Tahlequah Daily Press

January 10, 2014

Supreme Court moves raise eyebrows

Gay marriage, contraceptive health coverage at issue

By TEDDYE SNELL
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — The U.S. Supreme Court rang in the new year by handing down a pair of orders that have raised eyebrows across the country – and that includes Cherokee County.

A temporary injunction issued at the 11th hour by Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor blocks a requirement under the Affordable Care Act to insure birth control procedures, which a Denver-based congregation of Catholic nuns was fighting.

The second order, issued Monday, blocks same-sex marriages in Utah. The ban was struck down Dec. 20 by Judge Robert J. Shelby, and since that time, roughly 1,000 same sex couples had been married. The state warned couples their marriages could be in danger as it sought legal redress, but had begun granting newlyweds benefits afforded to heterosexual couples.

Tony O’seland, a veteran, local resident and lecturer at Northeastern State University, believes the Supreme Court may be contradicting itself in issuing the stay in the Utah marriage case.

“It seems, at least to me, to abrogate the already existing law of the land that was established when SCOTUS originally ruled on the legality of same-sex marriage,” said O’seland.

 “[The court] declared that preventing same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, and Utah, well-known for its homophobia and general lack of tolerance to anything not based on the predominant religion coming out of that area, is attempting to overturn the SCOTUS decision based on its own moral code, not on the legality of the item in question.”

O’seland said the Utah issue baffles him.

“For a state that turns a blind eye to polygamy, to throw a temper tantrum about same-sex marriage appears, to me, to be one of the greatest logical fallacies of our time,” said O’seland. “If you belong to the unofficially state-sanctioned religious group you, if you are male and ‘found worthy,’ can marry as many women as you like; but if you like the same gender, you are an ‘abomination’ and have no rights. Much like being a different color or ethnicity in most of the rest of America.”

The battle over birth control

O’seland says the birth control issue and order is similar, in that it caters to special interest groups.

“Much is being discussed over the finer points of Justice Sotamayor’s ruling freezing portions of the Affordable Care Act, and again, it’s all based on one religion and a lot of obfuscation by the media and both sides in the argument” said O’seland. “The particular case mentioned most in this portion of the ACA argument was brought on behalf of a group of a dozen Catholic nuns who didn’t want to pay for birth control under ACA.  And again, religion, with massive support from the far right and the manipulation of the media by handlers and spin doctors, attempts to trump law.”

O’seland believes the answer to the ACA problem is an easy fix.

“The answer is frighteningly simple:  In the ACA sign-up, opt in or opt out for birth control,” he said. “The half-pence that coverage would cost across the board can be deducted from the total cost of your ACA coverage and you don’t have to have the debate over birth control again.”

O’seland said neither argument should be an issue, in the grand scheme of things.

“The main point is that both of these are non-issues created by one special interest group or another, shepherded through the media to carefully ‘expose’ the logic of their arguments, and little more than, as Shakespeare put it ‘a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’”

Patrick Barkman, an attorney, said stays of this nature are more process than substance.

“I don’t think you can read too much into those decisions,” said Barkman. “Stays are typically granted to preserve the status quo until the appeal is heard. They aren’t an indication necessarily of how SCOTUS will rule.”

Barkman said the stay in the Utah marriage case prevented settling the issue before it could be heard on appeal.

He also has an opinion about the contraception issue.

“The contraceptive mandate case is a Trojan horse for big corporations, anyway; the nuns were already exempt,” he said.

 “They are claiming, very weakly, that even the act of claiming the exemption violates their religious beliefs. Ludicrous. Using that logic, all churches should be taxed, lest they be forced to sign an infamous tax exemption form.”

Shannon Grimes, local chiropractor and chairman of the Cherokee County Republican Party, reiterated Barkman’s comment about the process of the court.

“The main thing I would point out is that the SCOTUS has not made any rulings or decisions on these matters,” said Grimes. “The actions taken by some of the justices basically put things on hold for further review.”

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE

To read about Supreme Court cases that could have an impact in 2014, go to www.tahlequahTDP.com.

tsnell@tahlequahdailypress.com