Independence Day isn't complete, and neither is our freedom

Independence Day isn't complete, and neither is our freedom

July 4th, 2014 in Opinion Times

Let's celebrate our freedoms today, but know that we have unfinished business.

Our Founding Fathers fought for American independence and wrote a fine framework for freedom that remains a work in progress.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

That wonderful and probably best-known sentence of the Declaration of Independence, ratified on July 4, 1776, was a great foundation for this strong and evolving nation.

About 144 years after that sentence was written, the 19th Amendment gave women a right to vote. Equal pay laws, equal credit laws and other gender equality measures followed. Real equal pay and gender equality is still an ideal.

Some 188 years after the Declaration was penned, Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law just two days before the country's July 4th holiday. And a year later, he and his congressional allies passed the Voting Right Act of 1965.

Somehow, in the last few years, Congress and the Supreme Court have been nibbling away at some of these gains. The high court gutted the voting rights act last year, and many Republican-controlled states have been systematically passing laws aimed at making women and blacks jump through ridiculous hoops to vote.

Also in the last year, those same states worked to systematically pass "TRAP" legislation -- Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. The Roe v. Wade case and subsequent Supreme Court decisions prevent states from banning abortion outright, but state legislation can make abortion services more difficult to access. The newest tool is to nitpick the clinics and doctors out of business with new state "standards." The "standards" are about facility sizes and doctors' hospital admitting requirements. It seems funny that no one is worried about these standards in doctors' offices where vasectomies or fertility procedures are handled.

Just in the past week, the Supreme Court said corporations with certain religious claims don't have to provide insurance coverage for the full gamut of women's contraception -- those they consider being tantamount to abortion. Of course they may still cover vasectomies and sterilizations and other forms of birth control -- and, yes, Viagra-like drugs.

More unfinished business is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act intended to prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The Senate has passed this bill, but the House of Representatives won't take a vote. Big surprise there: the only thing the House wants to vote on these days is the bogus repeal of the Affordable Care Act that is offering millions of people equal access to health insurance. Of course, that's better known as Obamacare.

Also last week, protesters took to streets in California to turn away three busloads of 140 immigrant children detained by U.S. authorities after they fled from violence-torn Central American countries.

In this land built from immigrants, and on the eve of our freedom's birth, people in Murietta, Calif., chanted "Go back home!" and carried signs saying "Return to Sender." Authorities decided that for the safety of the children, they would turn the U.S. Homeland Security buses around and take the children instead to the San Diego area.

That scene occurred as the nation's immigration system has been overwhelmed in recent weeks with a tide of about 52,000 Central American minors illegally entering the United States alone or with other children.

Undocumented Mexican migrants are often immediately deported, but the U.S. government detains and processes the Central Americans who come from violence-torn countries. They are eventually released and given a month to report to immigration offices.

Clearly, we still have lots of work to do in this wonderful and free democracy we call America.

But history shows that we can do it.

Equality and freedom -- like our nation -- are evolving, and our evolution seems to happen in fits and starts.

It isn't always with happy fireworks, but it's a fine freedom, as long as we continue our work to refine and shape it.