Thursday, June 05, 2008

Government clerks have no right to decide which policies they'll enforce, just as pharmacists should have no right to decide which drugs to dispense


Mayor Newsom at a May 15 press conference

"If you don't want to provide a marriage certificate and you've got a job that does that, then you should think twice about why you got the job in the first place and maybe you should get a new job. Talk about a slippery slope, Mr. County Clerk down in San Diego."
--San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, in a Reuters interview, responding to news that San Diego County Clerk Gregory Smith may allow clerks with moral or religious objections to remove themselves from processing same-sex marriages

"I was pretty shocked about all that, candidly," Mayor Newsom told Reuters, "and pretty outraged." He continued:
"This is a civil marriage that civil servants have a responsibility to provide, so for civil servants on religious grounds to start passing judgments, they, I think, are breaking the core tenet of what civil service is all about."

"I've got very strong religious beliefs. So now, all of a sudden, I don't have to do certain things, even though that's my responsibility as mayor?"

Well said, Mr. Mayor. This has been bugging me since the controversy, which to my mind never became nearly controversial enough, over pharmacists being allowed to not fill prescriptions for substances to which they have religious or moral objections.

The San Diego clerks are government employees, whose sole reason for employment is to carry out their designated role in the functioning of the government of the state of California. Of course they're entitled to opinions about those government functions, but I don't see how they can be permitted to let those opinions interfere with the performance of their job.

Similarly pharmacists, when they dispense legally controlled substances, are acting as agents of the government substance-controlling apparatus. If their consciences don't permit them to dispense legal substances, then they should feel free to pursue a line of work that doesn't impinge on their principles.

For the original (May 22) Reuters report, "Smith in San Diego did not return calls for comment." Today's San Diego Union-Times reports:
If the Supreme Court does not grant a stay of its decision by the close of business June 16, the San Diego County Clerk's office will begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples at branches in San Diego, San Marcos, Chula Vista, El Cajon and Kearny Mesa on June 17.

Meanwhlie, Pat Sherman reports:
Smith's contentious decision to let clerks with religious objections opt out of performing same-sex ceremonies is on hold.

“That is now a personnel matter, and I can't discuss that,” Smith said.

Well, I suppose this is in a general sense "a personnel matter," and I have no doubt that Mr. Smith regrets having blundered into a public discussion of it. But if he really imagines that he can allow selective enforcement of the law without being answerable publicly, then one of us is nuts, and I don't think it's me.

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At 7:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No comments yet? Dang. Gotta get over here more often.

Great post, Ken. I completely agree. For exactly the same reasons: the taxpayers are paying these people to uphold and facilitate the laws of the State. Period. End of forking discussion. I live in WA state where we had to fight this out with the Concern Trolls on behalf of the pharmacists. And now I can't remember where we are on that. Which is selfish of me, because I'm in a major metro area with lots of pharmacy options.

My other point has always been, how can pharmacists a) presume to overrule a legal prescription and b) how can they make a judgment unless (in many cases) they are using confidential info they are NOT entitled to. I'm thinking denying birth control pills based on age or marital status. NOT their forking business, and if the State can't ask for a parental permission slip, who the hell do these pharmacists think they are?!

Sigh. Sorry about the rant. Thanks again for the post.


At 9:49 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

On the contrary, FunnyD, thanks for the rant, and welcome!

(I think people were having trouble loading DWT today. I know I was! Or perhaps nobody cares about the stuff I've written about today.)

Damned if I understand how those pharmacists have gotten away with this scam. If you're a psychologist, or a lawyer, or a housepainter, you get to interview prospective clients and decide whether you want to work with them. But if you're a pharmacist, licensed by the gummint to dispense substances controlled by that self-same gummint, you DON'T get to decide which prescriptions you want to fill.

Interestingly, I happened to be speaking to Howie on the phone, while he'd snuck out of his PFAW meeting, right after I finished writing this post, and I mentioned to him that I had written about this strong stand Mayor Newsom had taken against the San Diego clerks' enforce-which-policies-you-wish policy, and his immediate response was that that's pretty much like with the pharmacists!

Thanks for stopping by and for commenting.


At 12:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A friend of mine went to the Post Office in Austin Texas to file a bulk mailing rate permit for the Socialist Party of Texas only to have the clerk refuse to accept it. My friend demanded to see the Supervisor, who told the clerk, "You HAVE to accept it."

At 4:54 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

This sounds like the "slippery slope" Mayor Newsom was talking about, no?


At 11:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ditto on the loading.

Seems to load much faster in Safari than Firefox.

At 6:30 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

That confirms Howie's and my experience, Bil. We're both Mac users, and both normally use Firefox as our browser of choice, and it's become just hell getting the blog to load in Firefox. I'm told that still in the 2.0 version of Firefox there's some kind of "memory hole" that swallows up zillions of megs of RAM with video clips and Diggs. Howie's already done all the things he can think of to "lighten the load," short of NOT HAVING videos and Diggs. Supposedly this is fixed, maybe, in the 3.0 of Firefox, which I think is in beta. (Of course it remains to be seen how much memory THAT's going to require!)

But at present it does appear that Firefox is the worst browser to use with the software used by Blogspot, our host.

Thanks for the feedback, Bil.


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