The Most Important Issue in 2016

Yesterday, the Indiana Senate killed the bill expanding civil rights in Indiana to protect LGBT Hoosiers. The bill was terrible, but its continued viability at least provided a vehicle for further discussion and improvement. Its death means that Indiana law will continue to allow people to be refused employment, or fired, simply because they are gay. Indiana law will continue to allow landlords to turn away gay couples simply because they are gay couples.

And if you’re gay, Indiana law will allow that deeply “religious” baker to turn you away without a cake. In fact, unless you live in one of the cities that has passed a civil rights ordinance, you might as well resign yourself to continued second-class citizenship status–despite the fact that remedying the situation enjoys widespread public support.

It isn’t only Indiana’s legislature that seems incapable of acting on behalf of the common good. The last time I looked, the approval rating of the U.S. Congress was 9% (and many of us are scratching our heads, wondering who the hell is in that 9%).

In Indiana, much of the legislative paralysis is a direct consequence of the man who sits in the Governor’s office; when the chief executive of a political subdivision is incapable of leadership, it feeds intra-party squabbling and lack of discipline.

In Washington, the problem goes in the opposite direction: a deeply dysfunctional Congress intent upon thwarting any and every initiative proposed by the President is mired in petty posturing and has largely abandoned its constitutional role (not to mention any sense of obligation to the voters).

In fact, the only part of our national government that is functioning (barely) is the Supreme Court, and that Court is on the brink.

As election law guru Richard Hasen recently wrote,

When the next President of the United States assumes office on January 20, 2017, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be nearly 84, Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy will be over 80, and Justice Stephen Breyer will be 78. Although many Justices have served on the Court into their 80s and beyond, the chances for all of these Justices remaining through the next 4 or 8 years of the 45th President are slim. Indeed, the next president will likely make multiple appointments to the Court.

Hasen’s article is long, but well worth reading in its entirety. His point, however, can be summed up by the title of his piece: The Most Urgent Civil Rights Issue of Our Time is the Supreme Court Itself.

As important as this year’s gubernatorial and legislative races will be, electing a President who will elevate non-ideologues to the Supreme Court is the most important issue for voters in 2016.

Without a Court willing to hold legislatures and governors to account, America runs the very real risk of becoming a nation none of us would recognize, and in which most of us would rather not live.


  1. I think that a lot of people are starting to catch on that the political leaders in Indiana aren’t leading at all. In fact they are really, really bad at their job. My husband, Mike Kendall, is a former state senator. He recognized the fact that the majority of the General Assembly work for the party, not their constituents – creating a vacuum in leadership.

    A real leader would not have even allowed any of the RFRA mess get a hearing, much less the flurry of bad legislation that has been produced in trying to fix this self-inflicted wound. We can only hope that some of the enthusiasm for voting in the national election will carry over to state offices and we can put people in office that will take the job seriously.

  2. Thank You Prof K. You are correct, as usual. We must not let the Supreme court be packed by the likes of Ted Cruise or the Donald. And for Indiana, I would suggest that the young folks of Indiana start looking for a good place to live. This is NOT going to get any better. The ignorant bigots that run IN with an iron fist are not going anywhere. So go. Find your place in the world. Enjoy. Live. Love. There are far better place to be. Places where you and your gifts are valued. Good luck.

  3. Sheila, your last sentence really resonated with me.

    For a few years I have contemplated moving out of this God-forsaken state….but I have not been able to figure out where a better place to live would actually be because our country has been taken over by religious extremists and the super-wealthy.

    These bullies are everywhere and scream loudly that the rest of us must follow their commands and bow to their demands. Those of us that are sensible and believe that every citizen should have certain rights are not the type of people to gather people in public places to loudly demand “fairness for all”.

    In my experience, the only way to successfully stop bullies is to fight back with the same tactics that they use. We all should seriously consider discriminating against the bullies by refusing to shop at their stores or attend their churches. I have already done this, but it will take a majority of citizens doing this in order to push back against their bigotry. I believe hitting them in their wallets will be the only way to get them to back down and I fully support publicly labeling their businesses and churches.

  4. Something about this entire typical Indiana RFRA/LGBT situation has confused me all along. Unless the customer requests special goods or service depicting LGBT orientation, exactly how do business owners and/or workers know a customer is LGB or T? My Lesbian and Gay friends are regular people, wearing regular people clothes, driving regular people vehicles, eating regular people food, paying all regular people bills and debts with regular people money, checks or credit cards and speaking regular people language. They do not receive an increase or decrease on the cost of anything they buy due to their “gayness”. Are business owners and workers allowed to ask sexual orientation – or religious preference – before providing goods or services…and exactly how would they demand proof?

    I have said before and will say again; public businesses who wish only to serve a specified group of people – or deny goods and/or service – to a specified group of people, should become private business requiring membership, paid dues and members must carry and show a membership card at all times to conduct any and all business.

  5. Dear Nancy, Canada is a great place to live and you would probably enjoy it here. Live & Let Live LGBT Friendly – Toronto Ontario.

  6. JoAnn, your thoughts are perfect. How in the world do they actually decide if someone is gay or not? They pay the same taxes and should have the same rights.

    The bigots have created a mountain out of a molehill and we have failed at stopping them (so far).

  7. I have no quarrel with the anyone about the idiocy of our legislative mess regarding anti-gay and in particular anti- transgender issues. RFRA is an abomination. In my opinion the animus against the gay community is on par with the anti-environment members of the legislature. HB 1082 has passed the House and is in the Senate. “No more stringent than” is the issue. Both bills deal with immorality: discrimination because of sexual orientation and allowing poisoning of water supplies are both immoral acts. Add to these too low minimum wage, anti-union acts, underfunded schools…all thanks to the Immoral Indiana Legislature.

  8. I would like to think that once the Millennials take over the operation of our government at all levels, things will change. Unfortunately for Indiana, the Baby Boomer generation (of which I am at the tail end) seems to be hell-bent on hanging on to their power until they fall over dead. I, too, am wishing I could move to another state or even to another country.

  9. The James MacGregor Burns book (2009) “Packing the Court: The Rise of Judicial Power and the Coming Crisis of the Supreme Court” is a fascinating read on this subject. Made me understand for the first time why nominations get such a passionate response.

  10. “Unless the customer requests special goods or service depicting LGBT orientation, exactly how do business owners and/or workers know a customer is LGB or T? ”

    JoAnn, I’ve had the same confusing thought for months. Unless a customer is wearing something similar to a conference/seminar style stick-on name tag that announces, HELLO I am gay, how would the business owner know?

  11. I remember having a lengthy discussion many years ago about the importance of a Presidential election as it would affect SCOTUS nominations. There followed the ugly processes of Robert Bork, Ginsburg, Thomas and Miers, to name a few.

    Any appointments by the next President would still face a wholly incompetent and partisan Senate to gain approval. The plutocrats have control of the players and the process. Lifetime appointments mean that for many decades to come, the citizens of this country will have no meaningful voice in governance. The power will be completely in the hands of the 1%.

    The choices we make in voting have been narrowed by concerted actions, including voter suppression, undisclosed and unlimited campaign contributions and gerrymandering. Our ability to change the process is severely limited by decision of the SCOTUS and Congress, both branches that have been heavily influenced by billionaires’ manipulations. Now it appears that our choices for the head of the Executive branch are going to include fools, knaves and toadies (thank Chris Douglas for the descriptors), all of whom are controlled or wholly owned by plutocrats.

    I have to admit that I, too, have had thoughts about leaving the state and even the country. It gives me a new understanding of why people left their homes, family, culture and language to come to the United States. If my own circumstances and beliefs are reflective of theirs, it is because they lost all hope of having the ability to change their circumstances.

  12. One wonders if the door has been opened to discrimination against anybody using the rationale that I thought that they were gay.

  13. The picture of Mike Pence signing RFRA with all the religious bigots reminds me of the picture of George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door in the 1960’s. It will be the only picture of Pence in any history book.

  14. You’d be amazed at the structures requested for baked goods. You’re smart. You can research it. I do think most folks who got riled up over this were refusing to make a wedding cake for a same sex marriage.
    One related topic is “how do you prove the gender of a child?” Virginia passed a law saying that someone has to examine a child’s genitals to prove what sex the child is. I think that is disgusting.

  15. Republicans love to talk that they’re all about jobs.

    Not so much apparently that they want to attract business to your state.

  16. Like Jegle Rengaw said…

    James Cordon, on Late Late Show said that there were two questions that Americans will have if Cruz continues: 1) Will his momentum continue? 2) How much would it cost to move to Canada?

    I regret not moving there when I was 30. Visiting there is a a fresh breath. Also, guess what country far exceeds the “wonderful, exceptional” U.S. on quality of life measures? Canada. I’m afraid that all of the stuff about the U.S. being “exceptional” is jingoistic nonsense, unsupported by data. Of course, who needs data when you have ideology?

  17. In this post partisan environment, the appointments of Breyer and Ginsberg are possible because they will not change the balance unless one of the conservatives retires first. But any appointment that affects the working conservative majority during a Democratic presidency will gridlock.

  18. The republicans lack the stomach and the testicles to pass a real anti discrimination law. I get the newsletters from Bosma and my state senator describing all the initiatives the republicans are pursuing in this session. It’s all meaningless drivel intended to conceal their real agenda which is re-engineering the social structure of the state to meet the endless demands of their donors. The car’s in the ditch and they still have the accelerator pedal on the floor – it will continue as long as there is gas in the tank.

  19. Nancy,

    “For a few years I have contemplated moving out of this God-forsaken State…but I have not been able to figure out where a better place to live would actually be because our country has been taken over by religious extremists and the super wealthy.”

    Be careful! Before leaving for Canada, I would suggest taking a good look at

    The virus has spread. The disease is pandemic in scope.

  20. I would like to address the comments regarding business owners being able to tell if someone is gay. While I agree that owners who wish to discriminate may not be able to tell the orientation of a potential customer, does that thought process put the burden on a gay person or couple? Should a gay couple have to pretend to be straight while shopping for their wedding? How can I tell if I’m “butch” enough to shop without fear of discrimination?

    While the whole idea of businesses picking and choosing who they serve based on the owners perception of the customer’s sexual identity is absurd, it brings to mind light skinned African Americans who could “pass” as white being able to eat at a 1950’s lunch counter without fear. Should they eat there because they can? What about their darker-skinned friends?

    There is no such thing as partial equality. Which is why comprehensive protection against discrimination for all is imperative.

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