Yesterday the Supreme Court overturned nearly 50 years of protection of voting rights for all Americans. Those voting rights were won with blood, sweat and tears. A young black man by the name of John Lewis had his skull fractured by police batons for the grievous crime trying to register black people to vote in Alabama.
The bigots didn’t win, he survived, and has served as Congressman from Georgia since 1986 . . . thanks to the Civil Rights Act, which enabled the Federal Justice Department to prevent Georgia from gerrymandering districts to prevent minority representation. Before the Voting Rights Act some states – mainly the old Confederacy – used every trick in the book to suppress democracy, to suppress the ability to those who weren’t privileged white from voting.
And when that didn’t do the trick, they revealed who they really were:
The Voting Rights Act has been renewed four times by Congress, most recently in 2006 by a 98-0 vote in the U.S. Senate and sighed into law by President G.W. Bush. But the Supreme Court said Congress got it wrong, they used an “old formula” to determine which jurisdictions still need federal oversight to prevent them from discouraging or even preventing minority voting. Well, maybe they’re on to something. Ohio is not on the “pre-clearance” list requiring federal approval for any changes to voting laws, yet the Republican Legislature and Republican Secretary of State did everything the could to suppress the minority vote in 2012, eliminating early voting days and limiting the hours for early voting on the days they allowed. People waited in lines for hours and hours to exercise their right to vote. Perhaps all states should require pre-clearance, federal elections need federal oversight. In the meanwhile, the usual suspects will rear their ugly heads – Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and North Carolina have all announced they will reinstate or introduce strict voter ID laws to suppress the vote. Prediction: It’s going to get ugly, sooner rather than later.
Then this morning, my heart swelled with pride. Good defeated evil in all places, the state of Texas. Gov. Rick (Oops!) Perry called a special legislature session to pass one of the most restrictive ant-abortion laws in the nation. The law would have reduced the number of abortion clinics in the state from 42 to only 5 - 5 clinics to serve a state over 268,000 square miles and population of over 26 million. Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis to the rescue!
Senator Davis threatened a 13 hour filibuster to prevent Republicans from passing the bill – yesterday was the last day of the special session, at midnight it would expire and the bill would be dead. To filibuster Senate rules required that Ms. Davis stand and talk continuously – no bathroom breaks, no snacks, and not only couldn’t she sit down, she couldn’t even lean against her desk. She was going strong until until shortly before midnight when Republicans tried to shut down her filibuster, claiming she had gone “off topic”. Then the “People’s Filibuster” stepped in:
The crowd in the viewing gallery went wild, chanting “Let her speak! Let her speak!”. It confused the Republicans so badly that they couldn’t get the vote off in time as the clock struck midnight.
The eyes of Texas are upon you
All the live long days
The eyes of Texas are upon you
And you cannot get away
Then the Supreme Court got two right this morning, ruling the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, and dismissed the California Prop. 8 case, letting stand lower courts’ ruling that the ban on same sex marriage is unconstitutional. Marriage equality will resume soon in California, adding over 34 million to the rapidly growing number of Americans who have the right to love and marry with whomever they want to share their life and perhaps start a family. And the federal government no longer gets to treat them as second class citizens.
It’s a GREAT day for America.