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An Open Letter to Legislators on “Small” Bureaucratic Barriers

I want lawmakers to stop thinking in terms of a small amount of money, a small hassle, a small barrier to a Constitutional or human right.

Lawmakers, you represent the people, but you are not The People.  You are the privileged few.  Some of you are more aware of this than others, certainly.  I’ve been moved in particular by several recent videos from the House floor, where women of color Representatives have used their own experiences as narratives to illustrate their arguments on social issues.  But as a group, you are the privileged few, and I need you to stop thinking of barriers to rights as “small.”

An additional identification requirement at the voting both may seem simple to a lifelong citizen whose birth certificate, passport, social security records, and medical history have always lived in a metal filing cabinet in the office of a mid-sized suburban home, but it is not the case for those whom these laws affect.

A 24-hour waiting period for an abortion may seem small to someone who drives a car that gets 34 miles to the gallon and has always had an employer that allows for at least ten vacation days a year, but it is not the case for those whom these laws affect.

A $100 filing fee for a name change petition may seem small for someone who has always had at least a few thousand in the bank, someone whose very humanity, dignity, and ability to get through life without a constant fear of harassment has never been in question because a name is just something given by parents that sticks to your identity over time, but it is not the case for those whom these laws affect.

I need lawmakers to start thinking seriously about the impact of fees, waiting periods, documentation requirements, and other “little” bureaucratic considerations on the actual people who are affected by these laws.  And I need you to start thinking about the kinds of fundamental rights these people are trying to access, and I need you to sit with that for a minute.

Thank you.