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The Candidates 2016

The Candidates 2016 and Civil Rights - Page 2

Civil Rights tend to be the most contentious and hotly debated topics in politics. Whether we're talking about gun rights, marriage rights, privacy rights, or any of a number of other things we believe we are entitled to, the concept of what is and is not a "right" gets muddled. I tend to believe that, if it's something being given to you, it's not a right. A right is something you have just for being born, and the only way the law can intervene is by repressing your rights, not granting them to you. It is important that our natural rights be protected from bad actors, which is in my opinion the whole purpose of government, but no legal statute or regulatory framework is going to give you a right. Part of being a responsible American citizen is in defending your rights from those who would take them, and I would respect--if not vote for--any candidate who understands that basic, constitutional principle.


protest signs
Where's the person with the purple dodecagon that says "COMPROMISE"?
Of all the wedge issues, abortion is the one I'm the most conflicted about. For fans of freedom and liberty, the question boils down to which right is more precious: that of the mother to choose to have an abortion, or that of the unborn child to live a life. It's not simple or cut-and-dry, and I honestly have no way of answering the question for myself. I know I am very uncomfortable with abortions the later they are done--not out of any religious convictions or anything like that--and I don't think it's unreasonable to set an arbitrary cut-off date as a means to achieve compromise. The most disturbing thing about the entire issue, though, is the unwillingness to reach compromise shown by both sides, who argue with spiteful vehemence that their side of the argument is the only rational course of action while simultaneously refusing to acknowledge the thinnest possibility that the other side might have a point. It's the most polarized issue in an increasingly polarized country, and my one hope for a presidential candidate is a willingness to bring people together, not continue to tear them apart with intransigent, partisan rhetoric.

On abortion, Hillary Clinton stands proudly with Planned Parenthood and would oppose any attempt to take away its federal funds. She would also repeal the Hyde amendment, which prevents federal funds from being used for abortion, and would promote sexual education in public schools.

Though he finds abortion personally abhorrent, supports the Hyde amendment, and has supported efforts to ban late-term abortion, Gary Johnson defers to the "law of the land" and believes that the rights of women to choose should be preserved. He ultimately believes that "such a very personal and individual decision" should not be left to the government, and he opposes any effort to restrict women's access to abortion or punish those who exercize that choice. He doesn't believe federal funding should be used for stem-cell research (though private organizations should be free to conduct it); he has supported parental notification laws; and he would defer to state's rights for those that wish to restrict or enhance abortion options.

She hasn't made it a major part of her platform, but Jill Stein believes in a woman's right to choose. She would include abortion as a healthcare service covered under her established human right to healthcare, and would make it easier for women to acquire the "morning after" pill. She would remove all religious exemptions from the contraceptive mandate, allow the federal government to fund stem-cell research, and increase "birth control, sex education, and social services" to reduce the need for abortions.

Donald Trump has a rocky record when it comes to his stance on abortion. Sticking with only his most recent statements on the matter, he says he is "pro-life with exceptions," believing that abortion should be illegal except in cases of rape or incest or if the life of the mother is in danger. However, he has also argued that he would not push to overturn Roe v. Wade and would enforce the laws as they exist today, though he would make judicial appointments that would work to make abortion less legal. According to Google, as recently as six days ago, Trump argued that "life is the most fundamental right" and "the federal government should not diminish this right by denying its protection." He also opposes the use of government funds to pay for abortions.

Clinton isn't interested in compromise here, and her insistence of repealing the Hyde amendment will not achieve any kind of rational discourse from her ideological opponents. Along the same lines, Stein's position is much too far to the left, believing that current abortion laws are much too restrictive. Johnson is a bit confusing on the issue, but I applaud his willingness to acknowledge both sides of the argument and his desire to defer to state's rights. He gets a point. Finally, there's Trump, who is making it very difficult for me to remain true to my mission statement of taking him at his word. If I do that, he is, like Clinton and Stein, too partisan and unwilling to compromise from an ideological standpoint, but seems willing to keep the law the way it is. I'll reluctantly give him a point--because his plan is essentially identical to Johnson's in practice--but I'm not particularly enthusiastic about it.

Religious Freedom/Anti-Discrimination Laws

gay wedding cake
I have a dream that one day, people can marry who they want, and people can bake the cakes they want
The Supreme Court was absolutely right, in my estimation, in throwing out laws defining marriage as exclusive to heterosexual couples, on the basis that such laws violate the Fourteenth Amendment. Not only that, I applaud same-sex marriage and am incredibly happy that same-sex couples who love each other are able to enjoy the same benefits as heterosexual ones. However, arguing that a business must bake cakes for a same-sex marriage is a bridge WAY too far. It is NOT the government's job to inflict social mandates on its populace, not even at the state level. Yeah, discrimination can be a terrible thing, but you cannot force people to behave compassionately by legal fiat. You cannot legislate morality, because once you do, you take away people's freedom to choose. Several states have tried to pass (and a few have succeeded) "religious freedom" laws that seek to protect businesses that seek to act according to their conscience, though these laws have faced fierce opposition from those who believe they are laws specifically desiged to be hostile to the LGBT community. I'm on the side of freedom, not legally enforced social justice. That doesn't make me a homophobic bigot; it makes me consistent. I think the same Fourteenth Amendment that gives same-sex couples the right to marry gives private businesses the right to refuse to serve whomever they like for whatever reason they like. It's their loss, because such behavior is economically unwise, and there is no need for the government to intervene by taking away their right to act unwisely.

I'll just quote directly from Clinton's website, as it squares with everything she's campaigned under: "Hillary will work with Congress to pass the Equality Act, continue President Obama’s LGBT equality executive actions, and support efforts underway in the courts to protect people from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation in every aspect of public life."

On the issue of religious freedom, Gary Johnson falls pretty far to the left of his party. Despite attempts to strike a better balance, he thinks religious freedom is a "black hole" and that efforts to extend the federal RFRA at the state level would open up a "can of worms" that would encourage the worst kind of discrimination, starting with Muslims. He has even gone so far as to argue that it is the federal government's duty to prevent discrimination.

The only thing I can find on Jill Stein's website about the issue is a blanket promise to "protect LGBTQIA+ people from discrimination." However, the Green Party Platform is far more explicit, arguing that the party would "strongly support the vigorous enforcement of civil-rights laws," which include a prohibition against "discrimination based on gender identity, characteristics, and expression as well as on sex, gender, or sexual orientation." The Green Party further promises to aggressively prosecute hate crimes and force offenders to "pay compensation to the LGBTIQ people who have suffered violence and injustice." There is no acknowledgement of the conflict between religious freedom and anti-discrimination laws, and the brief section of the platform on "religious freedom" is incredibly evasive on the issue.

Donald Trump believes that religious freedom and nondiscrimination are not "mutually exclusive." However, his VP pick, Mike Pence, famously tried to get a religious freedom act passed as governor of Indiana, Trump offered conditional support for the proposed First Amendment Defense Act (which would strengthen the existing Religious Freedom Restoration Act), and Trump has recently been calling for America to be "one nation under one God." Though he affims his opposition to same-sex marriage, Trump considers himself friendly to the LGBT community, at least relative to other Republican voices.

I just can't give a point to Clinton, Johnson, or Stein here. All three fail because they don't see the slippery slope they've put themselves on. I do not believe that anti-discrimination laws do more to change our culture than our culture does on its own; in fact, I believe such laws tend to slow progress down. Both sides of the argument are guilty of conflating "religious freedom" and "LGBT discrimination," when that's not really the issue. The issue is whether we need the federal government to meddle in social engineering. The Supreme Court was right in preventing states from interfering with individual liberty, and I think all three of these candidates misunderstood the message: do not interfere. Trump disturbs me for an entirely different reason, and it all boils down to "one nation under one God." That's not supporting "religious freedom"; that's advocating religious bigotry. I think he's closer to the mark than the other three, but I just can't give him a point either. Ultimately, then, nobody gets a point on this issue.

The Scorecard





I know these four subjects don't cover the entirety of the civil rights issues facing this country. I have left out critical things like metadata collection, surveillance, and Internet freedom laws, but I don't think they'd change much in my final analysis. Sufficed to say, I'm pretty libertarian on civil rights issues, and thus, I'd vote for Johnson, the Libertarian, if these were the only issues that mattered to me. I don't think he's a particularly good messenger--and his stance on the religious freedom/anti-discrimination debate is surprisingly bad--but he's generally better than the other three.

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-e. magill 9/22/2016

  • The Candidates 2016: Preamble
  • The Candidates 2016 and Science
  • The Candidates 2016 and Domestic Policy
  • The Candidates 2016 and the Economy
  • The Candidates 2016 and Energy
  • The Candidates 2016 and Foreign Policy
  • The Candidates 2016 and My Vote

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