by Jennifer Tiedemann
Three decades have now passed since the Goldwater Institute’s founding back in 1988, and our 30th anniversary year has been one of our biggest to date. As our namesake once said, “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,” and in 2018, the Goldwater Institute took the defense of liberty to places throughout the country—to state legislatures to break down the barriers that keep people from working in the field of their choice, to courtrooms to stand up for equal protection, and to the halls of Congress to give patients more control over their healthcare decisions.
With the end of 2018 now upon us, it’s a good time to reflect on some of our biggest accomplishments for freedom this year:
Right to Try becomes the law of the land. For terminally ill patients, having the opportunity to try investigational treatments can provide a needed hope. This hope is what Right to Try is all about—and with the passionate support of the Goldwater Institute, Right to Try laws made their way onto the books in dozens of states over the past few years. But Right to Try had yet to be passed on the federal level.
That changed in late May, when President Trump signed the federal Right to Try Act into law, surrounded by patients and family members who had strongly advocated for the passage of Right to Try in their home states and for federal Right to Try legislation. Perhaps the most poignant image from that day is of young Jordan McLinn getting a hug and a kiss from the President. Nine-year old Jordan, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and his mom, Laura, have been tireless advocates for giving patients the Right to Try. Jordan and Laura McLinn were honored at the Goldwater Institute’s Annual Dinner this past November with the Freedom Award. You can read more about their story here.
In 2019, the Goldwater Institute will continue to pursue reforms that build a more patient-centric approach to healthcare, so that more patients are able to make educated decisions about the care with the help of their doctors with fewer government roadblocks.
Attorneys score a free-speech victory at the U.S. Supreme Court. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that government workers could not be forced to join and pay member dues to a union. But this wasn’t the Supreme Court’s last word on workers’ free-speech rights in 2018.
North Dakota attorney Arnold Fleck paid mandatory member dues to his state’s bar association. He supported a 2014 ballot measure to reform state child-custody law, but some of his bar association dues went toward funding an opposition campaign to the measure. But free-speech rights don’t just protect a person’s right to speak—they also protect that person’s right not to speak. With representation from the Goldwater Institute, Fleck filed a lawsuit, and although a lower court ruled against him, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the lower court to reconsider its holding in Fleck’s case in light of the Janus decision this December. It’s the latest welcome blow to compelled speech.
And it doesn’t look like it’ll be the last: Last week, the Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit in Oregon District Court objecting to a similar free-speech violation. With the Institute’s help, attorney Daniel Crowe is challenging an overtly political statement made by the Oregon State Bar, which used mandatory dues paid by bar association members to publish this political speech. Goldwater Institute attorneys Jacob Huebert and Timothy Sandefur (who represent Crowe and Fleck, respectively) wrote in last Friday’s Wall Street Journal that “a private organization has every right to express such views—but not to compel someone else’s support, financially or otherwise.” Ensuring that Americans are not forced into funding speech and activities with which they disagree will continue to be a central mission of ours in the new year.
Arizonans resoundingly reject an expensive and unnecessary “clean energy” initiative. Who would say no to having cleaner, more affordable energy? That’s what California billionaire Tom Steyer promised in his strong backing of Proposition 127, which appeared on the Arizona statewide ballot this past November.
But these promises just weren’t real: In fact, Proposition 127 would have been financially devastating for the people of Arizona. In a paper released by the Goldwater Institute in October, economist Stephen Moore warned of the negative effect Prop. 127 would have had should it become law. Prop. 127 would have amended the state constitution to require that utilities and electric cooperatives generate at least 50 percent of their annual sales of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030—up from 15 percent today. While the initiative’s supporters said it would result in lower costs, cleaner air, and more jobs for Arizona, Moore’s paper showed that Prop. 127 would have actually raised energy costs for Arizona consumers, while having almost no effect on air quality or greenhouse gas emissions.
When it came time for voters to have their say, the results were overwhelmingly against Prop. 127, with more than two-thirds of Arizonans voting “no” on the initiative. Voters understood that Prop. 127 would have meant big costs to taxpayers with little to no positive environmental impact—just as Moore had explained in his paper.
The Goldwater Institute defends the right of home-sharing from coast to coast. Being able to share one’s home with overnight guests—better known as “home-sharing”—is one of the cornerstones of property rights. Not only is it a longstanding American tradition, but it also makes it easier for travelers to find affordable accommodations and for homeowners to earn some extra money to fund mortgage payments and home improvements.
Back in June, we took the fight to protect this essential right from sea to shining, simultaneously launching three lawsuits in Miami Beach, Seattle, and Pacific Grove, California—all places where the right of home-sharing has been threatened by overregulation from city governments.
Cities that are attempting to limit home-sharing often make the case that they’re looking to protect neighborhoods from noise and traffic issues. But as Goldwater Institute Executive Vice President Christina Sandefur wrote on our In Defense of Liberty blog earlier this year, a city shouldn’t be able to punish responsible home-sharers “simply because a handful of landlords operate nuisance properties…The answer is to use existing laws to crack down on bad actors, not to strip everybody of their property rights.” Look for the home-sharing fight to continue on multiple fronts in 2019.
The Indian Child Welfare Act is ruled unconstitutional for the first time. The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was passed with good intentions. But in the ensuing four decades since its passage, this federal law has done just the opposite. By putting race-matching before the best interests of Native American children, the law makes it more difficult to find these children safe foster homes or loving permanent adoptive homes. The Goldwater Institute frequently litigates ICWA cases, in support of equal protection for Native American children.
In October, a federal judge in Texas ruled that ICWA is unconstitutional, marking the first time that this federal law was ruled to be in violation of the Constitution. The Goldwater Institute filed a friend of the court brief in the case, arguing that “ICWA today imposes positive injuries on Indian children by depriving them of ‘the right to equal treatment guaranteed by the Constitution’….making it more difficult for state officials to rescue them from abuse or neglect.” While a tribal appeal is expected, the result is still a landmark one—one that indicates that equal protection for these children won’t be forgotten.
While it’s nice to look
back at this year’s big victories for freedom, rest assured that we won’t be
resting on our laurels in 2019. From property rights to healthcare decision-making
to the ability to speak freely, individual liberty faces regular threats, and
we’ll be stepping in to protect freedoms when necessary.