While June 24, 2011 may not quite be a day that will “live in infamy” (as Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously described the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor back in 1941), it should serve as a painful reminder to the right-wing Republicans here in Indiana and in other parts of the country that, yes, there are limits to their power and influence, as well as what people will stand for. Yesterday was a day that saw their “culture wars” and anti-illegal immigrant agenda take a massive double blow as a result of judicial decisions here in Indiana that blocked laws passed this year in the Indiana General Assembly cracking down on illegal immigration and blocking Medicaid funding to organizations such as Planned Parenthood.
In regards to Indiana’s new illegal immigration law, a federal judge sided with the ACLU against the state, agreeing that Indiana was essentially attempting to usurp control of immigration control policy from the Federal Government by barring the use of consular identification cards and allowing the arrests of people whose immigration status is questionable (even if federal authorities have previously determined that they are eligible to remain in the country). In regards to a lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood of Indiana against the state in response to a newly passed law that blocked Medicaid funding for any health care providers whose services also include abortion (regardless of the fact that abortion services have not been funded with taxpayer dollars since the 1970’s), a federal judge agreed with Planned Parenthood of Indiana that Indiana’s law violated federal Medicaid rules that allow Medicaid patients to be able to choose their medical provider. The judge declined to award Planned Parenthood of Indiana monetary injuries that resulted from the brief period of time that the law was in effect, however Planned Parenthood will be able to once again begin accepting Medicaid patients again, at least while the injunction is in effect. The judge also blocked enforcement of another provision in the same law that requires doctors to tell patients that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks or less. These rulings are, of course, not definitive as of yet and the attorney general office plans to appeal both rulings but the rulings on both laws are a clear sign that there are serious questions about the constitutionality thereof. Governor Daniels, who signed both laws, had no comment on either rulings.
Also of note was New York’s legislative decision to legalize same-sex marriage, which I reference here only in response to Indiana lawmakers’ preliminary passage of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage during this recent session. Legalization of same-sex marriage is a much more contentious issue here in Indiana and it will almost certainly be a long time in coming, particularly since the right-wing may yet be successful in preventing it here in the short-term via the aforementioned constitutional amendment. However, the fact that six states and counting have now legalized same-sex marriage suggests that the right-wing here and in other states is ultimately fighting a losing battle and that legalization of same-sex marriage in all fifty states is practically an inevitability. It’s hard to say whether or not what happened in New York will galvanize voters here to keep up the pressure on for adopting the aforementioned constitutional ban on same-sex marriage or if it will instead cause voters here to lose their appetite for struggling against the tide of history, particularly as more and more states legalize same-sex marriage and more and more people realize that their worst fears about same-sex marriage are completely unfounded. I plan to continue following this issue with great interest.
Let me close this column by once again asking the right-wing Republican legislators here in Indiana whom pushed these laws during this past session: Where are the jobs and improved economy you promised us during last year’s election? Not only have you wasted our time by focusing on “culture war” issues to the detriment of pressing economic issues but now we’re discovering that what you did get manage to get signed into law might well be unconstitutional and thus unenforceable to boot. Heckuvajob Republicans!