Editor's column - July 2015

Tim BenjaminWe at Access Press are very proud to be celebrating our 25th anniversary. It seems almost impossible that 25 years has passed. I can’t imagine Charlie Smith, the founder of Access Press thinking the paper would survive a quarter century and still be relevant, making legislative change and engaging a strong readership. I sure couldn’t have imagined in 2001 that I would still be involved in 2015, still excited about putting each issue to bed and immediately starting to conceptualize the following month’s paper. It just seems like a year or so ago that my mentors, Donna McNamara and Jeff Nygaard, were explaining to me their philosophies on how a community newspaper should be run financially and how to maintain a strong readership through trust, fair play, honesty and factual information.

I hope you’ll read our 25-year timeline, which is posted on our website. The timeline highlights what issues were important, where we have triumphed and failed, and what changes or improvements we will continue to advocate for to support the disability community.

In making change, Charlie Smith and Access Press, were not opposed to the methods of protest and push and shove tactics to improve quality of life for people with disabilities. Charlie also knew that the best way, ultimately, to effect change and help the disability community was through good communications, diligent work and a strong presence within all levels of government. Many of these actions are reflected in the Access Press 25-year timeline.

I hope Access Press will continue to be the state’s primary resource for clear, accurate and objective news and history on cross-disability topics. I hope, too, that each of us can contribute to bettering our community by getting involved and being seen. Many of you can remember when you were the only person with a disability at school, at church, at the capitol and at community events. Now we are teachers, ministers, elected officials and leaders in public policy decisions. Thanks to the ADA and its 25 years of giving people with disabilities protection against discrimination, and to the Supreme Court’s defense and support for the ADA on so many occasions, we have the rights and skills to more fully integrate into our communities.

One of the notes on our future timeline will be June, 2015, when the Supreme Court made two very controversial decisions that in one way or another will affect most of us.

The most recent of them was the decision on Friday, June 26 by the Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage across the nation, so that every state will recognize other states’ marriage certificates as binding contracts between two adults. “The decision made same-sex marriage a reality in the 13 states that had continued to ban it,” said retired Justice John Paul Stevens. Unusually for the court, each member of the court’s conservative wing filed a separate dissent, expressing a range of reactions from disbelief to scolding their judicial colleagues. This is a very controversial ruling, and a decision that I believe will follow in the footsteps of the abortion rights decision of 1973 in the Roe v. Wade case. Many states will try to skirt the decision by adding regulations to make the decision more difficult to apply. There are already questions concerning religious beliefs and whether or not clergy would be required to preside over same-sex ceremonies—since, of course, the First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning religion and religious practices. How does this affect people with disabilities? Well, for one thing, there are same-sex relationships in our community as in any other. And just as importantly, any civil rights protected by the Supreme Court for a minority group will ultimately benefit most other minority (and majority) groups. The more equal the rights we hold, the more that barriers and stereotypical attitudes will break down.

On the day before its same-sex marriages decision, Thursday, June 25, the Court made another enormous decision.  In the case of King vs. Burwell, it allowed the Affordable Care Act to be preserved and to stand as originally legislated. The decision allowed the federal government to continue to subsidize health insurance for individuals whether their state is running an insurance exchange or not. Minnesota is one of the states running its own insurance exchange, so our low-income subsidies will continue. Chief Justice John Roberts said, “Congress passed the Affordable  Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not destroy them.” This decision is a huge victory for President Barack Obama, but also for all United States citizens whose income is below federal poverty guidelines. Barbara Morrill at the DailyKos website said, “the King decision is ‘good news,’ for both low-income Americans who rely on the tax credits to buy health insurance – and for the GOP.” Republicans, she said, were not only responsible for the lawsuit but were facing “the prospect of being responsible for those millions losing their coverage, without having any plan in place to fix the law had the Supreme Court gutted the subsidies.” Some are even saying the Republicans are okay with the decision, for now: they’re “off the hook” to come up with an alternative healthcare plan until after the election.

Elections are heating up in all sorts of ways, just like the summer. But now in early July, let’s celebrate the past 25 years for the ADA…and for Access Press. See you at the 25-year ADA celebration, and please consider a small donation to Access Press on its 25th year anniversary.

 

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