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In many ways, the Supreme Court decisions revealed last week are a perfect microcosm of the ongoing American culture wars. I know it has become fashionable to raise eyebrows and roll eyes over that phrase, but if you don’t think those wars are still going on, stop looking at YouTube cat videos for five minutes and get a clue.
Let’s take the decision on the Voting Rights Act first. In a 5-4 decision, with Justice Anthony Kennedy acting as the swing vote, the Supremes ruled that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which mandated that certain states and area with a history of voting discrimination had to obtain clearance from the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington D.C., was unconstitutional. Nine states—Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia—and many counties and municipalities in other states, including Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx, were affected by Section 4.
But the majority court opinion went further. Wrote Chief Justice John Roberts: [this law is] “based on 40-year-old facts having no logical relationship to the present day.”
Those five Supremes have obviously not been black, Hispanic and/or poor and trying to vote in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia, which have all within the past couple of years passed restrictive voter ID laws ludicrously claimed by supporters to be designed to prevent “voter fraud,” but which are actually designed to prevent certain groups of people from exercising their right to vote.
Oh, and since it’s been more than five minutes since this happened, let’s not forget that it was 96-year-old Dorothy Cooper of Chattanooga, Tennessee, whose denial of her right to vote under our own state’s new law became a cause célèbre in the last election.
What the conservatives have not been able to achieve legitimately at the ballot box, they are doing their best—in this case with the cooperation of the Supreme Court’s conservative wing—to end-run-around with laws.
It’s the hypocrisy of it all that really makes you want to take to the barricades. The same people who scream that the courts are packed with “activist judges” any time a decision comes down advancing progressive causes (we’re getting to that in a second, folks), were fawning all over the Supremes for this one.
Talk out of both sides of your mouth at your peril, as it happens, because just a couple of days later, this same court, with Justice Kennedy again acting as the swing vote and probably, at this point, getting dizzy, struck down the section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) denying federal benefits to married gays and lesbians. “DOMA writes inequality into the entire United States code,” wrote Justice Kennedy in the majority opinion. Then the court announced that it would not hear the case concerning California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage and was then declared unconstitutional by a lower court, thus opening the way for gay marriages to again be performed in the state.
Rainbow flags were a’flyin’ in my home state and I hope to live to see the day they fly here, too, my friends.
Let’s talk hypocrisy again, shall we?
The very same people who are constantly screeching about “government out of our lives,” etc. are the ones who want to poke their nasty noses into other people’s bedrooms. How in the wide world does it affect you, Mr. and Mrs. I’m-A-Real-American, if two people who love each other want to marry and have the benefits of that union? Are they coming to live with you? Are they preventing you from getting married? Are they clogging the wedding registries at your local department store? If not, how about shutting up already?
But since Mr. and Mrs. IARA won’t, prepare for the ongoing cultural wars that are going to determine what kind of country we live in: One that respects everyone’s right to vote and respects everyone’s right to marry. Or one that doesn’t.
I know the cat videos are beckoning. But don’t even get me started on the House Republicans and their views of the immigration bill. That’s for another day.