TIME politics

This Is the Time to Move Past the God vs. Gays Debate

Same-sex marriage supporters rejoice after the U.S Supreme Court hands down a ruling regarding same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong—Getty Images Same-sex marriage supporters rejoice after the U.S Supreme Court hands down a ruling regarding same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC.

Brandon Ambrosino has written for the New York Times, Boston Globe, The Atlantic, The New Republic, and the Daily Beast.

It's time to move on

Friday’s historic Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality presents all of us with an opportunity to hit the reset button. The marriage question has cast its shadow over American discourse for the past several years, and now it’s time to move beyond the God v. Gays stalemate.

No doubt, there will continue to be some grumblings, both quiet and shrill, about the decision, mostly from religious people. After all, 50% of Americans believe homosexuality is a sin, according to a September Pew poll. And no doubt there will also be some grumblings, strangely enough, from some gay activists, many of whom have made a career out of finding homophobia everywhere.

But grumblings or not, gay marriage is now the law of the land. And all of us—right and left, gay and straight, religious and agnostic—need to take a moment to regroup and refocus. From this day on, we need to behave differently toward one another.

Since Christians are under an extreme obligation from their founder to take the lead on reconciliation, I think they should be the ones to set the example here. That means, whatever their private theological convictions on the matter, they need to respect the law and find ways to honor and even celebrate their gay neighbors’ happiness.

There’s precedence for this—in the New Testament. In the early years of Christianity, a very strict group of Jesus followers, called Judaizers, argued that all those who wanted to follow Jesus must be circumcised. Yet Jesus had made religion accessible to people who were previously barred from it, and if Christians were to follow in his footsteps, they had to find a way of continuing his message of inclusion. One way they did that was to observe the spirit of the law without enforcing its every impossible letter.

In 49 AD, at the first church council, it was decided that when it came to circumcision, what really mattered was spiritual circumcision: the shape of the heart. This decision was reached after a careful consideration of Scripture and theology within a newer, fresher historical context. This was an extension of Jesus’s common refrain, “You’ve heard it said like that, but I say it like this.” To truly think in a way that honors the memory of Jesus is to think within this paradigm.

Now apply that to gay marriage in Christian congregations today. The church clings to arguments about natural law and marriage the way that some in the early church held fast to circumcision. The theological task for today’s Christians is the same as it was for those in the first century: How can we open up the binding teachings of Christianity (marriage) to all who wish to pursue it? How can we remain faithful to the witness of Scripture in a way that honors what we continue to learn about human experience?

What this means is thinking about the word “natural” and finding ways to open up the definition to let in same-sex couples. What this means is not that we say, “Marriage is no longer a sacrament,” but rather, “Marriage is a sacrament that we feel God is opening up to same-sex couples.”

If Christians can’t find the humility to re-evaluate their most cherished beliefs about sexuality, then at the very least they should err on the side of charity and quietly resign themselves to the fact that marriage equality is here to stay. They should also realize the larger culture tends to paint them as homophobic, and that this picture—caricature or not—is a big reason many churches continue to bleed members.

Gay-rights activism is also in severe need of a makeover. We can be loud and mean and spiteful. We’ve made a pastime out of shaming gay-marriage opponents, and we’ve been far too eager to call for someone to get fired from his job simply because he tweets out his reservations about LGBT issues. Friday’s SCOTUS decision is an opportunity for us to take a step back, remind ourselves that we are in a good place politically and socially, and make a renewed commitment to mature, democratic discourse. This means acknowledging that progress has been made.

Gay men can also take this opportunity to rethink our focus on sex. When I think of gay legacy, I think about Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, and Will and Grace, and flashy pride parades, and the Folsom Street Fair, and Fire Island. Now that marriage is available to us, it’s time for some to stop behaving with a cavalier attitude about sex. The legacy I want to leave for the next generation of gay men is one defined by commitment, integrity, and monogamy. Friday’s decision helps me clarify that.

Those who are happy with the decision should take a moment and celebrate. Those who are angry about it should take a moment and question their convictions to decide how best to proceed in a way that respects the law. But then we should move on. It’s about time.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

Gary Hart: America’s Founding Principles Are in Danger of Corruption

Gary Hart is a former United States senator

Welcome to the age of vanity politics and campaigns-for-hire. What would our founders make of this nightmare?

Four qualities have distinguished republican government from ancient Athens forward: the sovereignty of the people; a sense of the common good; government dedicated to the commonwealth; and resistance to corruption. Measured against the standards established for republics from ancient times, the American Republic is massively corrupt.

From Plato and Aristotle forward, corruption was meant to describe actions and decisions that put a narrow, special, or personal interest ahead of the interest of the public or commonwealth. Corruption did not have to stoop to money under the table, vote buying, or even renting out the Lincoln bedroom. In the governing of a republic, corruption was self-interest placed above the interest of all—the public interest.

By that standard, can anyone seriously doubt that our republic, our government, is corrupt? There have been Teapot Domes and financial scandals of one kind or another throughout our nation’s history. There has never been a time, however, when the government of the United States was so perversely and systematically dedicated to special interests, earmarks, side deals, log-rolling, vote-trading, and sweetheart deals of one kind or another.

What brought us to this? A sinister system combining staggering campaign costs, political contributions, political action committees, special interest payments for access, and, most of all, the rise of the lobbying class.

Worst of all, the army of lobbyists that started relatively small in the mid-twentieth century has now grown to big battalions of law firms and lobbying firms of the right, left, and an amalgam of both. And that gargantuan, if not reptilian, industry now takes on board former members of the House and the Senate and their personal and committee staffs. And they are all getting fabulously rich.

This development in recent years has been so insidious that it now goes without notice. The key word is not quid-pro-quo bribery, the key word is access. In exchange for a few moments of the senator’s time and many more moments of her committee staff’s time, fund-raising events with the promise of tens, even hundreds, of thousands of dollars are delivered.

Corruption in a federated republic such as ours operates vertically as well as horizontally. Seeing how business is conducted in Washington, it did not take long for governors of both parties across the country to subscribe to the special-interest state. Both the Republican and Democratic governors’ associations formed “social welfare” organizations composed of wealthy interests and corporate executives to raise money for their respective parties in exchange for close, personal access to individual governors, governors who almost surely could render executive decisions favorable to those corporate interests. A series of judicial decisions enabled these “social welfare” groups, supposedly barred from political activity, to channel virtually unlimited amounts of money to governors in exchange for access, the political coin of the realm in the corrupted republic, and to do so out of sight of the American people. Editorially, the New York Times commented that “the stealthy form of political corruption known as ‘dark money’ now fully permeates governor’s offices around the country, allowing corporations to push past legal barriers and gather enormous influence.”

Frustrated, irate discussions of this legalized corruption are met in the Washington media with a shrug. So what? Didn’t we just have dinner with that lobbyist for the banking industry, or the teachers’ union, or the airline industry at that well-known journalist’s house only two nights ago? Fine lady, and she used to be the chairman of one of those powerful committees. I gather she is using her Rolodex rather skillfully on behalf of her new clients. Illegal? Not at all. Just smart . . . and so charming.

There is little wonder that Americans of the right and many in the middle are apoplectic at their government and absolutely, and rightly, convinced that the game of government is rigged in favor of the elite and the powerful. Occupiers see even more wealth rising to the top at the expense of the poor and the middle class. And Tea Partiers believe their tax dollars are going to well-organized welfare parasites and government bureaucrats.

Recent months have seen, in effect, the legalization of Watergate. Who would have thought, forty years after the greatest political scandal and presidential abuse of power in U.S. history, that the Supreme Court of the United States would rule the practices that financed that scandal were now legal?

That is essentially the effect of the Citizens United decision. Bets may be taken as to the length of time that will expire before this tsunami of political money ends up in the pockets of break-in burglars, wiretap experts, surveillance magicians, and cyberpunks. Given the power and money at stake in presidential and congressional elections, it is inevitable that candidates or their operatives with larceny in their hearts will tap into the hundreds of millions of dollars that their campaigns are awash in to game the system in highly illegal ways.

And, of course, the ultimate victims of the corruption of the democratic process are not defeated candidates and parties but America’s citizens. Perhaps Supreme Court justices should have to experience a corrupted election process firsthand to recognize a hollowed-out democracy. As one who experienced Watergate in its multi-tentacled form, I know it is not pleasant to be placed under surveillance, to have your taxes audited, and to experience dirty tricks. All this happened to me, among a number of others, simply because we worked for an honest presidential candidate who dared challenge the authority and power of a president who had long since forgotten the integrity the democratic process requires.

The advent of legalized corruption launched by the Supreme Court empowers the superrich to fund their own presidential and congressional campaigns as pet projects, to foster pet policies, and to represent pet political enclaves. You have a billion, or even several hundred million, then purchase a candidate from the endless reserve bench of minor politicians and make him or her a star, a mouthpiece for any cause or purpose however questionable, and that candidate will mouth your script in endless political debates and through as many television spots as you are willing to pay for. All legal now.

To compound the political felony, much, if not most, campaign financing is now carried out in secret, so that everyday citizens have a decreasing ability to determine to whom their elected officials are beholden and to whom they must now give special access. As recently as the 2014 election, the facts documented this government of influence by secrecy: “More than half of the general election advertising aired by outside groups in the battle for control of Congress,” according to the New York Times, “has come from organizations that disclose little or nothing about their donors, a flood of secret money that is now at the center of a debate over the line between free speech and corruption.”

The five prevailing Supreme Court justices, holding that a legal entity called a corporation has First Amendment rights of free speech, might at least have required the bought-and-paid-for candidates to wear sponsor labels on their suits as stock-car drivers do. Though, for the time being, sponsored candidates will not be openly promoted by Exxon-Mobil or the Stardust Resort and Casino but by phony “committees for good government” smokescreens.

To add to the profound misdirection of American politics by the Supreme Court, we now have what might be called convergence in the garden of government influence.

Back in the 1960s Flannery O’Connor wrote the short story “Everything That Rises Must Converge.” It had to do with generational insensitivity between a mother and son, and between generations on the issue of race in society. In reading a piece by Thomas B. Edsall (“The Lobbyist in the Gray Flannel Suit,” New York Times, May 14, 2012), this title came to mind in a totally different context. The context is the lobbying maze in Washington and the convergence of dozens of noxious weeds in the garden of government into a handful of giant predator thornbushes now devouring that garden.

Of this handful, the largest by far is WPP (originally called Wire and Plastic Products; is there a metaphor here?), which has its headquarters in London and more than 150,000 employees in 2,500 offices spread around 107 countries. It, together with one or two conglomerating competitors, represents a fourth branch of government, vacuuming up former senators and House members and their spouses and families, key committee staff, former senior administration officials of both parties and several administrations, and ambassadors, diplomats, and retired senior military officers.

WPP has swallowed giant public relations, advertising, and lobbying outfits such as Hill & Knowlton and BursonMarsteller, along with dozens of smaller members of the highly lucrative special interest and influence-manipulation world. Close behind WPP is the Orwellian-named Omnicom Group and another converger vaguely called the Interpublic Group of Companies. According to Mr. Edsall, WPP had billings last year of $72.3 billion, larger than the budgets of quite a number of countries.

With a budget so astronomical, think how much good WPP can do in the campaign finance arena, especially since the Citizens United decision. The possibilities are almost limitless. Why pay for a senator or congresswoman here or there when you can buy an entire committee? Think of the banks that can be bailed out, the range of elaborate weapons systems that can be sold to the government, the protection from congressional scrutiny that can be paid for, the economic policies that can be manipulated.

The lobbying business is no longer about votes up or down on particular measures that may emerge in Congress or policies made in the White House. It is about setting agendas, deciding what should and should not be brought up for hearings and legislation. We have gone way beyond mere vote buying now. The converging Influence World represents nothing less than an unofficial but enormously powerful fourth branch of government.

To whom is this branch of government accountable? Who sets the agenda for its rising army of influence marketers? How easy will it be to not only go from office to a lucrative lobbying job but, more important, from lucrative lobbying job to holding office? Where are its loyalties if it is manipulating and influencing governments around the world? Other than as a trough of money of gigantic proportions, how does it view the government of the United States?

America’s founders knew one thing: The republics of history all died when narrow interests overwhelmed the common good and the interests of the commonwealth.

O’Connor took her story title from a belief of the French Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Teilhard de Chardin believed that all good would rise and that all that rose would eventually converge. We pray that he was right for, at the present moment, we have only prayer and no evidence. In the realm of twenty-first-century American politics, the opposite is surely coming true.

Welcome to the Age of Vanity politics and campaigns-for-hire featuring candidates who repeat their sponsored messages like ice-cream-truck vendors passing through the neighborhood. If the current Supreme Court had been sitting during Watergate in 1974, it would not have voted 9–0 to require the president to turn over legally incriminating tapes but instead would have voted to support the use of illegal campaign contributions to finance criminal cover-ups as an exercise in “free speech.”

What would our founders make of this nightmare of corruption? We only know, in Thomas Jefferson’s case, for example, that his distrust of central government had to do with the well-founded and prescient suspicion that its largesse would go to powerful and influential interests, especially financiers, who knew how to manipulate both the government and the financial markets. In particular, Jefferson envisioned sophisticated bankers speculating in public-debt issues with some if not all the interest incurred going into their pockets.

He was way ahead of his time. The limits of his imagination would not have encompassed the early twenty-first-century financial world where vast sums of money are manipulated like the world’s greatest three-card-monte game and nothing tangible is being produced—except fees and more money. Even the titans ruling over this game confessed, after the 2008 financial collapse, that they did not know what collateralized debt obligations, bundled derivatives, and other tricky instruments devised by clever twenty-eight-year-olds were about. All they knew was how to respond to their industry lobbyists’ requests for very large contributions to compliant members of congressional finance committees and to do so quickly and often. And they did get their money’s worth.

The scope and scale of this genuine scandal (as distinguished from vastly more mundane behavior that passes for scandal in the media) is the single greatest threat to our form of government. It is absolutely incompatible with the principles and ideals upon which America was founded. At the very least, we Americans cannot hold ourselves up to the world as the beacon of democracy so long as we permit, as long as we acquiesce in, corruption so far beyond the standards of the true republic that our government cannot be proclaimed an ideal for other aspiring nations.

On a more personal level, how can public service be promoted as an ideal to young people when this sewer corrupts our Republic? At this point in early twenty-first-century America, the greatest service our nation’s young people could provide is to lead an army of outraged young Americans armed with brooms on a crusade to sweep out the rascals and rid our capital of the money changers, rent seekers, revolving door dancers, and special interest deal makers and power brokers and send them back home to make an honest living, that is, if they still remember how to do so.

What angers truly patriotic Americans is that this entire Augean stable is legal. Even worse, recent Supreme Court decisions placing corporations under the First Amendment protection of free speech for political purposes compounds the tragedy of American democracy. For all practical political purposes, the government of the United States is for sale to the highest bidder.

A harsh judgment? Indeed. But it is impossible to claim to love one’s country and not be outraged at how corrupt it has become. For former senators and representatives to trade a title given them by the voters of their respective states and districts for cash is beyond shameful. It is outrageous.

“I tremble for my country when I contemplate that God is just.” Those words of Thomas Jefferson, enshrined on the walls of his memorial, referred to the institution of slavery. Today he might readily render the same judgment about corruption in and of the American Republic.

Imagine if you will the response of George Washington, James Madison, Jefferson, John Adams, and even the financial pragmatist Alexander Hamilton were they to observe today’s lobbyists at work, especially former government officials, organizing fund-raising events and delivering bundles of checks. They would be appalled. Even more, they would be ashamed.

Can this bazaar of special interest stalls in the halls of Congress, the money changers in the temple of democracy, be justified by the realities of modern times? If so, it is not readily apparent how. America can be a mass democracy of 330 million people. It is engaged commercially, diplomatically, and militarily all over the world. We live in an age of instant communication and international travel. The amounts of money involved in administering our government are staggering, with appreciably more zeros than even in the 1970s and ’80s. But none of these facts lift the burden of ethics in public life, what the founders called virtue, from the shoulders of public servants.

It is an error of serious proportion to dismiss corruption in twenty-first-century American democracy on the grounds that this has all been going on from the beginning, that boys will be boys, that politicians are always on the take. Past incidents of the violation of public ethics provide no argument for accepting the systemic and cancerous commercialization of modern American politics.

For that is what it is. Political office, public service, and engagement in governance must not be monetized. Even if no laws are broken, even if a public servant can walk out the door one day and cash in his or her experience and title for cash the next, that does not make it right. Everything strictly legal is not therefore ethical. When the founders discussed virtue, they were harking back to ancient Athens and the ideal of the republic. And, as scholars of ancient Greek and Roman political texts, they knew in their minds and in their hearts that a republic with leaders who lacked virtue would not long survive.

That is the issue. With the dubious endorsement by the Supreme Court of the United States, which will have its own history to answer to, using First Amendment protection of free speech to legitimize the most egregious violations of the principles of the republic is to invite the eventual erosion of the ideal of the American Republic, to reduce this great nation and its heritage to the worst kind of mundane governance, to prostitute a noble experiment on the altar of expediency and greed, and to leave coming generations to ponder what went wrong.

“Just because it is legal doesn’t make it right” should be carved above every congressional doorway, every cabinet department, and even the White House itself. Contrast the fact that upon returning to Independence, Missouri, in 1953, Harry Truman refused to take even a pencil from the White House (“It didn’t belong to me,” he said, by way of explanation) with modern presidents whose political networks have graciously waited until they departed the White House to make them rich.

Though quaintly used in recent times to denote proper behavior for ladies, virtue as applied to public service is a powerful standard. It genuinely does require having no personal interest in the public’s business, not only at the time one is involved in decision making but also thereafter. The fact that many former presidents and prime ministers of European democracies have enriched themselves in questionable ways after leaving office does not justify similar behavior on the part of American politicians. We hold ourselves to a higher standard.

Our ancestors did not depart Europe and elsewhere to seek freedom and self-government alone. They came to these shores to escape social and political systems that were corrosive and corrupt. Two and a quarter centuries later, we are returning to those European practices. We are in danger of becoming a different kind of nation, one our founders would not recognize and would deplore.

Even as politicians and pundits alike pummel the fiscal deficit, we are developing an integrity deficit of mounting proportions. And one is not disconnected from the other. Because of the erosion of the integrity of our governing system, and the principles and ideals underlying it, the fiscal deficit increases. The government spending so many conservatives claim to abhor includes not only the social safety net of Roosevelt and Johnson, but also the war-making excursions of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. It is all government spending. And it includes favorite pork-barrel projects of every member of both houses of Congress of both political parties, and every one of those most loudly condemning “wasteful government spending.” Those projects are produced by the lobbying interests that raise money for those members of Congress in direct proportion to their effectiveness at bringing government-financed projects to their states and districts. By definition, if it is a project in my state or district, it is not wasteful.

Restoration of the Republic of Conscience requires reduction and eventual elimination of the integrity deficit. Virtue, the disinterestedness of our elected officials, must replace political careerism and special interests. The national interest, what is best for our country and coming generations, must replace struggles for power, bitter partisanship, and ideological rigidity. This is not dreamy idealism; it is an idealism rooted in the original purpose of this nation.

We were not created to be like other nations. We were created as an alternative to monarchy, aristocracy, oligarchy, and corrupt political systems. The more we follow the easy path, the one paved for the benefit of the wealthy and powerful, the more we stray from our originally intended purpose and the more we lose our unique purpose for existence.

Will America continue to offer a comfortable life for many? I hope so. Will we continue to have a strong army? If we are willing to pay for it, yes. Will we continue to provide the world’s entertainment? I presume so. But these are not the real questions.

The question is: By adhering to its highest principles and ideals, will America continue to have the moral authority to lead all people of goodwill? The answer remains to be seen. And that answer will have much to do with whether we have the courage to drive the money changers from the temple of democracy and recapture government of the people, for the people, and by the people.

In addition to the rise of the national security state, and the concentration of wealth and power in America, no development in modern times sets us apart more from the nation originally bequeathed to us than the rise of the special interest state. There is a Gresham’s law related to the republican ideal. Bad politics drives out good politics. Legalized corruption drives men and women of stature, honor, and dignity out of the halls of government. Self-respecting individuals cannot long tolerate a system of election and reelection so dependent on cultivating the favor of those known to expect access in return. Such a system is corrosive to the soul.

Some years back a prominent senator was fond of saying with regard to the relatively modest lobbying influence of the day: “If I can’t take their money and drink their whiskey, and then vote against them, I shouldn’t be here.” That was then. And then campaigns cost much less than they do today. Few if any can now claim to take their money and drink their whiskey and vote against them. Anyone who does will soon find closed wallets and fleeing contributors.

Campaign funds now go to feed an army of consultants (or “strategists” in the coinage of the day), media advisors, media producers, television-time buyers, speechwriters, schedulers, advance specialists, crowd raisers, and more specialized campaign bells and whistles than everyday citizens can imagine. Campaigning is a major industry now that consumes hundreds of millions of dollars and, in national campaigns, billions of dollars. Almost all of it goes to the media, the same media whose commentators regularly deplore the costs of campaigns.

The headquarters of the permanent campaign industry in Washington are but a stone’s throw, if that, from the offices of the lobbying firms. The treasurers of most campaigns have only to funnel the checks from lobbyist-bundlers (those who collect bundles of checks) into the accounts of the campaign management companies. It is a great hydra-headed monster, one that is rapidly devouring American democracy.

The significant issue is the effect of this relatively recent conversion of a democratic process to a major industry that devours money. That industry and all it represents is a departure from the American ideal that is different not only in scale but also in kind.

We are not the same country we started out to be. We cannot conduct our political process the way we are doing in the twenty-first century and claim to adhere to our earliest principles. We must decide who we are. And if that decision is to restore our highest ideals, then major changes must be made in the way we elect our presidents and our members of Congress.

 

Gary Hart is a former United States senator and presidential candidate and the author of 21 books.

From THE REPUBLIC OF CONSCIENCE by Gary Hart. Published by arrangement with Blue Rider Press, a member of Penguin Group USA. Copyright © 2015 by GaryHart.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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Watch My Family React to the SCOTUS Ruling — and Start Planning a Wedding

Kinsey Morrison is a student at Stanford University and the youngest speaker at the United for Marriage Equality Rally at the Supreme Court on April 28.

We already have the flower girls picked out

This is a day that I have waited for, and my moms have waited for, our entire lives. We have always felt like a family, but now we know that when my moms get married in March, on the 21st anniversary of their engagement, that the country will finally recognize us as a family and give validity to the love that we have always known. I’m very proud to be an American today.

We’ve already started planning the wedding. We have Pinterest Maid of Honor boards, bridal boards, and possible venues. We have the Reverends picked out. It’s going to be a pretty traditional wedding in a lot of ways, and we’re going to have the biggest party ever because we’ve been waiting for it for two decades.

Today I’m all about celebrating; tomorrow I’m getting back to work. I want make sure we have nondiscrimination laws in Kentucky. Now, my parents could get married and be fired from their jobs the next day. I also want to work to make sure there are fair adoption laws for all same-sex couples. More immediately, I’m watching to make sure all states are rolling out the marriage laws as they should. I have faith that my state will make me proud. We’re already watching the first legal gay marriage in Kentucky today. I can’t wait until it’s my moms’ turn.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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Bobby Jindal: Supreme Court Decision Is Not the End of the Obamacare Debate

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announces his candidacy for the 2016 Presidential nomination during a rally on June 24, 2015 in Kenner, Louisiana.
Sean Gardner—Getty Images Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announces his candidacy for the 2016 Presidential nomination during a rally on June 24, 2015 in Kenner, Louisiana.

Bobby Jindal is the governor of Louisiana.

In order to win, we conservatives first have to play

Thursday, the Supreme Court had its say on Obamacare; soon, the American people will have theirs.

As a matter of law, the Court’s decision upholding subsidies for states participating in the federally run insurance exchange, healthcare.gov, violates the plain text of Obamacare. The statute expressly restricted insurance subsidies to those individuals purchasing coverage through an “Exchange established by the state.” But just as Chief Justice Roberts three years ago decreed that the individual mandate functioned as a tax, even though both Congress and President Barack Obama stated that it wasn’t, the Court decided that “Exchange established by the state” meant any type of Exchange, whether established by states or by Washington.

It’s a sad outcome for the rule of law — and the English language. But when it comes to the political debate surrounding Obamacare, the Court’s ruling ultimately decides little. Of course, Obama, who took an entirely predictable victory lap yesterday, would have you believe otherwise. But we’ve seen his triumphalism before — and have seen it come crashing back to reality.

Three years ago, Obama stated he wouldn’t “refight old battles,” mere hours after seven Supreme Court justices — including his own former solicitor general — struck down the law’s mandatory Medicaid expansion as unconstitutional “economic dragooning” of the states. On election night 2012, the president promised to “move forward” — months before at least 4.7 million Americans received insurance cancellation notices thanks to Obamacare. And this April, the president arrogantly declared that “the repeal debate is and should be over” — mere weeks before his native state of Hawaii shut its failed insurance exchange, an effort the federal government spent more than $200 million funding.

So, much as the President would like the debate on Obamacare to be over, it isn’t. The debate persists in large part because the law has singularly failed in its prime objective: Containing health care costs. Consider why this Supreme Court case mattered so much to the administration in the first place. The law spends over $1.7 trillion on subsidized coverage to make insurance more “affordable,” largely to offset the new mandates and regulations that have raised the price of insurance.

And with myriad insurers proposing double-digit premium increases for next year — some as high as 50% — candidate Obama’s 2008 promise to lower insurance premiums by $2,500 per family is further away then ever. No wonder the law remains singularly unpopular. When it comes to winning the debate on Obamacare, there is still all to play for.

But in order to win, we conservatives first have to play. That means outlining our alternative vision for health care: How we would restore freedom and choice to a health care sector currently lacking for both — and most importantly, how we would slow, and hopefully reverse, the trend of skyrocketing health care costs.

As I write this, I stand as the sole major declared presidential candidate (with the possible exception of Bernie Sanders) to put forward my vision on health care, and an alternative to Obamacare. As proud as I am of my plan, that is a boast I wish I were not able to make. Because Republicans, from the top down, must outline a clear and coherent vision for health care to win the trust of the American people to repeal this President’s health law.

While we should be shouting our vision from the rooftops, many of my fellow candidates have managed barely a whisper about how exactly they would repeal Obamacare, or what they would do to tackle the main issue plaguing our health care system: rising costs. Sen. Mike Lee recently stated that lack of an Obamacare replacement plan should be a disqualifier for any conservative presidential candidate. He’s absolutely right. We owe it to the American people to release our plans well before November 2016, and to have a robust debate within our party about what should come after Obamacare.

Because, contrary to this President’s self-proclaimed edicts, yesterday’s Supreme Court decision is not the end of the debate on Obamacare.

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled, the debate shifts back to the elected branches of government — the ones that caused our health care mess in the first place. It is there that conservatives can complete our work to repeal Obamacare.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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Read Obama’s Speech About Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Obama gave this speech after the historic Supreme Court ruling on Friday

Our nation was founded on a bedrock principle that we are all created equal. The project of each generation is to bridge the meaning of those founding words with the realities of changing times—a never-ending quest to ensure those words ring true for every single American

Progress on this journey often comes in small increments. Sometimes two steps forward, one step back, compelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens. And then sometimes there are days like this, when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.

This morning, the Supreme Court recognized that the Constitution guarantees marriage equality. In doing so, they have reaffirmed that all Americans are entitled to the equal protection of the law; that all people should be treated equally, regardless of who they are or who they love.

This decision will end the patchwork system we currently have. It will end the uncertainty hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples face from not knowing whether they’re marriage, legitimate in the eyes of one state, will remain if they decide to move or even visit another.

This ruling will strengthen all of our communities by offering to all loving same-sex couples the dignity of marriage across this great land.

In my second inaugural address, I said that if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. It is gratifying to see that principle enshrined into law by this decision.

This ruling is a victory for Jim Obergefell and the other plaintiffs in the case. It’s a victory for gay and lesbian couples who have so long for their basic civil rights. It’s a victory for their children, whose families will now be recognized as equal to any other. It’s a victory for the allies and friends and supporters who spent years, even decades working and praying for change to come.

And this ruling is a victory for America. This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts. When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free.

My administration has been guided by that idea. It’s why we stopped defending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and why we were pleased when the court finally struck down the central provision of that discriminatory law. It’s why we ended, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

From extending full marital benefits to federal employees and their spouses to expanding hospital visitation rights for LGBT patients and their loved ones, we’ve made real progress in advancing equality for LGBT Americans in ways that were unimaginable not too long ago.

I know a change for many of our LGBT brothers and sisters must have seemed so slow for so long. But compared to so many other issues, America’s shift has been so quick.

I know that Americans of good will continue to hold a wide range of views on this issue. Opposition, in some cases, has been based on sincere and deeply held beliefs. All of us who welcome today’s news should be mindful of that fact and recognize different viewpoints, revere our deep commitment to religious freedom.

But today should also give us hope that on the many issues with which we grapple, often painfully, real change is possible. Shift in hearts and minds is possible. And those who have come so far on their journey to equality have a responsibility to reach back and help others join them, because for all of our differences, we are one people, stronger together than we could ever be alone. That’s always been our story.

We are big and vast and diverse, a nation of people with different backgrounds and beliefs, different experiences and stories but bound by the shared ideal that no matter who you are or what you look like, how you started off or how and who you love, America is a place where you can write your own destiny.

We are people who believe every child is entitled to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There is so much more work to be done to extend the full promise of America to every American. But today, we can say in no uncertain terms that we’ve made our union a little more perfect.

That’s the consequence of a decision from the Supreme Court, but more importantly, it is a consequence of the countless small acts of courage of millions of people across decades who stood up, who came out, talked to parents, parents who loved their children no matter what, folks who were willing to endure bullying and taunts, and stayed strong, and came to believe in themselves and who they were.

And slowly made an entire country realize that love is love.

What an extraordinary achievement, but what a vindication of the belief that ordinary people can do extraordinary things; what a reminder of what Bobby Kennedy once said about how small actions can be like pebbles being thrown into a still lake, and ripples of hope cascade outwards and change the world.

Those countless, often anonymous heroes, they deserve our thanks. They should be very proud. America should be very proud.

Thank you.

TIME politics

Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson: SCOTUS Ruling ‘Brings Tears to My Eyes’

Actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson attends the 30th Annual Lucille Lortel Awards at NYU Skirball Center on May 10, 2015 in New York City.
Michael Stewart—WireImage Actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson attends the 30th Annual Lucille Lortel Awards at NYU Skirball Center on May 10, 2015 in New York City.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson is an actor known for his role in Modern Family.

But there is still more work to be done

Justin and I are both so emotional over today’s SCOTUS ruling. As a kid, it’s a day I never thought I would see and it brings tears to my eyes to know that the next generation of Americans will grow up in a country where their love is equal and their rights cannot be denied. I am so proud of everyone who has been on the front lines fighting for equality. Today is a great day for celebration, but tomorrow there is more work to do to expand LGBT equality beyond marriage. Everyone at our foundation, Tie The Knot, is excited to continue our work dedicated to that cause. In the meantime, cheers to a day for the history books!

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME LGBT

See How Support For Same-Sex Marriage Changed Over Time

See how attitudes have changed over the years

The Supreme Court ruled Friday that all 50 states must allow same-sex couples to be married, and recognize same-sex marriages in states where it was legalized already.

Here are a series of charts that show how approval ratings for same-sex marriage have changed over recent years for different groups.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

Justice John Roberts’s Obamacare Decision Is an Orwellian Mess

Chief Justice John G. Roberts poses for a group photograph at the Supreme Court building on Sept. 29, 2009 in Washington DC.
Mark Wilson—Getty Images Chief Justice John G. Roberts poses for a group photograph at the Supreme Court building on Sept. 29, 2009 in Washington DC.

Ilya Shapiro is a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute and co-author of "Religious Liberties for Corporations? Hobby Lobby, the Affordable Care Act, and the Constitution."

Roberts combined two unholy strains of judicial agency: liberal activism and conservative pacifism

For the second time in three years, Chief Justice John Roberts has saved President Barack Obama’s signature legislation, his eponymous healthcare law that seems to enjoy more legitimacy at the Supreme Court than among the American people. What is going on here? Is the George W. Bush appointee a secret liberal, or at least a jurist who “grew in office” like so many before him?

Actually no, quite the opposite. He’s the epitome of a small-c conservative, meaning that temperamentally and philosophically he works to preserve the status quo and not rock the boat. His mission isn’t to foment a constitutional revolution or expound some jurisprudential theory, but to “call balls and strikes.”

You can see this in his too-smooth background, checking all the right boxes and excelling at the legal craft, but never identifying as an originalist or movement conservative. (For example, he attended the conservative Federalist Society meetings but has said he was never a member.)

You can see this in his minimalism, the hyper-nuanced approach to resolving cases that frustrate those who would rather throw out unconstitutional laws and announce clear principles than tweak them and live to fight another day. (Recall last term’s record unanimity that papered over severe disagreements and generated concurring opinions that were dissents in all but name.)

You can also see it in his incrementalism, striking down laws or regulations only when backed into a corner and nibbling at edge of the law before taking a larger bite. (Think of Citizens United and Shelby County, which came only after narrower rulings on campaign finance and voting rights, respectively, and warned Congress to fix the problem so the court wouldn’t have to.)

This sort of judicial philosophy is really ur-conservatism, in a line of jurisprudence running from Oliver Wendell Holmes through Felix Frankfurter—whom Roberts quoted in Thursday’s King v. Burwell—and Robert Bork. Even Justice Antonin Scalia, nobody’s minimalist and King’s vituperous dissenter, has made his peace with the New Deal’s constitutional warping and refuses to abandon doctrines, like “substantive due process,” that he himself rhetorically assails.

Jurists of this school bend over backwards to uphold legislation, which in recent years we’ve seen not just in the 2012 Obamacare case NFIB v. Sebelius but also the 2005 medical marijuana case Gonzales v. Raich—in which Scalia joined a ruling that allowed the federal government to regulate plants people grow in their own backyards for their own consumption.

And when you merge that instinct with the modern penchant to rewrite laws to make them work better, you get King. As my colleague Roger Pilon put it, with Roberts’s opinion, “we have a perverse blend of the opposing positions of the judicial restraint and activist schools that reigned a few decades ago.” This is the convergence of two unholy strains of judicial agency: liberal activism and conservative pacifism.

Activism, typified by the four Democratic-appointed justices, finds in the Constitution no judicially administrable limits on federal power. Pacifism, a knee-jerk reaction to the activism of the 1960s and ’70s, argues that unelected judges shouldn’t overturn the people’s laws. Neither approach considers that the Constitution’s structural provisions, as well as the standard canons of statutory interpretation, aren’t dry exercises in political or linguistic theory, but a means to protect individual liberty against the concentrated power of popular majorities.

So, to avoid upending Obamacare’s operation as he assumes Congress wanted, Chief Justice John Roberts rewrote three parts of it: turning the individual mandate into a tax, reworking the Medicaid expansion, and now finding that “established by the state” means “established by the federal government.”

As Roberts instructed at the end of his Orwellian King opinion—or perhaps it was Carrollian, with words meaning whatever he says they mean—“in every case we must respect the role of the Legislature, and take care not to undo what it has done.” Ever the good conservative, the chief justice again attempted to show judicial “restraint.”

There’s a lesson here for those who think that being a judicial “umpire” entails making hard calls rather than squinting, kicking home plate a few inches, and inevitably finding that the ball crossed the strike zone. They should insist on engaged, principled judges who defer only to the rule of law. Such nominees might be harder to confirm, but at least it would be worth the effort.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

These Are the 141 Words That Just Changed History

Lisa Grunwald is the co-author, with her husband Stephen Adler, of The Marriage Book: Centuries of Advice, Inspiration and Cautionary Tales, from Adam & Eve to Zoloft.

And get ready for them to be quoted in every wedding this summer

With his historic swing vote in the landmark case Obergefell v. Hodges, Justice Anthony Kennedy changed the map, the finances, the dignity, the hopes, and the laws of a nation. But with these words from his decision, he also gave the American people a definition of love and marriage that will endure, no matter what political storms it also brings.

SCOTUS gay marriage decision lgbt

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

SCOTUS Ruling’s Littlest Winners: Children of LGBTQ Parents

Gabriel Blau, executive director of the Family Equality Council, speaks with TIME about what the same-sex marriage decision means for families with LGBTQ parents

TIME: What do you think of the Supreme Court ruling Friday that made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states?

The Supreme Court made the right decision. It affirmed that all LGBTQ people are equal, that access to marriage is a constitutional right, and that our families deserve the protection and respect that all families deserve.

What does this mean for families of LGBTQ parents?

Around the country there are millions of Americans in families with LGBTQ parents. Before this decision, in 13 states, LGBTQ parents still could not get married. Today every couple has the opportunity to choose to get married if they want and to protect their children in a way that marriage can. One of the greatest things about this decision is that it provides a great deal of dignity to our families. Over and over we hear from children of LGBTQ parents of the lack of dignity and respect they often receive from people who treat their families as not real families because their parents aren’t married. Today that ends in this country once and for all.

What does this mean for you personally?

I’m sitting here in my office with my 7-year-old son. My husband and I were lucky enough to be married in New York in 2011. Our marriage is recognized in New York. But now across the country, our relationship is truly treated equally. And that’s an unbelieveable feeling. It gives me the confidence and security that I need to know that our son is protected—wherever we may go.

What would you like to see moving forward?

The Family Equality Council has a full family-values agenda, of which marriage equality is a key piece. Now that we have that, we can move forward on adoption rights. Marriage equality does not solve all our adoption issues. It does not solve the foster-care crisis. It does not solve family and medical leave. It certainly does not solve all the economic issues that our families face. There are common-sense steps that we can take to make sure this country lives up to its values and that our families are as strong as possible.

What’s the significance of this moment?

This took a huge amount of energy and effort from countless people. It has taken strategy and confidence; it’s taken smarts and sweat equity. We’re in a historic moment that we should celebrate. We should hold on to this moment and this feeling and remember that this is what this country can feel like every day. We can come together to make decisions to make this country a better place, for families, for children, for all who live here. That’s the power of our democracy. And I have sincere belief that we are going to take that energy forward in a positive way.

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