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It Boils Down to Money

It Boils Down to Money

There are very few times in a person's life that they witness historic rulings by the US Supreme court. I suppose all of the ruling the Supreme Court hands down are historic in some fashion, but not all of their rulings actually pertain to each one of us personally.

I was seventeen years old when the Roe verses Wade ruling came down in 1973, making abortion legal in the United States. At that time, Texas statutes made it a crime to procure or attempt an abortion except for the purpose of saving the mother's life. Ms. Jane Roe sought a ruling that the Texas statutes were unconstitutional and she wanted an injunction to prevent defendant Dallas County District Attorney from enforcing the statutes. Ms. Roe alleged that she was unmarried and pregnant, and that she was unable to receive a legal abortion by a licensed physician because her life was not threatened by the continuation of her pregnancy. She was also unable to afford to travel to another State to obtain a legal abortion. Ms. Roe sued on behalf of herself and all other women similarly situated, claiming that the Texas State laws were unconstitutionally vague, also abridging her right of personal privacy, protected by the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments.
From my reading on abortion, three main reasons have been used for the enactment of criminal abortion laws. The first is that the laws were the product of a Victorian social concern. These laws were promulgated to discourage illicit sexual conduct. I think most people would admit banning of abortion will not impact illicit sexual activity. Reason number one is ridiculous.
The second reason most often cited in cases concerning elective abortion is that the procedure is hazardous. States banning abortion cite a long standing concern to protect pregnant women. We all know that modern medical techniques have improved immensely, making abortion in the first trimester as safe as a dilatation of the cervix and curettage of the uterine cavity (D & C).
The third reason is cited is the State’s interest in protecting the prenatal life of the unborn child. A pregnant woman cannot be prosecuted for having an abortion. Although the argument that an abortion is murder of an unborn child is a religiously motivated argument, the fact remains that it is not a crime against the people of the state to have an abortion.
The Supreme Court judges ruled that for the stage prior to the approximate end of the first trimester, the abortion decision must be left to the medical judgment of the pregnant woman’s attending physician, and may not be criminalized by statute.
For the stage subsequent to the approximate end of the first trimester, the State may regulate abortion in ways reasonably related to maternal health based upon the State’s interest in promoting the health of the mother.
For the stage subsequent to viability, the State may regulate and even prohibit abortion, except where necessary for the preservation of the mother’s life and/or based upon the State’s interest in the potential life of the unborn child.
There was no ruling by the court on when life begins for the fetus. I will leave that construct for a future blog, since I recognize that each of us have a different opinion about that issue and sometimes it provokes extreme conversational hostility between us. What is odd about the last 42 years, States have spent millions of dollars challenging the Roe verses Wade decision and by making laws that really make an elective abortion almost impossible to procure. And the women who seek abortion are harshly criticized for their decision making by many upstanding citizens who remain closed to an alternate view. I am not advocating or deploring elective abortions, I am merely stating the US Supreme court has ruled the procedure cannot be banned by State law. In a similar way, we all have the right to bear arms.
Before I went into work Friday, I happened to watch a very short segment on the news while searching for the weather predictions for the day. The Supreme Court had ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and recognize marriages between same sex couples who were legally married out of state. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote:
Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
It was a 5-4 decision which ruled that Tennessee's 2006 ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. I suspect that many citizens in Tennessee will have to resign themselves to the fact that their religious beliefs or personal objections to gay marriage have been trumped by the Supreme Court ruling. And as usual, two Republican state legislators announced they are drafting a bill to shield Tennessee clergy from having to perform same-sex marriages. I think they are calling it the Tennessee Pastor Protection act. Funny thing, the Supreme Court ruling does not require any pastor or clergy or church to perform a wedding of same-sex couples. Who knows what other potential Tennessee state laws are going to be drafted in the wake of this ruling. Surely government officials such as Judges and Mayors who are empowered to solemnize marriage will not discriminate who they marry, but this issue will emerge. State Attorney General Herbert Slatery said the ruling was disappointing that Tennesseans have no vote on the issue. They had a vote in 2006 and the US Supreme Court ruled their decision was unconstitutional.
I think the greater question concerning the issue of gay marriage is why would a gay couple want to get married in the first place? I think most people might answer the question because they love each other. But let's not be naive here. The rates of heterosexual marriage are dropping and more young people are choosing to cohabitate together without being married. A second answer might be that gay couples want to have the same options of occupationally offered health insurance benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy when one spouse works and the other spouse stays at home. But many companies already offer this benefit to both heterosexual and homosexual couples living together. So what would drive the desire for getting married and risk getting a divorce?
Assets. I have spoken too many of my patients who are happily involved in a long term gay relationship over the years. Many of them have been together longer than most of my patients in heterosexual relationships and most of them are much more satisfied with their partner. These couples amass assets and wealth that most heterosexual couples do not because most of them are childless. Rearing children is an honor, but it is a costly endeavor. Some gay couples adopt children, I submit they are in the minority. In my experience, gay men and women tend to devote their lives to their occupation as well as their side interests. It could be art, music or collecting antiques for example.
Over time, their assets build. And if one of the two partners dies, without the couple having a marriage license, it is usually a civil war between family members of the deceased partner and the survivor. Without a marriage license, most of the survivor’s assets can be lost to greedy parents or siblings of the deceased. I have heard horror stories of brothers or sisters who deplored their sibling's long term homosexual relationship, only to arrive at the court house, demanding that the assets of the estate be given to them, not the surviving partner. What is more disturbing is the judges most often award them the estate. One male survivor I know lost everything and was forced to leave his home of twenty years with only the shirt on his back and his vehicle.
It is my understanding that Tennessee does not recognize common law marriage. So just living together for a long time, filing joint tax returns and introducing each person as husband or wife in a relationship will not count for being married. Tennessee only recognizes marriages that are licensed.
So what is all the hoo-hah about with the new ruling? I am not sure other than it allows gay couples to be protected under the law from greedy family members who feel entitled to acquire assets accumulated in a long term gay relationship of which they may or may not have approved, when one of the two spouses dies. It boils down to money.
Just like everything else in America including healthcare. Oh by the way, the Affordable Care Act got reaffirmed last Thursday too, 6-3. Isn't time our elected officials in local and state government and Washington find something else other to focus on than abortion, gay marriage and the Affordable Healthcare Act?
I think so.

Posted by Amanda Sanders at 9:06 AM
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