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Charles Meredith: Museum appointment, landmark decision

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Dear friends,

Good morning. Did you see that the Michener Art Museum has a new executive director? She is Kate Quinn who comes to the Michener from the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Art and Archeology.

According to the Herald (June 11), Quinn led the Penn Museum in planning and implementation for special exhibitions, public programs and special events. “At the Penn Museum, she led special exhibitions, including “Secrets of the Silk Road,” “Maya 2012: Lords of Time” and “The Golden Age of King Midas,” the Herald article began.

Quinn serves on the Executive Committee of the board of directors at the International Council of Museums. So, she’s connected to the world of museums and undoubtedly will bring fabulous shows to the Michener. Bravo Michener Museum.

On a sad note, the rowing community is mourning the death of John Hartigan, 80. His obituary noted that “He was an inspiring, wise-cracking coxswain who faced down spina bifida to become a world-class athlete,” the Inquirer reported. “Although only 5-foot-1 and 115 pounds, and born with a spine that didn’t develop properly, Hartigan had the competitive drive of an Olympic-caliber athlete.”

John Hartigan was a member of my boathouse. All of us knew him well. The coxswain (or “cox” for short) is the coach in the boat. Although John was only half the size of the giants that he ordered around, his commands held the authority of a king. On average, male heavyweight rowers are six feet four inches tall and weigh close to 200 pounds (women heavyweight rowers average five feet eleven and weigh 180 pounds). When an “8” wins a race, the eight rowers throw the cox in the river, an esteemed mark of triumph.

John won a gold medal at the 1974 World Rowing Championships. He won a gold medal in 1975, a bronze in 1979 and a gold in 1983. He was an inspiration for anyone who had the good fortune to know him.

Turning to national events, I was not surprised by the 6 to 3 vote of the U.S. Supreme Court that advanced the cause of LGBTQ rights (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer).

Many thought that Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch and Chief Justice John Roberts, both presumed to be conservative, would not join the four liberals on the bench. But they did. In fact Justice Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion.

Were you surprised?

I didn’t realize that before the landmark decision, 28 states had little or no workplace protections for the LGBTQ community. An employer could fire anyone because of her/his sexual orientation. I also thought that the LGBTQ population was close to 10 percent. It’s not. According to “USA Today,” the LGBTQ community approximates 4.5 percent, roughly 11 million people.

Is the Supreme Court more liberal today because of that decision? I don’t think so, any more than the court’s famous Brown v. Board of Education decision did in 1954. That case, decided 9 to 0, stated that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional, even if the segregated schools are otherwise equal in quality.

In 1954, the Warren Court was presumed to be “conservative” because former California Gov. Earl Warren was thought to be a conservative. But so important was this case, Chief Justice Warren believed that it should be decided 9 to 0. So he lobbied the other eight justices in order to issue a unanimous decision.

Jeffery Toobin is a celebrated journalist who writes about the Supreme Court. We often see and hear him on the TV networks. On the last page of his book, “The Nine,” Toobin urges his readers to realize that the public, through Presidential elections, determines what kind of justices will serve on the Supreme Court.

That having been said, many thought that Gorsuch and Roberts would vote with the other conservatives (Justices Alito, Kavanaugh, and Thomas) to create a 5 to 4 decision allowing sex discrimination to continue. They didn’t.

It all revolved around the word “sex.” Did “sex” mean gender, as in male and female, or did it mean much more? The 6 to 3 majority held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, also applies to gay or transgender people.

Bravo Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer for joining Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Gorsuch.

Sincerely, Charles Meredith


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