Blog|Social Justice Working Group
In addition to the End Slavery for Good initiative, Grace Cathedral keeps tabs on ballot measures and legislation that addresses racial justice, gender justice, creation care, and gun violence. There were initiatives in several states on each of these subjects in November.
The Supreme Court majority’s declared intention to recalibrate constitutional protections for individual rights was clearly on the minds of voters. Access to abortion and contraception, which is a question of racial and economic health equity as well as gender justice, was codified by voters in California, Michigan, and Vermont in their state constitutions. Kentucky and Montana rejected measures that would have reduced legal protections for reproductive choice. In Nevada, voters adopted a constitutional amendment stating that equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the state or any of its political subdivisions on account of race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression, age, disability, ancestry or national origin.
Health justice and equity, as more broadly defined, were also on the November ballot. Oregon voters amended their state constitution to grant every resident a fundamental right to cost-effective, clinically appropriate, and affordable health care. South Dakota voters expanded their Medicaid program to cover not only the state’s poorest residents but also people between ages 18 and 65 with incomes at or below 138% of the federal poverty level. South Dakota thus becomes the seventh state in recent years where citizens overrode the objections of their Republican elected officials and voted to take advantage of opportunities in the Affordable Care Act to expand health care access for low-income residents.
Voters in New York approved a $4.2 billion bond measure to protect the health of the community through climate change mitigation, flood-risk reduction, water infrastructure, and land conservation and recreation projects. At least 35% of bond revenue is earmarked for disadvantaged communities. The decision by California voters to reject a proposed income tax surcharge for zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and subsidies appears to be attributable to the mixed motives and messaging of the sponsors rather than misgivings about the pace of clean energy conversion. The Nevada electorate narrowly approved a firearm permit-to-purchase law with mandatory safety training and background checks. Fourteen other states and Washington, D.C., already have such laws. Nevada also joined ten other jurisdictions in banning high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Let us be thankful for the large turnout of voters in the November elections and grateful for people of faith who helped pass significant new measures. Let’s also be hopeful that these expressions of popular democracy will guide and inform our legislators and government officials in the weeks and months to come.