Archive for November, 2009

Some Thoughts On Question 1 in Maine

My first reaction to seeing that question 1 passed in my state was a combination of anger and sadness. Then I hopped online and saw people calling those who voted yes all sorts of names, with bigot being the most common. While I understand we’re all frustrated by this, particularly those couples who are waiting for their rights to be recognized, the name calling really isn’t helping our cause. Railing against those who voted yes is just going to make us look immature. Instead, we need to think of our next move, keep campaigning, keep talking to people, keep explaining why the right for all to marry is important,  and continue to apply political pressure to get the job done.

Remember, when the gay marriage legislation in Maine was being drafted, Governor Baldacci was against gay marriage. He was convinced to change his views during the debate that took place during the time the legislation was drafted. The very civil debate that took place. And that’s how we’ll win the hearts and minds of the people as well, though it’s obviously going to take longer than we originally hoped. While that really sucks, that’s the reality we have to deal with.

Right now, the campaign to move gay rights forward has two options. One is to try again in 2011, which is when we can pass a new law granting same-sex couples the right to marry and attempt to vote down a people’s veto. The other option is to challenge the people’s veto in state court on the grounds that it violates protected minority rights. In California, that court challenge failed after proposition 8, which sets a bad precedent for us, but precedents don’t always carry over between states either. Waiting until 2011 has the problem of waiting another two years, but really, we do have to be in this fight for the long haul if we’re going to gain equal rights for everyone.

There’s also talk about challenging the constitutionality of prop 8 in federal court, which would be good on a national level if it succeeded. However, with such an even split of justices, that’s a very high risk, high reward strategy. If the supreme court rules in favor of the gay community, then we basically win in the eyes of the law. Otherwise, we don’t get to challenge in federal court again, and have to keep campaigning state to state. It really depends on if we think we can win in court now, and if we think we’ll have a better chance at a reasonable point in the future.

In any case, there are lots of paths to be taken to continue the fight for equal rights. So, we should be focusing on that, rather than the name-calling that has recently sprung up. I know that there’s a lot to be unhappy about after the vote, but we need to focus on the solution to the problem. So, let’s be civil, let’s talk to people about equal rights, and let’s think about our next move to get equal rights for everyone.

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The Republicans Do Have Some Ideas on Health Care

Now, that’s not to say I’m at all happy with the congressional republicans right now. Too much bluster, voting no all the time, and refusing to budge on anything. And I don’t think most of their ideas will do the job either. Tort reform just isn’t going to do the trick, and cooperatives just wouldn’t be anywhere near as effective at lowering prices as the public option would be, because the cooperatives would have far less bargaining power as fewer people would be signed on to them.

However, they do have one idea, that’s really quite simple, that we should put into practice. Let people buy insurance across state lines, and force all the insurance companies in the country to compete with each other. Make them earn our business instead of being the only place to turn in a given area for coverage. As far as I’ve seen, it hasn’t been added to any reform efforts yet, and it really should be.

Now, I understand that this could cause some insurance companies to go under. While that isn’t great news, it would mostly be a result of having more companies than we need taking more money from the market of buyers than they can afford. And the health of our country comes before company survival. Of course, if too many companies fall out of business, then we’ll end up right back where we are now. I think this is unlikely to happen since there would be a much larger pool of people, so the presence of enough companies to foster competition could be supported.

That doesn’t mean we should do away with the public option though. I’m still a huge supporter of the public option, and I think it’s one of the most important parts of health care reform, along with eliminating clauses about pre-existing conditions and eliminating the ability of insurance companies to rescind coverage. The public option provides us with a non-profit option for health care, will help to keep the insurance companies honest, and can also be used to make sure a basic level of care is offered at a rate as affordable as possible. Besides which, the public option provides us with cover in case the remaining insurance companies after the dust settles decide they would like the idea of a rate hike.

But, when an idea is good, it’s good, and we ought to acknowledge that and think about how it might be incorporated into the larger policy package. Perhaps we’d hear more about it though, if the republicans would stop obstructing and start conversing.

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