The leadership of young people and the folly of lawmakers

May 19 began auspiciously.  As the sun shone on a beautiful Spring day, dozens of youth leaders gathered to advocate for the Senate to hold hearings on the President’s Supreme Court Justice nominee, Chief Judge Merrick Garland.  Calling on Constitutional authority, historical precedent, pressing need, and basic math, these young people made the ironclad case that we cannot waste the rest of 2016 waiting to see what happens in the November election. We need a full court now.  

Their leadership was inspiring.

But then legislative bodies around the nation started voting.  And all hell broke loose.



In Oklahoma, lawmakers decreed that performing abortion is a felony and that physicians who provided abortion care will have their licenses revoked. In South Carolina, lawmakers brought to the full South Carolina Senate a bill that would allow just their county to discriminate against transgender people. And in the United States Congress, a bill to prevent employment discrimination against LGBT people failed at the last minute, as seven Representatives switched their votes amid shouts of “Shame!”

These actions defy the Constitution, discard basic human rights, and are an embarrassment to the bodies in which they occurred.  Most young people believe that abortion should be available in their communities. Most believe in transgender people’s rights to dignity, privacy, and respect. And a vast majority believe that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is wrong.  Young people value fairness, compassion, and progress, not retrograde bigotry. They want legislators to do real work, not waste time and taxpayer money with attacks on women and LGBT people.

Prioritizing sensible solutions over extremist nonsense? Clearly, we need to listen to the youth of our nation. They can get us out of this mess – if we let them lead.