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On political end zone dances

The Better UTAH Beat airs Tuesday afternoons on KVNU’s For the People. Podcasts of previous episodes are available here.
When a football player makes a touchdown they sometimes perform what is known as an end zone dance.  The player is excited, they just scored a goal, they want to revel a bit, so many of them do a little dance, jump up and high-five some fans, some even do backflips. This is where it gets tricky. Too much end zone dancing is viewed as bad sportsmanship. Rubbing your success in the face of the other team. If a referee views an end zone dance as excessive, they can give the player a penalty.

Politics is no stranger to sports analogies and the end zone dance has made its way into the political lexicon as the term used to describe what happens when someone wins a political victory and then celebrates that win.

LGBT Utahns were accused of doing an excessive end zone dance first when Judge Shelby ruled Amendment 3 unconstitutional and then more recently when the 10th Circuit Court affirmed that ruling. Pundits, elected officials and opponents of marriage equality accused loving same sex couples who were excited about finally having the opportunity to marry their partners, of doing an end zone dance—of holding their win in the faces of all opponents and taunting them with their media-covered marriages.

What is at stake? In case after case, opponents of marriage equality have been unable to prove any harm to heterosexual marriages or society in general if LGBT couples are allowed to marry, while proponents have shown significant rights being denied to LGBT citizens. With these rulings, loving couples have been able to be legally married, to adopt children—in many cases the children they are already raising together–and rights of religions to refuse to perform same-sex marriages remain in place and affirmed.  In other words, positive changes for supporters, no actual impact to opponents.

We recently saw another end zone dance over a court ruling. The Circuit Court of the District of Columbia ruled that based on a technical error in the language of the Affordable Care Act, people getting coverage through federal health care exchanges should not receive subsidies to help pay the cost of coverage. Both Senator Hatch and Governor Herbert did their own end zone dance–celebrating the ruling as proof that their intransigent opposition to the ACA was justified.

But what is at stake here. At the time of the ruling, over 85,000 Utahns had signed up for coverage through the federal government’s Healthcare.gov website. Over 72,000 receive subsidies for that coverage averaging about $175 each month.

That’s a $2100 tax increase for each of those Utahns if the subsidy is removed.

Also, the legislature has been stalling on Medicaid Expansion and according to Representative Jim Dunnigan, chair of the Legislature’s Health Reform Task Force, these recent rulings will likely cause the legislature to delay even longer, saying, “It puts more uncertainty into a law that already has much uncertainty and ambiguity. I think you’ve got to allow some time for it to sort out.”

Unfortunately, time isn’t on everyone’s side.

Approximately 111,000 Utahns need Medicaid Expansion.

Health Affairs, a leading journal of health policy and research, estimates that if Utah chooses not to expand Medicaid, either through the federal program or the Governor’s proposed Healthy Utah plan, Utah will see an increase in untreated depression, diabetes and hypertension, lack of preventive tests such as pap smears and mammograms, an increase in catastrophic medical expenditures, and several hundred deaths.

If LGBT Utahns are guilty of performing an end zone dance then so too is Governor Herbert, Senator Hatch, and legislators who celebrate a single, contested court victory as supportive of their decision to turn their backs on 111,000 Utahns.

If you are the referee, which one do you think deserves the penalty?

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