The Supreme Court’s recent decisions on affirmative action, voting rights, and marriage equality will have far-reaching positive and negative effects on social justice. While we can celebrate progress towards marriage equality, the Voting Rights Act decision is devastating. Below are some excerpts from the statements made by some of our clients about these landmark decisions:
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force on marriage equality:
“Today’s historic decisions are a significant leap forward for freedom and justice for same-sex couples and their families, the LGBT community and for our nation—and a lot more work needs to be done to deliver marriage equality to the rest of our nation’s same-sex couples and their families and full equality in every other respect for all LGBT people,” said Rea Carey, Task Force Executive Director.
The Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.
On the Proposition 8 case, the lower federal court had ruled it to be unconstitutional—and the High Court today allowed this ruling to stand. Marriage equality is now reestablished in California.
In all, the federal government will now recognize the marriages of same-sex couples and couples will be able to marry once again in California, our nation’s most populous state.
“These rulings mean stronger families and communities across our nation: Millions of same-sex married couples will gain access to all of the benefits associated with marriage. These include: health care, Social Security, housing and income security—all key components of the American Dream,” Carey said.
“However, those legally married same-sex couples (and widows or widowers) who have moved to—or now live in—a state that discriminates against their marriages, may face barriers to their federal marital protections. We will fight this.”
The Task Force’s full statement can be found here.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force on affirmative action:
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is welcoming the Supreme Court’s Fisher v. University of Texas ruling — reaffirming the value of diversity in higher education.
“The High Court’s ruling reaffirms America’s inclusiveness and vision of participation and opportunity for all,” said Rea Carey, Task Force Executive Director. “Learning with people from different backgrounds and perspectives benefits all students, our workforce and our nation — and people of color, particularly LGBT people of color, continue to experience discrimination and exclusion from our nation’s institutions.”
A chorus of voices from every sphere of American life had urged the Court not to eviscerate higher education’s ability to recruit and support diverse student bodies. In states where race is no longer a factor for admission, the enrollment rates of people of color has dipped considerably.
“Affirmative action in university admissions has long served our nation’s commitment to equality and justice — and we still have a long way to go to eliminate racism from our society. We hope that the Court will stand behind its affirmation of the importance of diversity as this case continues to be adjudicated.”
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force on voting rights:
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is describing the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a central part of the Voting Rights Act — in its ruling on Shelby County v. Holder — as a major step backwards in the ongoing effort to eliminate racism from our democracy.
The ruling invalidated crucial protections passed by Congress in 1965 — protections subsequently renewed four times in the decades since. “Discrimination at the ballot box is a real problem and causes real harm to our democracy. This ruling is a major step backwards in the ongoing fight for a truly free and fair democracy and democratic system,” said Rea Carey, Task Force Executive Director.
The controversial ruling will significantly reduce the federal government’s role in overseeing voting laws in areas with a history of discrimination on the basis of race, color or membership in a language minority group.
The Task Force has joined with other LGBT and civil rights organizations to express its deep concern with today’s ruling.
“We are committed to working with Congress and continuing our work on the ground in the states to make sure America’s democracy is free, fair and accessible for all,” Carey stressed.
And to read reactions and comments from Task Force supporters and board members about all of the Supreme Court’s recent decisions, go to the Task Force’s blog.
The League of Women Voters on voting rights:
“Today is a sad day in America: Through its decision in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, the U.S. Supreme Court erased fundamental protections against racial discrimination in voting that have been effective for more than 40 years,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, President of the League of Women Voters of the U.S. “Only strong action from Congress can fix this huge mistake made by the Court.”
“Today, the Court weakened the Voting Rights Act (VRA) as a mechanism to fight discrimination by striking down Section 4, which determines the states and jurisdictions that must secure federal approval before changing election laws,” said MacNamara. “We believe that today’s Supreme Court decision is naïve. The fact that the Department of Justice blocked over 700 voting changes they found to be discriminatory from 1982 through the VRA’s 2006 reauthorization speaks for itself.”
“The impact of this decision on voters will be significant and far-reaching,” MacNamara said. “This decision will only embolden those who seek to create barriers to voters’ rights. Without a strong VRA, our ability to fight off anti-voter legislation and keep our elections free, fair and accessible is significantly weakened.”
You can read the League’s full statement here.
The League of Women Voters on voter registration:
“Today’s Supreme Court decision in the case Arizona v. ITCA, Inc. is a strong decision protecting voters,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, President of the League of Women Voters of the U.S.
“The decision is a strong endorsement of Congress’ power under the Elections Clause. In this case, Arizona overstepped by imposing restrictions on the voter registration process,” said MacNamara.
“State restrictions lost: Voters won today,” said MacNamara.
“Arizona wrongfully rejected thousands of voter registration applications,” said MacNamara. “The Court ruled that this was inconsistent with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).”
“The Court’s ITCA decision safeguards the voter registration process from political manipulation and will help block attempts in the states to restrict the right to vote,” MacNamara said.
“In its decision, the Court also recognized the importance of interstate voter registration drives like those conducted by the League of Women Voters.”
For the full statement, visit the League’s website.
The League of Women Voters on affirmative action:
“Today’s Supreme Court decision in the case of Fisher v. Austin upheld equal opportunity in education for all Americans,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, President of the League of Women Voters of the U.S. “The Fisher decision affirmed the value of racial and ethnic diversity in educational settings but did instruct the lower court to rehear the case under the strict legal standard that has been in place for decades.”
“The League is pleased that the Supreme Court recognized that increasing racial and ethnic diversity in educational settings is critical to our nation’s democratic institutions,” said MacNamara. “Equality of opportunity is vital if we are to remain an open governmental system that is representative, accountable, and responsive and that assures opportunities for citizen participation in government decision making.”
Go to http://www.lwv.org to read the full statement.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights on voting rights:
Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder invalidating the coverage formula of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA):
“Today’s decision is a major setback to our democracy and will have a real and detrimental impact on the voting rights of Americans. No one should be fooled by the naïve fantasy that voting discrimination no longer exists.
Section 5 is a vital tool to protect voters from losing their right to vote simply because of their race, and in 2006, on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis, Congress determined where that protection was still needed based on historical and ongoing discrimination. In today’s decision, a majority of the Court overruled the well-researched and well-considered judgment of Congress about where these protections were still needed.
Yet, as the Court acknowledged, voting discrimination still exists. The Court invited Congress to draft another coverage formula. We urge Congress to act responsibly, with urgency, and on a bipartisan basis to revise the coverage formula to protect voting rights for minorities.
Discrimination at the ballot box is intolerable, and we must ensure that minorities don’t have their votes purged, packed, gerrymandered, and redistricted away.”
Mr. Henderson’s full statement is available here.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights on affirmative action:
Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 7-1 ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin reaffirming the importance of diversity and equal opportunity in college admissions policies:
“Today’s decision is an important victory for our nation as we strive to build a more inclusive, diverse America. The educational benefits of diversity are clear and the Court’s decision reaffirms that it is in our national interest to expand opportunities for everyone.
We believe that the University of Texas’s admissions policy is a carefully crafted one that will ultimately be upheld by the Court of Appeals.
Our nation’s colleges and universities play a critical role in preparing our children for a diverse, increasingly competitive global workforce. They need to have every tool at their disposal to create the kind of environment that will give our kids the best shot of success.
Indeed, today’s decision makes it clear that it’s time to expand our commitment to diversity in all of our institutions to ensure that we are well-positioned to compete in the diverse economy of the 21st century.”
For more on this decision, go to LCCR’s website.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights on marriage equality:
Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued the following statement on today’s U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry advancing marriage equality for gay and lesbian Americans:
“Today’s decisions mark a significant leap forward for gay and lesbian equality. The long journey of gay and lesbian Americans from the closet toward the sunlight of full recognition of their civil and human rights has been marked by momentous wins and dismaying losses. Today’s decisions show how far LGBT equality has come, but also remind us how much work we have ahead to overcome discrimination, ensure employment rights, and achieve full marriage equality.”
Go to LCCR’s website to read the full statement.