A round-up of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers:
The Anniston Star – Marriage equality’s next step in America
The question of what follows Friday’s Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriages across the United States is more interesting than the question considered by the justices.
All the nine members of the court had to do was judge the constitutionality of state bans on same-sex marriage. Granted, it’s an important matter in a nation where gay marriage is allowed in some states and banned in others. By a vote of 5-4, the high court ruled in favor of marriage equality.
So, what’s next? Of course, a stampede of same-sex couples will make their way to local courthouses with matrimony in mind.
We wonder where this issue goes for opponents of gay marriage. Already, conservative pastors and congregations have vowed to never take part in a same-sex marriage, as is their right.
In one possible scenario, Friday’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges could take on the weight of Roe vs. Wade, the court’s 1973 landmark abortion decision. Roe and opposition to abortion is a litmus test for Republican politicians. It’s also a stark divide across the country, with most Americans lining up on one side of the other.
This, too, might — might, we emphasize — be the fate of Obergefell. Most 2016 Republican presidential candidates spoke forcefully Friday in opposition to gay marriage. Mike Huckabee called the decision “irrational, unconstitutional.” The court’s majority “follows public opinion polls, and tramples on states’ rights that were once protected by the 10th Amendment of the Constitution,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said.
It was “the latest example of an activist Court ignoring its constitutional duty,” said Carly Fiorina.
And Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker played the old, reliable constitutional amendment card, saying, “the only alternative left for the American people is to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reaffirm the ability of the states to continue to define marriage.”
The Birmingham News – So, who is up for a Confederate-themed gay wedding?
Man, I don’t know about you but I am exhausted.
So much happened this week – and so many readers had opinions on it. Let’s quickly run through the highlight reel before diving into your responses:
Republican political leaders throughout the South began calling for the Confederate battle flag to come down (and Governor Bentley went ahead and took it down).
Not to be outdone, a glut of businesses began pulling the flag from their shelves (both literal and online) and Warner Bros. even said they were pulling it from future models of the Dukes of Hazards’ General Lee.
The Supreme Court found that unintentional housing discrimination was still housing discrimination, altering the way communities will look at Low-Income Housing Tax Credits.
The Supreme Court reaffirmed that Obamacare would be the law of the land.
The Supreme Court established that same-sex marriage would be legalized and recognized in all 50 states.
President Obama led a grieving Charleston community in a stirring rendition of “Amazing Grace” at the conclusion of a eulogy for the Charleston Nine.
The US Women’s National Team beat the Chinese in a 1-0 nailbiter Friday night and will face the Germans in a semifinal bout on Tuesday.
Ted 2 debuted in theaters.
Someday soon, Alabama will probably shock the world by having a Confederate-themed gay wedding.
The Decatur Daily – With court battles over, it’s time to improve Obamacare
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday — that the Affordable Care Act authorizes the payment of premium subsidies in states, including Alabama, that use the federal insurance exchange — was huge for Alabamians.
There are 132,000 Alabamians who rely on the subsidies to maintain health insurance. That number is likely to double next year.
This is not a program for people who choose not to work. The subsidies do not apply to people below the poverty line. People are eligible for subsidies even if their incomes are four times the poverty level, or well above Alabama’s median income. The subsidies benefit working Alabamians whose employers do not provide health insurance.
When what now is known as Obamacare passed in 2010, the typical GOP opposition was that it would damage America’s superb health care system, a system that was the envy of the world. It did not take long for the party to realize the health care system that was superb for those with excellent insurance and no pre-existing conditions was terribly deficient for millions of Americans.
To the credit of GOP lawmakers, the opposition has changed. U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, trotted out the party line shortly after the court ruled Thursday.
“I think that everyone agrees that our healthcare system needed changes and improvement,” Aderholt said. “However, this was a typical bureaucratic, overreaching approach to a situation that did not need to be nearly as complicated.”
To be sure, it is complicated.
The legislation is a patchwork of compromises designed to provide needed coverage to millions of uninsured Americans while dodging the main objections of insurance and health industry lobbyists. It is far more complicated — and less effective in its goal of making sure all Americans have access to quality health care — than the universal Medicare legislation shot down by Congress during the Clinton administration.
Like any major piece of legislation, it needs changes to work efficiently. Already imperfect, its deficiencies blossomed when the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 struck down a provision effectively requiring states to expand their Medicaid programs. For states like Alabama that rejected a Medicaid expansion, the irrational and sometimes tragic result is that people who make too much money to be on Medicaid but not enough for subsidies are left hanging.
The immediate consequence of Thursday’s Supreme Court decision is that 8.7 million Americans will keep the subsidies that make their insurance affordable.
The long-term consequences could be just as important if Alabama and the GOP-controlled Congress will quit trying to destroy the law and instead try to improve it.
A first step — one that could be taken by the state — would be to expand Medicaid and thereby eliminate the coverage gap. It’s a move that would give 300,000 Alabamians access to health care, improve the state’s labor force and revitalize hospitals.
Dothan Eagle – Play ball!
Twenty years ago, some interested Dothan folks lobbed the idea of a minor league baseball franchise for the city of Dothan, and while there was some excitement generated by the notion, the possibility wasn’t pursued.
However, some concepts take time to develop, and there’s often great wisdom in allowing such an idea to mature.
This week, officials with the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce and the Convention and Visitors Bureau told the Eagle about their plan to hire a top-notch consulting firm to study the feasibility of creating a new minor league baseball stadium that could host events year-round, along with a baseball team that would call Dothan home,
The study will be carried out Conventions, Sports and Leisure International (CSL), and will be funded by the business community and the CVB.
That’s a wise approach, and an economical way to determine whether building a stadium and bringing in a minor-league team would likely become a beneficial tool to help drive the region’s financial engine.
Considering the success of similar endeavors in other Southern cities, it’s certainly worth our while to weigh the pros and cons to see if the numbers would work. If the crowds of people using our local baseball and softball facilities are any indication, there would likely be great interest among sports aficionados.
We applaud the chamber and the CVB for joining forces to determine if this would be a beneficial endeavor for our city. Their due diligence drives confidence in the result.
The Enterprise Ledger – Wacky world of college football getting wackier
Can you smell it?
We are just 71 days away from North Carolina and South Carolina butting heads in the Belk College Kickoff Game at Charlotte on Thursday, Sept. 3 (5 p.m. CST kickoff). We all know the real fun begins two days later, Saturday, Sept. 5, when Bobby Petrino and Gus Malzahn – or Louisville and Auburn — square off at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta that afternoon and later that night out at Jerry World – a.k.a. Cowboys Stadium – in Arlington, Texas, when Wisconsin and Alabama match SEC-Big Ten wits.
One of my favorite people ever in college athletics is former Auburn sports information director and later athletic director David Housel, who was caught up in the whole secret meeting fiasco with Petrino while Tommy Tuberville was still the Tigers’ head coach, a very successful one at that. I would imagine Housel and all involved with that plane trip to visit Petrino on Bobby Lowder’s plane would just as soon get this game over with as soon as possible so the meeting mess will be forgotten perhaps once and for all.
Petrino may be the most non-fun coach anyone has ever had the displeasure of interviewing. While I was in Arkansas, his radio and TV shows were akin to listening to someone run their fingernails down a chalkboard… slowly. Only when he crashed his motorcycle with a female employee on board way out in the country did a press conference of his get interesting. Of course, he lied like Brian Williams, but that’s another story.
Everyone whines about Alabama playing the likes of Charleston Southern late in the season, but what’s the difference in Oregon playing Eastern Washington (they had a pathetic golf course for the U.S. Open somewhere out there), TCU playing Stephen F. Austin (I think he was in my science class), or USC playing Idaho (they grow nice potatoes, I hear) early in the season?
Also, does anyone even want to talk about how the Big 12, which has 10 teams, hasn’t played defense since it was the Big Eight?
TimesDaily – Heed the science about dangers of trans fats
The endless array of diet fads and modern science studies can leave us jaded about our quest for a healthy diet.
We are Southerners, and as such have a pretty fatalist view on the effects that certain foods have on our quality of life and, in fact, life spans.
Heart and health specialists seem repeatedly dismayed by that attitude – the fact that changes we can make to our diets are so rarely heeded – at least until that first stroke or heart attack.
There’s no doubt we’ve listened to conflicting scientific studies through the years. Even the food pyramid that taught Baby Boomers the building blocks to a healthy life has been taken out of classrooms.
Unfortunately, that’s the way science works. Like any other new technology, health science is an evolving process, and we are wise to adopt its advancements, just as we adopt to the newest automobile or smartphone.
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration announced a 2018 deadline for the food industry to stop using trans fats, the artery cloggers that are the No. 1 cause of heart disease in America and expected to create $140 billion in health care costs over the next 20 years, according Wall Street analysts at TheStreet.com.
The TimesDaily reported this week that area schools are ahead of the curve and are not serving foods with trans fats.
Area child nutrition directors said they’ve been phasing out trans fats since 2010, and by 2012 were completely converted. We applaud our school nutritionists for making a priority of eliminating trans fats.
The problem, as Colbert County Schools child nutrition director Angie Datuin mentioned, is that trans fats often aren’t being discussed in children’s households. That’s because trans fats can make food more flavorful to our Southern palates, which historically tends to be our top – and sometimes only – priority at dinner time.
If your children complain about the taste of their school breakfasts and lunches, there’s a reasonable chance that the cause is the absence of trans fats.
Where do we find them? Everywhere. Processed foods, baked goods, coffee creamers, microwave popcorn, stick margarine, cake frosting. Things that taste good.
The Gadsden Times – Removing flag from Capitol the right thing to do
We support Gov. Robert Bentley’s decision to remove the Confederate battle flag and other flags representing the Confederacy from the state Capitol grounds in Montgomery.
We understand that won’t be a popular stance with many of our readers. We’re aware efforts in Alabama and elsewhere to remove the flag from government property are viewed by some as a knee-jerk reaction to the June 17 slayings of nine African-Americans in a Charleston, S.C., church by an admitted white supremacist. We realize removing the Confederate flag won’t bring those people back, or stop the next racist piece of flotsam and jetsam who decides to commit senseless slaughter.
Regional pride is more intense in the South than in any other section of the United States, and we hear those who view this decision as spittle in the face to the heritage and history they see represented by the Stars and Bars.
Bentley said it best, though: “This is the right thing to do.”
For every person who sincerely believes the Confederate flag represents heritage and history, there’s another who sees it as the symbol of a nation bent on preserving the indefensible, human slavery. For every person who sees the flag as a symbol of Southern pride, there’s another who sees it as an upraised middle finger of resistance dragged out of the closet by a region being compelled against its will to end 100 years of Jim Crow and grant African-Americans equal status as U.S. citizens. It’s ludicrous to claim the flag didn’t get co-opted by racists and segregationists in the 1950s and ’60s.
The Huntsville Times – Marriage ruling leaves us free either to rejoice or to move on
Alabamians are generous. We help loved ones, friends, or even strangers. We’re good at being neighbors.
But we also know how to mind our own business when it’s appropriate because we also value individual identity and privacy.
When the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees everyone the same right to marriage, it was the sort of ruling that called upon Alabama to flex every sinew of its civic physique.
If you share the joy of neighbors being publicly happy about the bestowed benefits of marital equality, you will appreciate why the freedom to marry was a profound question for many gay citizens.
If that idea infuriates you, legalizing such a thing won’t make you happy.
But here’s the basic way to see the 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court that broadens the same marriage protections to everyone — as the Constitution always demanded.
The debate about that right is now done. It’s the law. It’s the new way life will be.
We join with the court’s majority, which viewed the outcome as the only rational legal answer. “Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.
The court ruled the right was not a newly invented legalism, but a human right that always existed but had been denied.
Press-Register – Greatest week ever, or sign of the apocalypse?
The Supreme Court of the United States made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states, and upheld ObamaCare. Meanwhile, the Conferate flag came down in Alabama.
What a week, says AL.com columnist John Archibald: “Some are calling it the greatest week in the world. And some say it is a sign of the apocalypse. It is the beginning or the end, depending on who you ask. But it is not. It is neither. What happened this week is important, but for the vast majority of Americans, nothing has really changed at all.”
AL.com’s editorial board wrote: “Our national appreciation of gender has shifted, but the court did not cause that change. The court merely affirmed who we are in 2015 and that Constitutional rights apply to everyone equally. Some rights are human rights. They are supreme.The sun will arise tomorrow. The nation endures. You are free to rejoice with those who rejoice. Or you are free to look the other way.
Justice Antonin Scalia, the longest serving Supreme, has taken judicial dissent to a new level. In his dissent of the ObamaCare decision, he coined the term
“SCOTUSCare”. He was still on a roll with his dissent in Friday’s gay marriage decision. See 7 best lines from SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia’s same-sex marriage dissent
The folks at Slate enjoyed the Scaliaisms so much, they created a “Justice Scalia insult generator.” Find out what the Supreme Court’s grouchiest justice would say about you
There was still plenty of talk on Friday about the Confederate flag. AL.com’s Kyle Whitmire wrote: “Rebel flags and Confederate monuments don’t represent America”
Roger K. Broxton of Andalusia, president of the Confederate Heritage Fund, wrote that Abraham Lincoln said the Civil War was about taxes, not slavery.
Montgomery Advertiser – Same-sex marriage ruling upholds equality under law
The U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage across the nation was greeted with some predictable frothing here in Alabama, but we hope that will soon settle down and the decision will be recognized and respected for the simple issue of legal equality that it represents. In essence, the court held that states may not deny same-sex couples the same marriage rights that opposite-sex couples enjoy.
Most states don’t do that anyway; same-sex marriage was lawful in 37 states before the court’s ruling came down. In fact, this doesn’t represent a big change for most people; more than 70 percent of Americans live in states where same-sex marriage was already legal.
But it is a change in Alabama, where many politicians, most notably Chief Justice Roy Moore, have made acres of political hay decrying same-sex marriage. Now, whether they like it or not, same-sex marriage is a right upheld by the nation’s highest court. Alabama must recognize it and should, for once in our intransigent history, acknowledge the inherent justice in a Supreme Court ruling prohibiting an unlawful state practice.
At the very least, Moore and every other Alabamian opposed to same-sex marriage should adopt the position of Attorney General Luther Strange: “While I do not agree with the opinion of the majority of the justices in their decision, I acknowledge that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling is now the law of the land.”
The last thing Alabama needs is more manufactured martyrdom from Moore, who once lost his judicial seat for refusing to follow a federal court order.
The fear-mongers will have a field day, but their inflated rhetoric withers under the slightest scrutiny. The First Amendment to the Constitution stands intact, so no clergy can be forced to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony, nor can any faith community be required to provide space for one. Those private-sector protections are important, but the Constitution also protects same-sex couples from the discrimination of the state in denying them marriage rights.
Opelika-Auburn News – Presidential election cycle already getting old
Like the Christmas shopping season, the presidential campaign season seems to come around earlier every cycle. One moment, you’re minding your own business, and the next you are assaulted by candidates seeking your attention, your support, your contribution and, last but not least, your vote.
It can be a bit overwhelming, even if you live in an electoral afterthought such as Alabama.
The most solidly Republican of solidly Republican states, Alabama barely rates the candidates’ attention during the home stretch of a presidential election. We get a courtesy visit from the GOP candidate to thank us for our support, and the Democratic nominee might touch down en route to another state he (or she) actually has a chance of winning. But there is no point in fighting a battle that already has been decided. Candidates either take Alabama for granted or write it off.
The primary season is different, but not by much. Alabama doesn’t send a lot of delegates to the major party conventions, but in tight races filled with a lot of candidates, every delegate counts. Except in the past several cycles, Alabama’s party primaries have come too late in the game to make a difference. Also, there is Alabama’s recent habit of supporting lost causes. In 2012, Alabama backed former Sen. Rick Santorum for the Republican nomination. Four years before that, state Republican primary voters backed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
This time around, Alabama Republicans may have to choose between the two: Both Santorum and Huckabee are declared candidates, although, so far, only Huckabee seems to have any traction at all. A recent Santorum campaign rally in Iowa that drew only four attendees may be the saddest spectacle in the history of U.S. elections.
The state’s GOP is trying to make Alabama’s Republican primary more relevant by joining in an effort to recreate the excitement of Super Tuesdays past. Alabama will join several other Southern states — Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia — in holding an “SEC Primary” on March 1. Still, Alabama likely will be the smallest prize at stake.
Repeat candidates, the return of Super Tuesday — it all seems familiar, and that’s before we get to the fact that Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush would love to re-enact the Clinton/Bush contest of 1992, although Jeb Bush would prefer a different outcome.
This election cycle even has its own loose-cannon billionaire running on a populist anti-trade/anti-immigration platform. Amazingly, Donald Trump makes Ross Perot seem almost like a serious statesman. Trump has a history of using presidential campaigns to do the thing he does best: promote his own brand.
The 2016 election cycle is just beginning, and yet already seems like old news because it seems a lot like something we’ve been through before.
It’s going to be a long campaign.
The Tuscaloosa News – Cell phones should be shut off at school
Jerry Carter appears to be generous in his assessment of the Tuscaloosa City Schools cell phone policy.
Carter complained to City Schools officials after his granddaughter was humiliated when another student recorded her on a cell phone camera in a middle school bathroom and then posted the video on the Internet. She ran from class as her classmates laughed while watching it.
The act was a gross breach of the girl’s privacy. If the facts are as Carter reported them, we hope the student who recorded her was expelled. But beyond that, Carter wanted school officials to do something about student use of cell phones in school.
Carter was appointed to a task force, along with parents, members of the community, school and central office administrators, teachers and high school students, that reviewed the system’s cell phone policy. The task force reported that the policy was strong enough but recommended adding a program called “Digital Citizenship” to teach students how to responsibly use their cell phones in school and throughout life.
“What I was aiming for, obviously, was a ban,” Carter said. “But since that’s not going to happen, because in this day and age, cell phones are such a part of our day-to-day lives, they felt that the most realistic thing to do was add this Digital Citizenship.”