News heats up, and alas, so should I, I suppose.
I wanted to be a lawyer for about two hours in middle school. I was watching a movie not really appropriate for my age – thanks parents! – and Andrew Beckett was this sweet guy, super smart and suddenly thrust into an almost unimaginable situation of unfairness. Co-workers colluded against him, and for what? Being gay didn’t make a ton of sense to me at the time. The film provided enough snippets of seediness that I could grasp that the guy wasn’t 100% pure, whatever that meant, but I was also on my way to discovering what sex was at that point (albeit in a very preliminary sense), so it wasn’t all that hard to sympathize. Beyond that, it all just seemed so fucking irrelevant to the question of what kind of lawyer Beckett was and whether the way he was being treated had any basis in fair play.
So when he decided to fight back and enlist the help of another lawyer, and when he died but still won, I sat there, enthralled at the prospect of doing so much with words and argument and the presentation of thoughts. It was all immensely interesting because there was purpose; there was good being done.
Then my mom, upon hearing my piqued interest in what I believed to be an illustrious career path, informed me that being a lawyer means long hours and hard work and being away from your family, in addition to the opportunity to do the kind of stuff I saw in Philadelphia.
So, unsurprisingly, I chose laziness and gave up that dream, held ever-so-briefly.
I am, however, now a lawyer. Nearly six years out of law school and admitted to practice in New York State for five, I do this thing for my living, and from time to time I get the chance to do some good while throwing my craft about in moments of intellectual sport. It is fun as hell. It is rewarding.
And, yes, it is fucking maddening very often. But never so much as when the profession I chose – for many of the same reasons that I felt when I was 13 or so, plus some other more pragmatic ones – is, on a fundamental level, bastardized and made into mockery. Those moments when law is transformed into lawlessness, up becomes down, and those of us who care to give a shit are wondering how the fuck it could have gotten so shitty.
Practically, the law is often bastardized and made into mockery. One need only look into the courtrooms of New York City to see weird perversions of justice via over-packed courts and careless advocates. But, on a fundamental level, fairness and justice and right is lingering, underpinning the system with rules and codes and statutes borne out of reasonable debate and reasoned care for the outcome.
And then there’s Arizona – and to a lesser degree, thankfully, Kansas, which has nipped it’s insane legislation in the bud – which has taken law, swallowed it, and shat it out in a gesture as arrogant as it is abhorrent. Arizona, which has now, pending its Executive’s signature, codified hateful discrimination in the guise of religious freedom. Arizona, which has now chosen to take America’s darkest moments of prejudice and bigotry, dress it up with a modern look and reboot it for the next generation.
Jim Crow is back, and he looooooks fabulous!
This is beyond shitty. Not only does this piece of garbage legislation, in its very essence, encroach upon the freedoms guaranteed in the 14th Amendment – that quaint constitutional add-on that guarantees every citizen equal fucking protection of the laws of his/her state and, by way of federal case law, requires that a state choosing to treat someone unequally better have a damned good reason to jump into the mire of “well, yeah, we don’t like THEM as much as we like US, so fuck THEM” – but it does so with as much insidiousness as one could imagine. RELIGIOUS FUCKING LIBERTY?!? Is that the religious liberty that is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution, which also expressly forbids the government from making any law concerning the establishment of religion? That establishment clause, generally speaking, that forbids the government from passing a law if it (a) does not have a legitimate secular purpose, (b) advances or inhibits religion, or (c) results in excessive entanglement with religion?
Yeah, that one.
On their face, laws that carve out space in our civic life for religious groups to exist are pretty problematic, since they’re typically lobbied for by similar groups that want space carved out for similar reasons … here, the reason being that some Christians don’t like icky LGBT types and YUCK GROSSSSSSSS. So Arizona wants to carve out space for the expression of this religious idea to take place, but in doing so gives a not-so-subtle nod to religious groups that choose, as one of their central tenets, the idea that some people are better than others and, more to the point, the those lesser people don’t deserve, under civil law, the same stuff that the good people get.
Arizona has established, as its state-sponsored religion, a branch of religion that reveres its people as holy and considers difference evil to be scorned not just with a sneer or a hiss, but with the denial of public services. Arizona has established a religion that separates and divides, and all for the sake of some vague sense that the intolerant must be given state-sanctioned liberty to be as intolerant as they fucking choose; that allowing free exercise of prayer and liturgy and belief that seeks to condemn homosexuality is not nearly enough … people must be permitted to condemn homosexuality with every single thing they do.
This is disgusting public policy, and even more disgusting religion.
Don’t want to serve everyone you don’t like who comes into your establishment? Open a private club or don’t own a restaurant. Don’t want to provide prescriptions or medical care to people you don’t like? The ethical standards of your profession say otherwise, so perhaps you should do something else. Give me a fucking break and don’t be a dick.
A person being gay is not an affront to your belief that it’s wrong, nor is the requirement that you serve him coffee that he pays for, nor is the requirement that you respond to his 911 call just the same as you otherwise would. Your religious liberty does not give you special privileges in a society necessarily founded upon the liberty to not be religious and to pursue happiness in whatever way you feel is right. Your right to be an intolerant prick does not somehow give you license to prioritize it over the fundamental rights of others, christ that’s beyond selfish and it’s not how we do it. You may feel uncomfortable having to accept homosexuals into your business or your community, but tough fucking breaks. America isn’t meant to be comfortable. It is meant to be fair and it is meant to be free.
For all of us.