not to retire.

With the vacancy caused by Scalia’s death there will be a push by Democrats for President Barack Obama to name a successor to the bench, who will turn the Court from conservative leaning to liberal leaning. However, with Republicans holding the majority in the US Senate, the vacancy most likely will not be filled until the next President takes office.

Scalia, whether loved or hated, will leave a dent in the cases considered by the Court. He was in the minority of such landmark decisions such as upholding the Affordable Care Act and the decision which made same gender marriage legal across the nation.

With this presidential election cycle already destroying the conventional wisdom, it is certain that the passing of Scalia and the vacancy on the Supreme Court will become a major campaign issue with both Democrats and Republicans.

The pressure to appoint a new justice will be intense on the White House. Equally, the vise will be twisted to the extreme on the Senate to not confirm any appointee.

Scalia was the first Italian-American appointed to the Court. He was also the longest serving justice of the current bench.

From the Cornfield, no matter your political persuasion, Antonin Scalia was a legal force and a brilliant mind impacting our judicial system from the top to the bottom.

Thoughts and condolences to the Scalia family.

May he rest in peace.

Middle Ground – Marriage Equality & Religious Freedom

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We – humans – have a bad habit of making problems or creating issues where there are none.

Following last weeks decision by the US Supreme Court that all legal-aged couples, without regard to the gender of the parties, has a constitutional right to dignity and to apply and receive a license to have their long-term relationship recognized by the state with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities that entails, to the right and to the left there were battle cries.

On the right among social conservatives, there was the call to rally the troops to protect religious liberty – even though the Supreme Court majority did not abridge religious liberty in any way.

On the left among social liberals (primarily in the GLBT community) a siren call went out to form the lines to force religious organizations to put their “sincerely held religious beliefs on the shelf or you hate me and are a bigot and violate my right to marry.” This even though the Supremes in no way gave any right or mandate to the GLBT and their supporters to demand religious bodies to abridge their freedom of free exercise guaranteed by the 1st Amendment.

This whole mess is man-made ridiculousness.

There is a simple solution, one which I have advocated for years. Those who read or follow my dribble will recognize this simple solution from my Principles Which I Carry Over, which I have posted for the world to see for the past few years.

To quote:

Same-gender relationships should be afforded the benefit of state blessing just as opposite-gender relationships now are. There is no reason to complicate or not allow equality under the law with all the benefits and protections afforded opposite-gender couples over the use of a word on the state license. Best option is that all state licenses use the term civil union on all state documents. Let the couples have a “marriage” privately within the framework of their religious institutions or according to their moral view. All couples, whether same-gender or opposite-gender, should be afforded the same rights and benefits under the law when receiving a license to recognize the joining of the two individuals legally.

To put it more simply, the Justices upheld that states must recognize all legal-aged, consenting couples right to wed. The Justices did not take away the states rights to regulate marriage in several areas.

States still determine the age of majority and at what age minors must get parental consent.

States still determine how closely related by blood couples may wed.

States still determine residency requirements to obtain a license.

States still determine who may issue licenses.

States still determine who officiates marriages.

On the last issue, states deciding who can and can’t perform ceremonies – this is the solution.

For “official” state recognition in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling, all exchange of vows must be conducted by a civil servant acting in a secular role as an agent of the state.

Those who wish to have a religious ceremony can plan, can spend, can be as lavish as their church allows, but after the official, civil ceremony. Same-gender couples can do the same, but would have to find a church or religious body which agrees that God blesses both gay and straight.

There would then be no assault of religious freedom. There would be no cause for some to try and make a “federal case” by entrapping some preacher in the cross hairs.

From the Cornfield, as a man, who happens to be married legally to another man (at least for the moment), there is middle ground. There is a path we can walk which gives respect for those who agree and those who disagree that all couples should be equal under the Constitution when it comes to state (which is secular) recognition of ones vow to love and to hold.