THE BLOG

Tolerance: Why the Courts Matter

08/08/2012 11:09 am ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016
  • Jason Burns Jason Burns, Executive Director of Equality Wisconsin

We all know what's at stake this November. This country -- our country, my country -- is at turning point in its history. Either we can continue our swing wildly to the right, or we can try to move the country back to the middle by electing more progressive candidates. I know I am not the first, nor will I be the last person to say it, but there is more at stake than just the presidency, congress, state legislatures, and governorships. What are also at stake are the courts, from the Supreme Court, to any other opening on the federal bench.

It is my belief that this swing to the extreme right is just a fad. After all, as a country we have been here before. Following World War II our great nation passed a series of laws that restricted individual's free speech, and imposed the morality of a select few fear mongering politicians. McCarthyism and the Red Scare had arrived. Hundreds of Americans were brought to bow before a system of injustice, whose purpose was little more than the violation of their constitutional rights. All of this was done under the misguided notion protecting our nation. It took a series of Supreme Court rulings to bring an end to this era, and yet less than 60 years later it feels as if history is repeating itself.

As an openly gay man I find myself scared when I look past November and imagine what this country would look like under a Romney presidency. My partner has expressed the same fears, often in a much more open fashion. I find myself trying to be the "brave" one, but what he doesn't know is I am just as terrified as he is.

During the last four years the LGBT Community has made progress in our fight for equality. Progress which is fragile and could easily be undone. This progress goes beyond the courageous act of our president when he took the bold step of announcing his full evolution on the issue of same-sex marriage. Much of this progress has come as result of the rulings from the inside of federal courtrooms, and there are more precedent setting cases heading that way in the coming months.

It is because of these cases that we should be compelled to make sure Governor Romney does not become the next president. Politicians come and go, but judicial appointments are made for life, and the legal precedents they set can have an impact that lasts for decades. If Governor Romney becomes President Romney he will stack the courts with people who share the "values" of the extreme right. He will make sure there are judges at every level who will uphold discriminatory laws like the Defense of Marriage Act, or reverse the current ruling on California's Proposition 8. I am not promoting activist judges that make independent decisions based outside of the scope of the judiciary. Rather I am advocating for judges who will hear the case in front of them, and use their discernment and intellectual ability to decide the case based on the spirit of our constitution. Not based on some skewed ideological or moral belief system.

We need judges who are tolerant, not closed minded. We need judges who will listen with an open mind to the continuing issues of racism. We need judges who will be accepting of the LGBT community and understand our fight for equality. We need judges who will be supportive of the issues surrounding immigration and value the rights of individuals no matter their immigration status. We need judges who understand a women's right to control her own reproductive health. Lastly, we need judges who value each person in front of them equally.

If we want judges who share our values, who value our communities, let this be our call to action. This is yet another reason for us to make sure the words "President Romney" are only said in what-if scenarios, and never in reality. If you share these values with me, please join me on November 6th in saying "no" to Governor Romney, and to the intolerant judges he would most certainly appoint. Let us stand together to tell the world that America will not be a place of intolerance and selective justice. That this nation is and will always be a shining beacon of hope, prosperity, and equality to the world.