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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Gasket-blowing in progress

by John Brummett | July 25, 2021 at 1:45 a.m.

Separate federal judges in Little Rock enjoined last week what until recently were the two very worst pieces of legislation enacted by the Legislature this year.

It's become necessary now to call those acts only the second-worst and third-worst.

That's because a new law conceptually offensive has in recent weeks been rendered actually tragic.

Big-government conservatism has given us a state law that forbids schools from requiring masks this fall when a lethal coronavirus variant probably will still rage. This law means that your local school board may not exercise its local judgment to protect your children.

So, yes, a bill brazenly illegal on its face--illegal by its very point--to ban abortions outright in our state although federal case law plainly permits them was at most the second-worst new law. It has strong competition for first runner-up from the bill saying doctors and parents may not make decisions to treat transgender children with hormone therapy or even continue those therapies already underway.

Those were the two new laws on which separate federal judges last week imposed preliminary injunctions, which are significant interim dispositions requiring a likelihood of a lawsuit's permanent success. That is to say that a preliminary injunction makes a permanent injunction the strong betting favorite.

Lest you doubt the significance of these interim dispositions, consider the post on Twitter on Wednesday by the Arkansas man happening to have a hot line to God.

State Sen. Jason Rapert of Conway, relatively quiet recently while Sen. Trent Garner of El Dorado stepped up to fill the void as notorious right-wing menace, wrote: "We have an out-of-control federal judiciary. They want to force states to keep killing babies and force states to allow minors to be chemically castrated."

It's strange that Rapert would lose it--or profess to lose it--so early in a process of his own design.

Doth he not heed the Holy Scripture in its extolling of patience?

Rapert is the chief legislative advocate for the outright abortion ban, which he knows--indeed intends--to break the law of Roe v. Wade that allows abortions with certain restrictions.

Rapert made clear that he wanted to get an Arkansas law in the system in case the new conservative U.S. Supreme Court would bless the Arkansas case as its vehicle for repealing Roe v. Wade and making American women mere birthing vessels even in cases of rape or incest.

Rapert's scheme--breaking a law to facilitate getting the law repealed--always depended on a federal district court ruling that would get appealed to the federal appellate court and then accepted for review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Federal Judge Kristine Baker in Little Rock called Rapert's handiwork "categorically unconstitutional."

It's like Arkansas passing a law permitting slavery. It's a lot like that, actually. It's kind of the same thing, with women as the modern-day slaves.

Legal experts say not even a right-wing court would likely accept a direct lawbreaking state statute as a means of repealing Roe v. Wade. Justices probably would prefer an actual legal question, after which they might commence elaborating.

Anyway, successful completion of the first step was no call for Jason to blow a church-lady gasket.

That's except for this possible factor: He is a Republican primary candidate for lieutenant governor, and Republican primaries in Arkansas are won these days by the candidates blowing the most gaskets about the horrible American government--the evil President Biden, the congressional heathens and even those judges who wouldn't let Donald Trump steal the election even after he nominated them.

In the matter of what Rapert calls the "chemical castration" law--because that's the favored right-wing phrasing--Arkansas joined several red states this year in legislatively mandated restrictions on transgender persons.

But it went further than anyone else in passing--without any serious medical study--a bill providing that there can be no gender-based hormone therapy for minor children in Arkansas even if physicians and parents are agreed that is the right option.

Federal Judge James Moody ruled quickly after a brief hearing that enforcement of the law would be enjoined for now because the law struck him as unconstitutionally extreme, medically impractical, sexually discriminatory and over-broad in presuming to control what Arkansas parents and children could do even outside the state.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson had vetoed the bill for reasons akin to the judge's, and he rushed out a statement saying he told us so. He probably wanted to suggest that the ruling seemed so easy for the judge that his own opposition was not a matter of losing his conservative religion.

It just meant he was a logical lawyer with a personal sense of justice who wasn't going to be seeking office in the state again.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Print Headline: Gasket-blowing in progress

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