SCOTUS: Equal rights for marriage, but not for voting

By Dave Palmer

During this past week, the Supreme Court issued a flurry of decisions, culminating in two of the most highly anticipated decisions of the Court’s last session: The case surrounding the Defense of Marriage Act tried in conjunction with the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, and the necessity of Section 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which required states with a history of discriminating against voters because of their skin color to get permission from the Department of Justice to change voting laws.

“The Supreme Court overturned a law that denied federal benefits to same-sex couples. The decision does not guarantee a right to same-sex marriage, but it allows people who live in states that allow same-sex marriage to receive the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples,” The New York Times reported.

This is a step in the right direction to be sure. Unfortunately, the decision still allows the nation to be a patchwork of marriage regulations. Legally married same-sex couples still have to worry about their valid marriage becoming invalid in another state. But, they do get the dignity of recognition and the ability to collect federal spousal benefits.

While the Court finds that same-sex couples deserve to be treated equally, it kept on it’s zig-zag path of both advancing and restricting rights by eviscerating the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by striking down Section 4 and Section 5 of the Act, declaring “Blatantly discriminatory evasions [of minority voting rights] are rare,” according to Nation of Change.

Apparently, the Supreme Court was on a different planet when GOP Secretary of State of Florida Ken Detzner tried to purge 180,000 Americans, mostly Hispanic Democrats, from the voter rolls. They definitely didn’t notice the 6 hour lines in the mostly African-American populated districts on Election Day in Florida.

What makes this decision even more puzzling is the fact that just last week, the Supreme Court ruled that Arizona’s law requiring the showing of citizenship papers was an unconstitutional attack on Hispanic voters, according to the Nation of Change article cited above. Arizona is one of the 16 states covered by Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

WTF, Supreme Court? In one moment, the majority falls in favor of equal rights for all couples in collecting federal benefits, but in the next moves to allow states to gerrymander districts in a blatantly discriminatory fashion, impose restrictive identification laws, and move polling places with little or no prior notification to potential voters.

But don’t take my word for it. ThinkProgress.org reported that just about two hours after the Court released its Voting Rights Act decision, Texas  Attorney General Greg Abbott released a statement that the state will immediately implement a voter-id law and a redistricting plan that were blocked by the Department of Justice as patently discriminatory under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. “Federal courts agreed that both the strict voter ID law and the redistricting map would disproportionately target the state’s fast-growing minority communities,” ThinkProgress reported.

The voter-id law in question accepts expired gun licenses from other states, but states that Social Security cards and student id’s are not valid forms of identification. Those who lack the proper proof of identity must travel at their own expense (sometimes several hundred miles), present a birth certificate (which not all senior citizens can easily get a hold of considering the long form copy is filed at the clerk’s office in the county of their birth) and pay a fee (which amounts to a poll tax) to get a voter id.

As far as the redistricting plan goes, “… a panel of federal judges found that ‘substantial surgery‘was done to predominantly black districts, cutting off representatives’ offices from their strongest fundraising bases.” Meanwhile, the red lines were gladly shifted for white Representatives to include certain posh country clubs, and “in one case, the school belonging to the incumbent’s grandchildren.”

Yeah, discrimination and racism in Section 5 states is dead all right. Dead set on rigging the vote to favor Republicans. Dead set on preventing blacks and Latinos among other brown people from voting. Dead set on preventing the GOP from having to change their outdated and fundamentally bigoted message. Essentially, the GOP will now be allowed to simply change the logo on their pizza box without having to change the pizza inside.

Kudos to the Supreme Court for recognizing that all couples in this country should have the same fundamental rights to collect federal benefits. It’s just a shame that they don’t believe that all people in this country should be enfranchised and therefore empowered within our democracy. Voting is a fundamental right of the United States citizenry, clearly implied in the Article I and II of the Constitution and guaranteed by the 15th, 19th, and 26th Amendments. The fact that the majority of Supreme Court justices ignore the Constitution when ruling on constitutional issues should be a case for impeachment.