Last week will go down in history as a significant date in American history thanks to the Supreme Court of the United States and their 5-4 decision declaring the Federal Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. Predictably, Republican leaders bemoaned the defeat, declaring the demise of America. Personally, it’s beyond me how giving the same rights and benefits to all people is itself un-American, but remember, these are Republicans we’re talking about. In their upside down world, equal rights is a bad thing while dismantling the guarantee of equal protection for others is a good thing. What I’m speaking of specifically is the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court.
While the death of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is certainly worth celebrating for some time, I fear that most Americans will soon forget (and likely have already have forgotten) about the tragic dismissal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by this same Supreme Court. The Voting Rights act was enacted by Congress to limit the power of states to disenfranchise individual voters. Southern, white- dominated states had since the end of the Civil War Reconstruction done nearly anything and everything to keep African Americans from fulfilling their constitutional right to vote. Racist whites in the south put barriers into place such as poll taxes, literacy tests, and limited voter registration access all to keep African Americans from voting successfully. The Voting Rights Act mandated that any law passed by certain states had to have approval from the federal government before the laws could actually be put into place. Now however because of the decision of the Supreme Court last Tuesday, states formerly required to seek approval from the federal government can now do whatever they want.
Texas, one of the states formerly covered under the law wasted no time, immediately enacting a Voter ID law and re-drawn district maps that were previously disallowed. The Voter ID requirement is purported by voting rights activists to be another effort to disenfranchise minority voters while the re-drawn district maps similarly were understood by the Voting Rights law to purposefully limit the voting power of minorities. Juxtaposed to the decision of the Court on gay marriage, this dismissal of the Voting Rights act seems make it seem like one step forward, two steps back for America.
The Supreme Court is made up of nine justices, five of which were appointed by Republican Presidents, four by Democratic Presidents. Oddly enough, it was the five Republican appointees which made up the 5-4 majority which gutted the power of the Voting Rights Act. I say oddly because the Republican Party has been preaching a gospel of “freedom” and “liberty” in response to the “tyrannical rule” of President Obama and his supposed “socialist agenda” for the US. One would think that Republicans of all people, would be for enhancing, not detracting from, one’s ability to vote. After all, the US Government is a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” as Lincoln so famously said in his Gettysburg address. The individual voter is essential in our democracy and liberty. Ironically enough, even with the defeat of California’s Prop 8, the loss of the voting rights law will make it easier for unjust and unconstitutional laws like Prop 8 to be put into place.
Beyond the conservatives in the Supreme Court, Republicans nationwide are passing bogus voter-ID laws, limiting voting hours, purging voter rolls and enacting 25 state laws making it tougher to exercise one’s constitutional right to vote. Voter fraud is a complete myth, a “problem” created by conservatives as an excuse to enact laws to limit minority voting (who tend to vote Democratic). It’s entirely hypocritical that a political party so “devoted” to freedom and liberty would purposefully limit the rights and freedoms of others. If Republicans were really about freedom and liberty, they would be celebrating the recent laws in Colorado that make it easier for people to take part in the democratic process and vote.