It’s been a heck of a couple of weeks, hasn’t it? First, I was generally down after reading about endless attacks on my bodily autonomy by people who’s business it simply isn’t. Then, like any human being would be, I was horrified and saddened by the massacre in Charleston. Then intrigued by the juxtaposition between misplaced Confederate pride and rational reconsideration of the meaning of this symbol on government property. Then! Pretty delighted by the Supreme Court ruling in favor of federal subsidies for health insurance – and thereby declining to gut the Affordable Care Act. And finally, elated when marriage equality became the law of the land. #lovewins, am I right?
I started this column about six times, and have put a couple of thousand words behind me at this point. It was hard to figure out how to wax casually feminist while our country fought some of our worst traits with some of our best – and then suddenly took a sharp and – frankly – unexpected turn back in the direction of kindness and freedom.
I heard someone say that they were so happy when the marriage equality ruling first came down, then they got worried about how the pendulum will correct. Then she thought for a moment about the last few years and decided that this was the correction – finally a bump in the right direction.
Then I read this great article in RH Reality Check (which I highly recommend if you’re in the market for news and commentary on the subject of reproductive health and freedom) about Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton basically daring Congress to make a move to overturn DC’s Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act.
I’m a DC native. Yes, much like the unlikely narwhal, we really do exist. The city’s lack of representation in Congress is a long-running joke and continuous insult to those who aren’t just passing through for the duration of an internship or an administration. Norton has been the lone and non-voting delegate representing the people of DC in the House since 1991. And you’d think that – without a vote to cast – she’d phone it in. Not so.
Last year, the DC council unanimously passed the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act – a law established to prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of reproductive choices. So, for example, someone can’t be fired for choosing to use birth control, having an abortion or having in vitro fertilization.
GOP reps have been working hard to repeal and/or de-fund it (a favorite trick for Feds messing with DC is to simply not allow any money to be spent implementing a law you don’t favor). The argument goes that the law is vague and infringes on the religious liberty of employers, forcing them to pay for healthcare services they may object to… blah, blah, Hobby Lobby. Messing with the law, though, is in direct contradiction to both the will of the 650,000-ish people who call the District home and of the idea of the Federal Government staying out of local affairs – both major Republican tenets. You know, until someone starts claiming that their religious need to get involved in someone else’s reproductive choices is being violated. But I digress.
So, Del. Norton has sworn to force a floor vote every time they try to block the law. Per RH Reality Check:
“Reproductive choice, where the overwhelming majority of Americans are with us? Want to attack that one? Go ahead,” Norton said. “LGBT discrimination? After Indiana? Try it out on the House floor.”
This may have given me an unbecoming case of the giggles. Go ahead, guys! Make her day! Eeee! And maybe just a little glimmer of hope that there may more good news ahead. When we keep the pressure on to do what’s right, the world will move. But it may take a while.
If you’re not acquainted with Norton’s several appearances on the late Colbert Report, I encourage you to do yourself a favor and check it out. Here, Steven Colbert introduced her as his “arch-nemesis.” And her first visit to the show in 2006 totally affirmed her position in my mind as a comedic genius, during the Better Know a District segment.
She’d have to have either a sense of humor or no soul to work in Congress this long. I sometimes think her non-voting status may give her a bit of freedom that the others don’t enjoy – since she’s out of some of the horse trading and can just forge ahead with her own local priorities, though of course it is a total lack of leverage in a place that lives and dies on influence. But before anyone listens to me on issues of politics, you should know that my primary resources for government news and information these days are Twitter and House of Cards.
But still, thank you Delegate Norton for your service and your sense of humor. We need both.
Thea Joselow is a digital media writer, editor and social media director based in Bethesda, Maryland. She has worked for such illustrious institutions as National Public Radio, Smithsonian Magazine, and at a strategic communications firm in Washington, D.C., but please don’t hold that against them. Thea likes to think she has a good sense of humor. All opinions, omissions and offenses are entirely her own. She can be found on Twitter at @tjoselow.