How will history look at the decisions made by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) this month? I can only guess.
Let’s look first at how the Voting Rights Act (VRA) was gutted.
Basically, nine states and multiple municipalities (Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia; and parts of California, Florida, Michigan, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota) had to go through extra clearance to change any of their voting requirements. Officials in these areas were shown to be discriminating against voters based on race and this helped circumvent their disgusting tactics. The information that determined which states were flagged was decades old. Given the volatile nature of Congress, SCOTUS had continually extended the measure to ensure that voters would be protected regardless of the current political games taking place on the Hill. It is unlikely that even if Congress had funded new research that the protection would have been approved since the Court voted along ideological lines.
“Today,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “both of those towns are governed by African-American mayors. Problems remain in these states and others, but there is no denying that, due to the Voting Rights Act, our nation has made great strides.” Seriously? If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, Roberts! Sure, we have a black president. That doesn’t erase racism across the nation. As if to prove their frenzied desire to disenfranchise, politicians in Texas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Florida, and Georgia wasted no time in announcing that they will be amending their laws as soon as possible.
Of course, the ruling does not make voter discrimination illegal but now the citizen must prove they are being discriminated against rather than state and local governments having to prove that their policies are non-discriminatory. Section 3 also remains in tact which requires pre-clearance in areas where recent policies have proven discriminatory. At least some areas of three of the states will remain under scrutiny. Are we really to believe that those are the only places in need of careful examination?
I was glued to the computer screen, frantically checking tweets, and holding in my screams of ecstasy and anger for the sake of my sleeping family as Wendy Davis’ 13-hour filibuster came to an end. SB5 was the law she was fighting to block. It would have left Texas with only a handful of abortion clinics in the entire state. Under the guise of women’s safety, conservatives were attempting to make obtaining a legal abortion even more difficult. Here’s how it played out:
-After getting a warning for having a colleague help her with a back brace she wanted to wear (You cannot eat, drink, sit, lean, take a break, or go off-topic.), Senator Davis had two left. Her remaining warnings were spent when other senators accused her of being off-topic. Apparently, discussing a law passed in the state requiring women to get a sonogram before they can abort shouldn’t be a part of the conversation. Never mind that she was discussing how SB5 would combine with the sonogram law to make it nearly impossible for most women in Texas to obtain a legal abortion.
-A very lengthy battle ensued over whether she was actually off-topic and who had control of the floor. This required a private meeting that took place off-camera. By off-camera, I am referring to a YouTube feed made available by an independent media organization, the Texas Tribune. Other than a random, bottom-of-the-screen scroll, none of the major news organizations were following the filibuster. Well, they did declare it a failure only to be proven wrong. They seem to be making a habit of reporting nonfactual information, don’t they?
-When the session reconvened, the Senate President ignored everyone who brought up the fact that she had not been off-topic and then he called for a vote to try to beat the midnight deadline, even though another senator has made a motion before he called for the vote. The President had turned off her mic but we all heard her. When Leticia Van de Putte was finally recognized by the man who had effectively silenced her, she refused to back down. Pointing out his refusal to follow the rules, he continued his obtuse behavior until she finally proclaimed, “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?”
-This, dear readers, is when the gallery erupted. They screamed, shouted, cheered, chanted, applauded, and whooped. On and on, refusing to stop until after midnight.
-Repugnant Republicans pushed on anyway. Either they didn’t know or they failed to care that almost 200,000 people were watching online and so many more were following social media. They ignored their live audience shouting, You can’t do that! and It’s after midnight! They recorded a vote. Desperation stinks and the internet has a bloodhound’s nose. Dozens of people fled to the Texas legislature website and got screenshots to prove the vote had occurred after midnight. Proving distrusting instincts right, the time-stamp in the computer was later changed.
-Forced to accept that they were caught trying to commit fraud, Republicans finally admitted (more than two hours later) that SB5 was dead thanks to Senator Davis’ filibuster.
-Texas Governor Rick Perry is planning on resurrecting the Bill. Maybe he hopes no one will show up this time. Maybe he thinks his position is safe. Maybe he thinks Texas will stay Red forever. Guess again, Perry. The world is changing. Texas is evolving. You time is dying and we won’t let it live again.
Back to SCOTUS. They did manage to do something right.
California’s Proposition Eight (Prop 8) was defeated on a technicality. Prop 8 ended same-sex marriage in the state. The court said that the proponents did not have standing in the case and stated that California itself should have appealed the case. Since state officials chose not to, SCOTUS decided that they could not rule on the case either way. This ruling is likely to have implications on state issued bans on same-sex marriage but how exactly is unclear. For now, it means that marriage equality will return to most (if not all) parts of California.
The court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was much more concise. SCOTUS ruled that the federal government cannot discriminate between same-sex marriages and opposite-sex marriages in regards to financial and legal benefits. This ruling only applies to legal same-sex marriages and ignores the inherent discrimination of states that ban or do not offer marriage to gay couples. Still, it is a huge win for marriage equality.
How will historians write about June 2013? Will they mention my children, who both celebrated birthdays this month? Perhaps. They will certainly remember the decisions made by the Supreme Court. I’m sure that the DOMA and Prop 8 decisions will be viewed as a turning point in the disgusting inequality faced by homosexual citizens. I hope the Voting Rights Act is truly obsolete one day, but I do not think history will look kindly on the day it was gutted. Maybe the history books will mention the SB5 filibuster as the event that brought President Wendy Davis to the attention of Americans everywhere. Maybe…