Does it depend on what “is” is?

Posted: May 21, 2010 by datechguy in local stuff, opinion/news
Tags: , ,

You might have noticed quite a debate in comments between me and my arch enemy friend Chris concerning an attempt to define “Medical Office” under the city ordinance.

The thing that got Chris in such an uproar was the following statement to start:

but I think the thing needed frankly are different counselors if we want to see different results

This sentiment was not appreciated by Chris:

In order to have people who will put their personal beliefs above the law and the interests of the town, then yes, you will need to replace the mostly reasonable and honorable members of the city council.

Read that statement and roll it around your head. Apparently only people who are not willing to respect the law would be people who agree with me, or with pro-life people. The sheer arrogance that this conveys is astounding. I wonder what other political positions would qualify for that under this philosophy?

We then got into a discussion about the specific issue, being can a resolution be passed to define what a “Medical Office” is? Chris’ reaction:

The town solicitor thought it was illegal, the city council president thought it was illegal, and the majority of the city council thought it was illegal.

Now I wasn’t at that meeting and he was, so I can’t speak to what they said, in the Newspaper they reported something slightly different:

But the City Council voted against amending the petition, after Council President Stephan Hay informed them that the amendment wasn’t filed until late Monday afternoon.

“I think asking this council in one day’s notice to define what a medical office is, is inappropriate,” Hay said.

Now that is a fair point, but that can be resolved by re-submitting the petition but as to the legality I asked Chris a pretty basic question:

Can you point me to something in actual law that states what a medical office is defined as? Can you point me to specific text in a law that would make that definition “illegal”.

After hemming and hawing he pointed me to this link that says the following:

It is the policy of the City of Fitchburg to see that each individual, regardless of his/her race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, age, ancestry, children, marital status, veteran history, public assistance recipieny, handicap, disability or sexual orientation, provided that the term “sexual orientation” shall not include persons whose sexual orientation involves minor children as sex objects, shall have equal opportunity in or access to employment, housing, education, recreation and public accommodations; to assure that each individual shall have equal access to and benefit from all public services; to protect each individual in the enjoyment of his/her civil rights; and to encourage and bring about mutual understanding and respect among all individuals in the City by the elimination of prejudice, intolerance, bigotry, discrimination and the disorder occasioned thereby.

Now forgetting that they are defining sexual orientation in a way I haven’t seen it defined before can someone explain to me how this policy makes the following illegal:

“Medical Office” shall mean the office of any doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed health care practitioner, medical clinic, or medical laboratory wherein ambulatory medical, dental, physical rehabilitation, mental health services or other health services are rendered. “Medical Office” shall not include a facility wherein a live human fetus is terminated or caused to be terminated by any surgical procedure performed or medication prescribed.

I put this out as an open question to anyone reading this. How does the policy above make the paragraph illegal as passed? Furthermore how does redefining a “medical office” make abortion itself illegal in the city. I don’t see that at all and I don’t know how someone reads that into that statement.

Look at any federal law. Terms within the laws are regularly defined within laws, in fact they are often re-defined in different sections of the same law. Take a look at the healthcare bill for current examples.

Now I think Mr. Hay’s argument about timing was not without merit, but the assertion that this is illegal without citing law to back it up is just cheap talk. The amendment was prepared by an experienced and trained lawyer, why is his opinion concerning Mr. Hay’s et/al any less valid? Or is a legal opinion validity based not on what the law says but if someone agrees with it?

Anyway I throw the argument open: Is Chris right or am I? Furthermore I say again, can someone point out an actual applicable city, state or federal law that would make creating such a definition illegal?

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  1. Cousin Sam says:

    Even if there were an existing municipal law or policy, such as the one quoted, wouldn’t any newer law or policy supersede it? There would have to be a state or federal statute existing to supersede new municipal legislation.