Commentary Law and Policy

Bob Bland: Two Generations Resisting for Our Daughters

Bob Bland

A “yes” vote on Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court does not represent us—in fact, it puts us, our families, and our communities in jeopardy.

I was arrested three times this week protesting Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings and it has been a galvanizing experience in dissent, despite the discomfort. Some have called it rinse, arrest, repeat—we enter the hearings, cause a disruption, and are led out by police. As we were escorted in cuffs into the back of a police van, I looked around and drew strength from the faces of the other resistors. I thought of my two daughters at home, whose futures compel me to put myself on the line.

Never have I felt so intensely during an action as when I interrupted the Kavanaugh hearings this week alongside my mom, Diana Bland. My mom has never risked arrest before. But this week, as the hearings began, she realized there was too much at stake and she knew it was time to take action. To disobey is to demonstrate to our senators, and to the U.S. public, that a “yes” vote on Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court does not represent us—in fact, it puts us, our families, and our communities in jeopardy.

My mom and I represent two generations committed to fighting for the generations to come. We believe that they deserve to have all the rights we have now, and then some: reproductive rights, immigrant rights, civil rights, voting rights, LGBTQ rights, the right to be free from gun violence. No matter which you’ve been most drawn to fight for, Kavanaugh’s confirmation has threatening implications across the spectrum.

Kavanaugh’s confirmation would mean gutting Roe v. Wade, since his record on reproductive rights speaks loud and clear. Just this Thursday, the New York Times released committee-confidential emails from Kavanaugh suggesting he would vote to gut abortion rights; his comments during the hearing about Roe and “settled law” were nothing but a distraction to mislead the Senate. He called birth control “abortion-inducing drugs” and signaled his support for exempting contraception from employer-provided insurance coverage. When my mom and I put our bodies on the line, we were doing so because we know every woman should be able to have full autonomy over her body—clearly not a belief that Kavanaugh shares.

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Kavanaugh’s confirmation could mean loosening our already lax gun laws and further jeopardizing the safety of people in the United States, particularly its youth who have risen up continuously to demand that our government put an end to gun violence. Kavanaugh’s judicial record is, again, all too clear on his Second Amendment stances. In 2011, as a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, he wrote a dissent explaining why he would have invalidated D.C.’s gun registration law and the city’s ban on semi-automatic firearm “assault weapons.” I know individuals as young as 18 who have been arrested protesting the hearings this week because they want to live lives free of gun violence.

Kavanaugh’s confirmation would put immigrant rights in grave danger. As law professor Justin Driver writes in Time magazine, it is possible that in the next few years the Supreme Court will hear a case that challenges the protections for undocumented people set out in Plyler v. Doe (1982). Federal courts have interpreted Plyler to mean teachers cannot be compelled to report undocumented students to Immigration and Customs Enforcement; nor can students be made to reveal their immigration statuses. And, as Driver points out, Kavanaugh’s record and federalist history makes it all too likely that he would weaken Plyler and endanger the immigrant community.

On civil rights and voting rights, Kavanaugh’s record shows that we should be sounding the alarm. We need to be calling on senators to vote “no,” because a Kavanaugh court would no doubt jeopardize the rights and freedoms of communities of color—particularly women of color. Kavanaugh has a history of anti-voting rights decisions, including upholding a South Carolina voter ID law that disproportionately disenfranchised Black voters. When questioned by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) on Wednesday about Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discriminatory voting practices, he refused to give a strong and definite answer. NAACP president Derrick Johnson said Kavanaugh’s confirmation would mean “the unraveling of civil rights gains of the last 50 to 60 years.” We can’t let that happen — not on our watch.

I worry about my daughters’ futures in a country whose leaders have callously shown their disregard for women’s health, children’s safety, voting rights, civil rights, and so much more. But I also worry about the future beyond my daughters—I worry about my granddaughters. I worry about about the next century of judicial rulings in this country. Kavanaugh’s confirmation would cement Donald Trump’s toxic legacy on the highest court in the land.

The reverberations of this week’s hearing will be felt for decades to come. No matter the outcome, I want future generations to look back and know that we were their advocates and that we raised our voices in dissent. My generation, and my mom’s generation, did not sit on the sidelines while our government turned back the clock on our rights and freedoms. This battle isn’t about rinse, arrest, repeat. It’s about making sure that our senators and fellow citizens know that this moment isn’t ordinary.

As I imagine the world I want for my family, my community, and all people to live in, fixtures like Roe, gun control, and the Affordable Care Act are fundamental to that vision. Our very future is at stake in Kavanaugh’s lifetime confirmation to the Supreme Court. And I believe our future is worth fighting for.

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