Over the last couple of weeks, there have been some very interesting decisions made in the US Supreme Court.
DOMA, the law in which defines marriage as a union solely between a man and a woman, was overturned by the Supreme Court. On a local level, this decision deemed California’s Prop 8 unconstitutional as well. Part of me wants to chime in sarcastically, “It’s about damn time!” but really, I do think it’s quite a remarkable accomplishment for our country to have moved so far in the opposite direction of DOMA (1996) in such a short amount of time. Over the last few years, polls have shown more and more people in support of overturning DOMA and this year the majority of American citizens were in favor of it. That’s probably for a variety of reasons – gays are out of the closet and part of our families and circle of friends, they are in our pop-culture, younger adults who have grown up with it not being a taboo, and the realization that same-sex marriage isn’t really interfering with our straight marriages…in fact we do a fabulous job messing those up all on our own as certainly our 50% divorce rate isn’t caused by the gays.
As the 9-year-old son of some very dear friends (who were married when California legalized same-sex marriage and were then in limbo when prop 8 passed) says, “If people don’t like gay marriage then they shouldn’t get gay married.” Exactly!
I was taken back a bit by the Court’s ruling on DOMA because as new rights were being given to one group of people, there was a possibility of rights being taken away from another group based on a controversial decision the day before. SCOTUS found that parts of the Voting Rights Act were unconstitutional and unnecessary. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law in order to protect the15th Amendment. After the ratification of the 15th Amendment, several states tried various ways to deny the vote to all citizens, mainly African Americans, by imposing literacy tests or taxes and redrawing district lines. The Voting Rights Act prohibits states from denying anyone’s legal right to vote and also allowed the federal government to oversee the offending states’ voting protocol. I say “allowed” because that latter part of the Act was recently ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The VRA has basically been gutted in that even though the heart of the Act is still intact, they’ve removed all basis for enforcing it. In the decision, it was said that the federal oversight was basically outdated and no longer needed. The Justices (5-4) think that things have changed and racism is no longer a problem.
Interestingly enough, four days earlier Food Network star Paula Deen, from Georgia (one of the states under the federal oversight), was fired for poor treatment of her African American staff and for having used racial slurs. It does sound like things have changed, doesn’t it.