The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence states that “…all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” That sentence has been argued, fought over, litigated, legislated and debated ever since the founding of our country. You would think that after 243 years we would have figured it out by now that it applies to everyone, but, sadly, it does not.
There are people who, to this day, believe that Constitutional rights as citizens do not apply to people of certain races, religions, political persuasions, orientations, economic classes, age, geographic location, immigration status and a myriad of other things. Even a cursory look at the shootings, vandalism, hate speech, re-segregation happening in our country and around the world makes me wonder, “What century is this? Have we failed to grow as a country or people at all?”
1) Women's Equality
2) Voting Rights
3) LGBTQ Rights
5) Racial Equality
Equality: Equal Means Equal
My parents, who were two public school teachers, taught my brother and I that race didn’t matter. Being rich or poor didn’t matter. Being gay or straight didn’t matter. Your religion didn’t matter. What mattered was who you were. Were you looking to help or harm people? Were you selfish or selfless? Were you making things better for everyone or making them worse?
As a professional baseball player, I played on and against teams of mixed races, nationalities, skill and education levels. Teamwork is what builds a winning ball club. Anyone who has served in the military has spent a lot of time with people of different sexes, races, nationalities, and economic status. When in a battle, the last thing you think about is the race or religion of the person next to you. The only thing that matters is that you’re working together for the same goal. No more, no less. All you care about is they do their job. That’s what makes us all successful.
I have taken these lessons to heart and I'm teaching them to my kids. I don’t want my boys thinking they’re better than someone else just because of how they look, think, what they accomplish, or who they love. As my grandfather used to say, “that has nothing to do with the price of eggs.” They will be raised to believe everyone is equal. Equal means equal.
If all men and women are created equal, then it is our responsibility to make sure everyone is treated equally and fairly. Ideologically, that’s easy. Practically, though, that’s hard. While you can’t legislate morality, that doesn’t mean you can just hope and pray people are going to figure it out on their own. If they would, then there would be no need for laws, rules and regulations.
For me this campaign for United States Congress is about being a guardian for my hometown. It’s about standing up for the voices, values, and votes of all residents of CD8. While I can’t touch on every single equality issue here, so let me touch on the issues voters have expressed the most interested. These are in no particular order.
Women’s Equality: Unless and until the Equal Rights Amendment becomes part of the Constitution, women simply are not equal. Unless and until that passes, states are able to place restrictions on women that would never be placed upon men. My support for women’s rights is unwavering and unequivocal.
Voting Rights: In the majority opinion in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder Voting Rights decision, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts wrote, “Our country has changed” to the point where ensuring voting rights is no longer justified. Looking back at the voter registration restrictions that have been passed, many overturned, the Chief Justice’s opinion couldn’t have been more tone deaf or wrong.
I support automatic voter registration of anyone of voting age. I support automatically updating voter registration with changing of driver’s license information or official notice to government agencies. I support laws that prohibit the automatic removal of anyone from the voting rolls without cause, including not having voted. Finally, I support legislation to outlaw gerrymandering of any voting district lines.
LGTBQ Rights: How who anyone loves or wants to be has any relevance or impacts anyone else’s life escapes me. It seems hypocritical to me that those who are fighting the hardest to limit LGTQB rights, liberties and freedoms are the same people complaining that their rights, liberties and freedoms are being restricted by those very people whose rights they’re trying to restrict. It seems they believe giving LGTBQ people rights takes theirs away. Rights are not a zero-sum game. Everyone has them or everyone’s rights are at risk.
Wages: While the bulk of the complaints about wage equality focus on women’s wage disparity, the fact is that no one is immune from wage discrimination. I personally know older workers who were paid tens of thousands of dollars less than younger employees. I know people paid less because of the color of their skin, sexual orientation, and race. I know union members whose wages are depressed because contractors or employers justify lower wages resulting from outdated immigration laws. We can fix all of these problems, but not by continuing to complain about it.
Rather than treating people as adversaries, let’s treat them as equals. Let’s negotiate as equals. Let’s educate each other. Let’s respect each other. Rather than fretting about which bathrooms people use, let’s find a solution that works for everyone and let people see that many of their fears are irrational. There will always be bad actors. There will always be people who take advantage of a given situation. But that does not mean that the rights of the many should be threatened by those bad actors. That’s what laws are for and their proper application will help make sure equal means equal.
Let’s make the answer to the question, “What century is this,” “the 21st.”