On Sunday, Last Week Tonight aired its last show before taking a two-week break and returning on September 13. Host John Oliver left viewers with a number of interesting topics to contemplate in the show's absence.
Oliver began by discussing North Korea, "voted the best Korea for 70 years running by North Korea Magazine". North Korea leader Kim Jong-un declared a "semi-state of war" earlier this week in response to South Korean border broadcasts. Seoul has been blaring anti-Pyongyang broadcasts highly critical of the North Korean regime and, as Oliver mentioned, a lot of K-Pop.
Russia, "the prequel and sequel to the Soviet Union" was up next. Oliver talked about President Vladimir Putin's previous wars, including those on Ukraine and shirts. Putin has launched an assault on new targets: cheese, bacon, and other Western imports. His government has destroyed hundreds of pounds of imported food. This decision is not a popular one among Russian citizens (or anyone with basic human compassion) who point out that the wasted food could benefit many hungry families.
Oliver next discussed Alexis Tsipras, the former Prime Minister of Greece. He was elected in January of this year on anti-austerity measures and has since wavered on his fiscal politics. Tsipras resigned less than seven months after being elected, forcing the already struggling country to through yet another election.
The need for stronger civil rights laws in the United States, preferably in the form of federal anti-discrimination laws, was the focus for the show's main segment. Oliver pointed out that while it's fantastic that marriage equality is something the United States has finally achieved, it's still shockingly easy to "ruin a gay honeymoon". The law guaranteed the right to marry, but not the right for anything that follows, including maintaining employment, adopting children, or, in some states, having your children seen by a paediatrician.
Oliver aired clips of people interviewed who have experienced such discrimination. A social worker was fired because his employer believed his "lifestyle choice" made him unable to perform his job. In another interview, a lesbian couple discussed how their paediatrician refused to treat their child, which is crazy because the child is the paediatrician's patient, not the parents.
Nearly 70% of people believe that it is illegal to be fired because of sexual orientation, which is one of those things "that's optimistic, but wrong. Like thinking wearing vertical stripes are flattering, or making your first condom purchase 'magnum'". Some states do have protective laws, but not all, and as Oliver pointed out, civil rights are too important of an issue to leave up to individual states. Certain individual states have a terrible history with civil rights laws, some even adopting what boils down to pro-discrimination laws.
Oliver brought up the common tactic of using the Constitution as a shield against claims of discrimination. He highlighted the case of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay wedding because it offended his definition of marriage and said that the Constitution protected his right to do so. Oliver had some wise words on this point:
"The Constitution isn't the star in Super Mario Bros - it doesn't make you invincible so you can just do whatever the fuck you want."
The solution, Oliver suggests, is to "fix all of this, nationwide, in one go". He points out that nearly all of the protective acts President Obama has put into place can be undone by the next President, and a few nominees represent states that have scaled back their civil rights legislation. There is an act before Congress called the Equality Act, which would add LGBT protection to the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, and other federal legislation. The proposed legislation "represents the bare minimum of not being discriminated against, and this should not be what represents the threshold of true gay tolerance".
The bill currently has over 200 sponsors in Congress and the Senate, but none of them is Republican. The team at Last Week Tonight contacted each person running for president, Democrat and Republican and asked them if they would support the bill. Only four nominees responded. Lincoln Chafee and Martin O'Malley are Republican nominees who did say they would support the bill, and Democrat Bernie Sanders also voiced his support for the bill. Rand Paul said, "we'll pass". Interestingly, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was among those who did not respond.
The show will be off for two weeks, returning to HBO on September 13th at 11:00. Oliver pointed out that the door, and more importantly the wallet, of Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption remain open during the brief hiatus.
Watch the segment below, and if you are a resident of the United States, encourage your elected officials to support the Equality Act. As Oliver said when closing the segment, "it is long past the time where gay people have the same rights that straight people have".