Rev Irene Monroe

An Anti-Voting Rights, Pro-Marriage Equality World

Filed By Rev Irene Monroe | July 11, 2013 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, gay marriage, intersecting identities, intersectionality, marriage equality, Prop 8, Prop. 8, race and sexual orientation, same-sex marriage, shock and awe, voter suppression, voting, voting rights, Voting Rights Act

Supreme CourtI now have had ample time to recover from both my shock and awe from the Supreme Court's historic decisions announced in the final week of June.

My 'awe' moment is Wednesday, June 26. It was a great day for me as a lesbian American. Historic decisions in both Windsor v. United States and Hollingsworth v. Perry were announced. Not only was DOMA finally struck down, but so too were the anti-gay proponents of Proposition 8.

In a 5-4 decision, the progressive and moderate justices of the Supreme Court ruled Section 3 of DOMA to be unconstitutional, declaring it "a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment." Finally all same-gender married couples will be afforded the same 1,000+ federal protections and benefits as opposite-gender couples.

The proponents of Prop. 8 were finally told to cease and desist, meaning they no longer have a homophobic legal leg to stand on in terms of their anti-gay and obstructionist appeals of lower court rulings. California same-gender couples no longer have to do an anxious and cautious walk to the altar while worrying about courts yo-yoing them around.

My 'shock' moments are Monday, June 24 and Tuesday, June 25.

On Monday, in a surprising 7-1 ruling, the Court sidestepped the hot-button issue of race in America by throwing the Fisher v. University of Texas case back to the lower courts for reconsideration.

The present-day argument against employing race-conscious admission policies as a pedagogical benefit for diversity is being usurped, at least in Texas, with debates that class-conscious admission policies would best achieve racial diversity. The Texas Top Ten Percent Plan purports to accept 10 percent of all high school graduating classes to state universities. The state claims that this policy works well policy works well, but Texas neglects to say why: their neighborhoods and high schools are as unabashedly segregated in 2013 as they were in 1954 when the historic Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education deemed segregated schools unconstitutional.

On Tuesday, the Court hit with another hard blow. In a 5-4 vote glaringly divided along ideological lines, the lifeline and heart and soul of the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act was gutted.

The Court held that Section 4 of the VRA, which historically protected African Americans and other disenfranchised people of color, is outdated. The ruling perpetuates the fictive "post-racial" myth that racial minorities, especially in the South, no longer confront discriminatory barriers to voting. At the time, the 1965 VRA applied to nine states in the South: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.

But voter suppression is alive and well today.

vote_button.jpgJust last year, Florida deliberately reduced days available for early voting, making it difficult for voters who relocated to a different county within the state to cast their ballots. And in Maryland, the 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Ehrlich hired a consultant who advised him that "the first and most desired outcome is voter suppression" that resulted in "African-American voters [staying] home."

As a member of one of the early generations that benefited from the gains of the African-American civil rights movement of the last century, these rulings hit hard. Many of us in the LGBTQ community are outraged. But Jo Davis, a GLAD board member and beloved ally to the LGBTQ community in the Greater Boston area, knows the reality of voter suppression first hand. She wrote in an email blast:

This ruling was an enormous setback for the hard-fought-for civil rights gains of the past. My home state of Alabama is one of those states that continues to try and block voting access, but those efforts has been substantially hampered by the provisions contained in the VRA.

While many of us would like to think voter suppression only happens in the South, let me disabuse you of that notion: scores of counties and municipalities in the North -- like Manhattan, the Bronx, and my borough of Brooklyn -- were also covered by the Voting Rights Act and will now be greatly impacted by the loss of Section 4.

If the Court thinks the VRA is outdated it only needs to read Huffington Post blogger Judith Brown Dianis' "Top 10 Voter Suppression Moments of 2012" article. Those top ten moments overwhelmingly affected people of color.

The Supreme Court rulings on DOMA, Prop. 8, and the Voting Rights Act force LGBTQ people of color like myself to reside a bifurcated reality in terms of full civil rights protections. With advances such as hate crime laws, the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, the legalization of same-sex marriage in many states, DOMA struck down, Prop. 8 overturned, and with homophobia viewed as a national concern, the LGBTQ movement has come a long way since the first Pride marches over four decades ago.

Many note the perceived distance the LGBTQ community has traveled in such a short historic time--from a disenfranchised group on the fringe of America's mainstream to a community now on the verge of full equality.

But not all members of our community have crossed the finish line. Will the LGBTQ community help those of us, like me, left behind?


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