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Cares Who Wins?
face it," says 22 -year old Joseph Zolobczuk of Miami. "It's
2000. This election is kind of like the kickoff for the next millennium.
The next president will set the tone for the next century. And because
I'm gay, and because I have a commitment to diversity, Al Gore looks
like the most favorable candidate to me."
All the candidates, including the two front runners, have drastically different ideas for the future of this country.
Whether you support Republican George W. Bush, Democrat Al Gore, or an alternative third party candidate such as the Green Party's Ralph Nader or Reform Party's Pat Buchanan, there are plenty of reasons to take a stand even if you can't vote yet.
For starters, our next president will be handed the awesome power of appointing new Supreme Court Justices when current justices retire. The nine justices on the nation's highest court make final decisions on everything from abortion laws to whether students can say prayers at school.
Since the judges serve for life, whoever the president appoints will be making important decisions long after that president has retired.
the next four years, as many as four Supreme Court judges could retire,
and that leaves our next president to pick their replacements. Right
now the court is at a crucial "tipping point," with five judges
who tend to vote on the liberal side and four judges considered conservative.
Even just one new judge could dramatically shift the balance of power
and create major changes in the lives of young people like Sarah and
But if Democrat Al Gore gets elected, it might lead to a very different legal future. Gore has promised to appoint pro-choice judges with more liberal leanings. Gore appointees are more likely to support gay rights and maintain a separation between religion and government.
This spring, the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional for students at public schools to lead formal prayers over public address systems at the start of high school football games.
Supreme Court decision
was close: a 5-4 vote. That means the next president might alter the
outcome of future school prayer cases based on who he appoints.
think it's ridiculous that you can't have a prayer at football games
or anywhere else at school," she says. "They
took prayer out of schools in 1963, and things have only gotten worse
since. The biggest problems in schools use to be gum-chewing, and now
it's guns and drugs. And I think it's partly because there's no prayer
involved. How can a prayer be offensive to anyone?"
Gore has vowed to maintain a firm distinction between Church and State, and doesn't focus on religion as a major issue. However, Gore has promoted government partnerships with faith-based groups. His running mate, Senator Joe Lieberman, is an observant Jew and often talks about increasing the role of religion in public life.
Young people like Joseph don't share Sarah's enthusiasm for a Bush-appointed conservative court. In the past year, the court has made several decisions regarding gay rights that could impact Joseph's life. This past term, the court ruled that the Boy Scouts had the right to exclude gay troop leaders from their organization. Once again, the vote was 5-4.
The Scouts argued that they should have the right to choose whom they associate with in their private group. Gay activists said the scouts' policy was discriminatory.
During Gore's eight years as vice president, the Clinton administration appointed 150 homosexuals to government posts. Al Gore says wants to lift the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military, which was supported by President Clinton.
has also promised to work toward expanding gay rights, and supports
legislation such as the Hate Crime Prevention Act that would broaden
the definition of hate crimes to include crimes committed against gay
However, Bush is now promoting a more welcoming Republican party. His running mate, Dick Cheney, has a gay daughter, and at the Republican National Convention, gay Republicans were invited to speak. Joseph says he generally prefers the Democrats, but he was impressed by the new tolerance he saw at the convention.
"The Republicans are finally realizing they have to deal with us," Joseph says. "We're a part of this culture and we can't be ignored."
If there's one topic that can get many Americans arguing, it's the issue of abortion rights. Pro choice advocates believe a woman has the right to do what she wants with her body, including ending an unwanted pregnancy. Pro-life advocates, like Sarah, believe abortion ends viable human lives.
of human life is something so important," says Sarah, who visits
local high schools to pass out literature encouraging on abstinence
and alternatives to abortion.
Sarah is thrilled
by the idea of a anti-abortion president, and in this presidential race
that means George W. Bush. Bush has promised to appoint pro-life judges
to the Supreme Court and he believes that parents should be notified
if any girl under the age of 18 seeks an abortion.
With the rash of school shootings that swept through American schools in the past several years, issues of access to guns hit a little closer to home for teens. The next president faces the task of weighing our Constitutional right to bear arms over increasing concern for public safety.
The decisions the
next president makes could impact how easy--or difficult it is for high
school students to get guns.
Sean worked as intern at Washington Ceasefire, a group that lobbies for stricter gun laws. "We register cars and no one complains about that. And with guns, the stakes are so much higher."
Sean doesn't believe
that either of the front running candidates, Bush or Gore, takes a strong
enough stance on gun control. He favors Ralph Nader, a third party candidate
running under the Green party.
Gore is considered a 'moderate' on gun control issues. He says he would work to ban the sale of cheap handguns, and would create new limitations on carrying concealed weapons.
the next president will clearly have influence over some of these key
issues, many teens stress that you can't just leave things up to the
politicians. "Laws won't do everything," says Orlando Calderin,
a gay teen.
"The best way to increase tolerance is to talk about things so people can overcome their fears," Sean says. That holds true with gun control issues too. "Politics is just one small way of addressing the problem. Teaching people about violence and trying to help people who feel alienated is a better approach. The president can only do so much."
--contributed by Jane Spencer
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