Today, Roe; tomorrow, Brown and Obergefell and Loving and …

Gentlemen, if you’re sitting on your hands right now because the very real looming U.S. Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade “doesn’t affect you,” then I have very bad news for you: overturning Roe isn’t the end; it is the beginning of finally overturning a lot of decisions we all take for granted under the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause.

The Fourteenth Amendment was one of three Reconstruction amendments to the U.S. Constitution that federalized the protection of rights over the whims of states. The first being the Thirteenth Amendment, which finally took slavery out of states’ hands after many made it obvious that they had no intent to ever abolish slavery in their own borders and would fight to the death to own people as property. The Fourteenth Amendment made sure that former Confederate states couldn’t find other ways to otherwise ignore the rights of any group or individuals residing in their borders. Originally that was freed slaves, but the U.S. Supreme Court later interpreted that equal protection to include women, children, renters, non-US citizens, LGBT, non-Christian religions, and more. At least someone you know and love has the same rights as you because Thaddeus Stevens and a bunch of other Radical Republicans decided that America is for everyone, fuck the Confederacy.

No picture of Thaddeus Stevens exists where he is not tired of your shit.

(The last Reconstruction Amendment, the Fifteenth, was ratified to prevent voter discrimination once it became clear that former slave states were trying to deny and intimidate Black people from voting as an early attempt to get around the Fourteenth.)

The road to modern Republicans being on the cusp of overturning Roe doesn’t begin with Roe at all. It begins in 1876 with Southern Democrats looking for ways to get around the Fourteenth Amendment, starting with segregation under the lie of “separate but equal” (as in, “see? It’s equal protection of their rights, just someplace else where we can’t see them or know if they actually have rights.”). When LBJ and Northern Democrats ratified the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965 over Southern Democrats protestations, those Southern Democrats became Republicans, and there are virtually no former Confederate states without Republican single-party rule today.

The longest filibuster in U.S. Senate history was Sen. Strom Thurmond’s filibuster of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 to assert that states had the right to deny Black people voting rights. He was a Democrat at the time, but became a Republican after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (He filibustered that one, too.) He retired from the Senate at age 100 as a Republican in 2000-and-fucking-1.

The fight against the Fourteenth continues in every fight against the tide of integration and civil rights forced by U.S. Supreme Court decisions that always came down to the equal protection clause, including Brown v. Board of Education to stop states from segregating public schools and Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage in all states, even those that tried to ban it. And, of course, Roe v. Wade, which decided that women have the equal right to medical privacy, no matter which state they live in.

The leaked majority decision for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is indeed the culmination of a long, protracted effort to take over enough seats of power to undo U.S. Supreme Court decisions that stripped states’ rights to discriminate on any grounds they choose. It is a reward to millions of born-again Christians who helped Republicans (former Southern Democrats) attain a U.S. Supreme Court supermajority by voting for leadership that would subvert the U.S. Constitution and prevent the lawful nomination of justices by sitting Democratic presidents. It is intended as a mild salve for their souls after voting twice for our modern Nero, Donald Trump.

I wonder how those evangelicals will feel when they see what comes next. Probably elation first when they can reinstitute gay marriage bans in their states. Maybe some celebration when they can segregate based on race once more, although some of their church membership numbers might take a hit. Perhaps a little quieter jubilation when states can decide that women don’t need equal protection in the workplace or schools anymore, except from the women who likely run their businesses, homes, and churches. With each Fourteenth Amendment ruling overturned, fewer will be left to cheer until only a small chorus of straight, white, rich, landowning males remain.

If at some point you find yourself cheering or indifferent to someone losing their rights, it’s only a matter of time before yours are next. We’re all in someone’s way to absolute power. And, brother, it ain’t you or me.

*Note: I try really hard to not invoke World War II or the Holocaust in U.S. political arguments. But, in the Fourteenth Amendment’s case, restoring states’ rights to deny rights based on discrimination and religious hegemony is restoring our proto-fascist founding. We fought our bloodiest war to protect people from slave states’ complete and utter deference to business interests that required free labor, racial and religious discrimination, and permission to torture, rape, and murder anyone they wanted for “better” political and market conditions. The Confederacy were Nazis before Nazis. So apologies for appropriating Martin Niemöller’s powerful poem about the Holocaust, but I believe it is warranted in this case.

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Rick Snee

Rick Snee

Southern transplant to New England, raising two daughters in a world that hopefully one day values them as much as I do.