Change in American Society: Rolling Back DOMA and the Voting Rights Act

The thread running through all these cases is the possibility of change in American society. The differing reactions suggest what sorts of change Americans believe in.

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James Lawler Duggan / REUTERS

The Supreme Court saved its hot-button rulings for last, as usual, and the justices delivered something to please—and outrage—every band of the cultural spectrum. They delighted progressives by striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and rejecting a lawsuit that sought to uphold a ban on same-sex marriage in California. Those same folks were furious, however, when the court rolled back a key enforcement mechanism in the historic Voting Rights Act and ordered an appeals court to look skeptically at the affirmative action program of the University of Texas. Those opinions were hailed by many conservatives.

Further signs of seesaw struggle on a Janus-faced court? Not necessarily. The thread running through all these cases is the possibility of change in American society. The differing reactions suggest what sorts of change Americans believe in.

Justice Anthony Kennedy was only stating the obvious when he wrote in his decisive opinion that changing ideas about same-sex marriage have come “slowly at first and then in rapid course.” When then President Clinton signed the DOMA into law in 1996, no state sanctioned marriages of same-sex partners. The idea that the Constitution would require Uncle Sam to recognize such marriages was a fringe theory at best. But now a dozen states, plus the District of Columbia, permit them. And suddenly the question of recognizing some legal marriages, while spurning others, was a matter of equality under the law. “What the State of New York treats as alike”—in this case the marriage of two lesbians—“the federal law deems unlike,” Kennedy observed.

(VIDEO: The Changing Views of Liberal Politicians on DOMA)

The justices declined to decide, in the California marriage case, whether the ballot initiative called Proposition 8 unconstitutionally discriminated against same-sex couples by outlawing their unions. Instead, the court ruled the ban’s supporters had no standing to appeal a lower court holding against Prop. 8.  The almost certain outcome will be freedom to marry in the Golden State.

If such change is possible in this realm, is it also possible in the vexed and sordid realm of race relations? The court thinks so. Or at least, Justice Kennedy—again the deciding vote—thinks so. In the voting rights decision, he joined the opinion of Chief Justice John Roberts, which held that the ghosts of the 1960s can no longer justify harsher treatment by the federal government of certain states and counties compared to others. Under the Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965, much of the South has been required to secure federal permission before altering election laws. But Roberts noted how much has changed since those bad old days: in five of the six states originally covered by the act, black voter turnout now exceeds white turnout. Measures crafted in the days of poll taxes and murderous repression require fresh analysis in a time of black mayors and an African-American president. Today’s laws “must be justified by current needs,” Roberts wrote.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned in her dissents from the voting rights and affirmative action rulings that less has changed than meets the eye, and that the old tools for fighting racism are as necessary as before. “Past is prologue,” she wrote, quoting Shakespeare. That’s true, sometimes. But not always. Sometimes, the past can be overcome.

MORE: In Landmark Ruling, Supreme Court Strikes Down Defense of Marriage Act

55 comments
Chosun1
Chosun1

The VRA is a stale law that needs updating.  Remember, under the Constitution, all states are admitted on equal footing and supposed to be treated the same.  Singling out any state for negative treatment by the federal government should require a significant amount of proof of current need for such negative treatment.  

valentine.godoflove
valentine.godoflove

THESE JUSTICES OF THE SUPREME COURT.......APPOINTED FOR LIFE......BECOME INBRED.....AND ULTIMATELY USELESS......THEIR JUDGMENT ........CAN DICTATE TO US.....ANYTHING.....IF CONGRESS OR THE SENATE MAKE A LAW THAT STATES.......SENIOR CITIZENS WITH A SERIOUS DISEASE......SHALL BE PUT TO DEATH HUMANELY SO AS NOT TO WAST OUR PLANET RESOURCES......THESE BLACK ROBED CREW.....WOULD SAY.....THIS IS WITHIN THE CONSTITUTION......AND WHO WOULD CHALLENGE THEM.

SINCE THE BEGINNING OF CAVE MAN'S REALIZATION......THAT HE NEEDED TO STICK HIS PHALLUS INTO A RECEPTACLE.....OF THE FEMALE GENDER.....THEY.....INVENTED .....CEREMONIES....WHICH BECAME CALLED MARRIAGES......BETWEEN.....A MAN.....AND A FEMALE........NOT MAN TO MAN.....NOR WOMAN TO WOMAN.

FAST FORWARD THAT TODAY....AND HOMOSEXUALS FALLING IN LOVE AND LIVING TOGETHER.....WANT TO DESTROY TRADITION.....

IN CALIFORNIA....TWICE.....THIS WAS VOTED DOWN.....AND SOME BLACK ROBED JUDGE NEGATED THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE.......IF THESE JUDGES SUFFERED A HORRIBLE DEATH FOR THEIR ACTIONS AGAINST THE PEOPLE......THESE JUDGES WILL NOT GO AGAINST THE ELECTED WILL OF THE PEOPLE.

I FAVOR ALL THE LEGAL RIGHTS OF A MARRIED COUPLE TO A HOMOSEXUAL COUPLE.......CALL IT A UNION......CALLIT A LOVE NEST.......BUT .......DO NOT DESTROY.......TRADITION.....DO NOT DESTROY TRADITION

THESE LEFTWING ENVIRONMENTAL WACKOS EXTREMIST DEMOCRATS ......LED BY BARRY....THE DOPER AND COKEHEAD OBAMA.........SEEM TO WANT TO PUSH THE CITIZENRY......INTO......SUBMISSION......OR CIVIL WAR..

VALENTINE, WORLD HISTORIAN, COMEDIAN....LOL...

Onepatriot
Onepatriot

I had always hoped that we could end up with legal rights for partnerships the same as for married heterosexuals.   For our society and peace among our citizens, I think this would have been the best solution.  It would have done away with discrimination and still preserved the sanctity of marriage as I believe God intended.   But no, we now have gay people marrying and adopting children as if they were going to have "normal" families.  I'm not a conservative or a liberal, and I don't want to deny people the right to live with whoever they choose, but legalizing marriage for gay folks is putting a stamp of approval on that and as a Christian, I don't think it's right. 

BrahmandamLakshmiNarasimhaMurthy
BrahmandamLakshmiNarasimhaMurthy

Is it not possible to call a same sex relationship by a different name , leaving "marriage "to be used only for heterosexual relation. This is not about legality of same sex union, which any way is gaining acceptance.

AlphaJuliette
AlphaJuliette

Gay Rights - I can find no reason not to extend to same sex couples the same rights afforded heterosexual couples.  Generally speaking they are decent people trying to lead normal lives.  They face the same challenges that go with any relationship.  They bond and they break up just like hertero's do.  They tend to be as productive in society, as concerned about the course our nation takes, and are equally dedicated and protective of their own families.  For those people who have established same sex relationships why deny them the same rights heterosexuals have? 

If the religious and conservative people in this country have an issue with same sex relationships they should more rely on God to sort it all out, shouldn't they?  Our lives on this planet are ours to live.  Our choices are our own.  And we all shall someday be held accountable for our actions by that Higher Power the religious right keeps talking about.  In the meantime, why not help our fellow man and woman out as they try to live their lives just as heterosexual's do?  Their relationships do no harm when you really think about it. 

eagle11772
eagle11772

Well, since blacks people are THE MOST HOMOPHOBIC segment of society, I just THANK GOD that they aren't allowed to vote anymore !  THANK YOU SCOTUS !  :)

MrTTT
MrTTT

Come on. The common thread is that the SC correctly held that the federal government must leave these matter to the states. 

jmac
jmac

"But Roberts noted how much has changed since those bad old days: in five of the six states originally covered by the act, black voter turnout now exceeds white turnout."Today’s laws “must be justified by current needs,” Roberts wrote.

A lot of those black voters waited in line over eight hours to vote.  His justice is blind.  He's ignoring reality.   Two hours after the Texan woman spoke on her abortion filibuster, Texas Congressmen voted to make sure her district doesn't elect her again - they put in place a map that had been rejected before.  



Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

Both are pro-business rulings. The Chamber of Commerce supported marriage equality for competitive reasons (don't chase away  any part of the talent pool) and supports rolling back the VRA as it will lead to minority disenfranchisement which will elect more anti-tax republicans.

The Roberts court, with few exceptions,  does the bidding of the UC Chamber of Commerce. 

jmac
jmac

@Onepatriot  A muslim would agree with you.   For those of us that aren't religious, you or the Muslim's right to use your religion on others in a hurtful way because you don't think it's "normal"  can't be acceptable.   Some would actually call it stone throwing for you to decide morally what's right or wrong for others.    

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

@AlphaJuliette I am confused.  Why does the right want the government to stay out of their business but they then want to have government all in our business about marriage and abortion? 

eagle11772
eagle11772

@MrTTT So if a state voted to bar Hispanic people from being allowed to marry, then that would be ok ?

ARTRaveler
ARTRaveler

Yes, and if it was possible, several would re-institute slavery tomorrow.  SCOTUS is not only blind but patently stupid since the progress they cite is ONLY because the states were prevented from doing their best to dis-infranchise people.  There are going to be a lot more class action federal lawsuits since they just handed the state courts a right to discriminate.  They may want to get those openings filled.

MrTTT
MrTTT

@jmac  Using current data (rather than 1965 data) the widest gap in voter turnout between blacks and whites today is in Massachusetts  What should the federal government do about this modern-day problem supported by facts?


MrTTT
MrTTT

@jmac So your point is that things haven't changed in the South since 1965?  And by the way; justice is supposed to be blind and I don't find you qualified to predict who will win an election in Texas.  Ask Ann Richards.

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

@jmac As I heard it phrased somewhere, shutting down the VRA because it's working is like putting away your umbrella in the rain because you're not getting wet.

dunedweller
dunedweller

@Paul,nnto Yes, and get ready for more challenges to tried and true protection laws. If they have worked well for all these years, the US Chamber / Corporations / Republicans will claim we don't need them anymore based on the VRA ruling.

bryanfred1
bryanfred1

Yeah, I'm sure businesses will be thrilled to get to incur the expense of adding same-sex spouses to their benefits programs.

Onepatriot
Onepatriot

@jmac @Onepatriot Sorry, but I'm not throwing stones at anyone.  Nothing I said indicates that I'm against anyone who is gay.   We live in times where no one compromises.   It's not enough to end discrimination and legalize their unions, the rest of us are required to go along with politicians and courts putting their blessing on their "marriage".

I'm not making any decisions about what is morally right for another,  however,I  do have an opinion about what I think our country should  be like, and that's my right, the same as you have the right to yours.

MrTTT
MrTTT

@PaulHanson @MrTTT   If a bi-racial couple desires to marry and a state refuses then the courts are in place to resolve the matter.

MrTTT
MrTTT

@eagle11772 @MrTTT   Unsure if you are addressing me or an imaginary friend. Of course it wouldn't be OK.  How about a state passing a law to allow polygamy?  That's much more common historically than is gay marriage and, I presume, much more likely.  How about freedom to marry a 3 year old?...or to marry a dog or a cow?  Those are OK?

MrTTT
MrTTT

@ARTRaveler   Who is "several."  I have lived in many Southern states and I really need to understand who you're talking about. At the federal level slavery to the state is in full force, so "would" doesn't apply there.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@MrTTT @jmac  So progress equals success? 

Google "Voter ID" and see the results from the last 24 hours. You are okay with voter suppression, fine,  but lets not pretend that isn't the goal. 

MrTTT
MrTTT

@PerryWhite1 @jmac Yes...and it's still a pointless comment having nothing to do with a federal government singling out a small number of states for special approvals when the original decision has served it's purpose.  What do you think we should do with the Davis-Bacon Act?  I think that points to discrimination against black workers in northern states.  Perhaps all hiring of non-black workers in northern states should be approved by the federal government.

bryanfred1
bryanfred1

I think the point is it is no longer fair to single out 12 states for federal scrutiny.  Any proposed change can still be challenged in court. 

To me these rulings seem like a harmonization of treatment under the law in America, and that's a good thing.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@dunedweller @Paul,nnto  Exactly correct. 

It really isn't that hard to see how the Roberts court will rule unless one has an agenda (our media) to pretend otherwise.


MrObvious
MrObvious

@bryanfred1 

It cost a company more when talented workers go to competitors then to offer them benefits.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

@bryanfred1 Easily solved by a single payer Medicare type system where businesses have nothing to do with health care. 

jmac
jmac

@Onepatriot @jmac  ". . . I'm not throwing stones . . . "   You are definitely throwing stones when you tell children that their parents can't 'marry' because as a Christian you somehow have a lock on the word.  You are also implying with your comment that none of those couples could possible be Christian, because you seem to think you have a lock on that also.  

Onepatriot
Onepatriot

@ScarletBegonia @Onepatriot @jmac You're offering a choice between two less than ideal solutions.  I'd rather see more incentives offered for adoption into well screened heterosexual families and then maybe we wouldn't have any looking for homes.  I don't doubt that there are gay people who want children.  I just think children should have the best chance to succeed and that's not what I see as the best  option for them. 

ScarletBegonia
ScarletBegonia

@Onepatriot @jmac 

Nobody needs you to bless their marriage. 

Also, you are throwing stones when you say that gays shouldn't be allowed to adopt. You should Google Zach Wahls. He's an excellent example of an exemplary citizen who is very engaged in his community and politics. He was raised by lesbians and identifies as a cis heterosexual male. 

Would you rather thousands of U.S. children and abroad remain in orphanages, institutions, or abusive foster homes? Or would you rather allow homosexual couples in good standing that meet all of the same requirements as a heterosexual couple be able to give those children a loving home? 

Piacevole
Piacevole

@MrTTT @PaulHanson NOW, they are.  But prior to Loving v.Virginia, it could be illegal.  That was the deciding case on miscegenation laws which were declared unconstitutional.

MrTTT
MrTTT

@MrObvious @MrTTT @eagle11772   Once again, I agree with your points on contract law.  I am also calling out the precise fallacy you note: that the "right" to marry anyone you wish because you love them is a fallacy.  The contractual fallacy of marrying a child or animal notwithstanding, the primary argument against the DOMA has not been contractual but, rather, "rights" based.   I have a right to own an animal. I assure you there are those who, perhaps for federal benefits, are prepared to argue the "right" to marry one.

MrTTT
MrTTT

@MrObvious @MrTTT @eagle11772   And you aren't making "morality" arguments?  Polygamy is very common in history and is among consenting adults. Your position is that the government should forbid such a "contract"?  Frankly your post spews more hate that any other I see on this thread.  I prefer that you avoid projecting your venom.

MrTTT
MrTTT

@Piacevole @MrTTT @eagle11772   Your position is well founded if this were a discussion about contract law.  This is a discussion about the "right" to marry what you love.  Points conceded on contracts.  What is your position on the "right" to marry as you wish?

MrObvious
MrObvious

@MrTTT @eagle11772 

It's idiotic to make an argument that allowing same sex couples to legally marry is the same as marrying a child, polygamy and bestiality. It's idiotic on its foot and a damn foolish thing to throw into a argument. What it boils down to people is their idea of religious morality and that has no business in national politics about basic human rights.

It's a shame that fools have to mix in pedophilia and bestiality in a debate about human rights for consenting adults.

As for polygamy - the only ones that usually want something like that are rightwing cults. They're few and it's not something that enter most peoples vernacular. Personally I don't find any legal reason for someone too marrying more then one partner other then the legal hell when it comes to a divorce. 

Ultimately we're talking about a legal contracts between adults with a legal framework about ownership and such. 

But there are still fools who think marrying someone has to do with procreation. And thats the atypical foolish religious sin argument that does not belong in a human rights discussion. That's for church. Ultimately churches are not forced to marry same sex couples and they're still allowed to be as hateful as they want - just as before. There's just no legal human rights reason to deny same sex couples the same federal laws as a heterosexual couples and none of that has anything to do with idiotic slippery slope arguments.

But it illustrates perfectly well that most religionutters don't have a good legal argument against same sex couples since they're forced to trot out the tired and nonsensical slippery slope fallacy.

Piacevole
Piacevole

@MrTTT @eagle11772 Can a "dog or cow" be party to a contract?  If not, then that part of your inquiry is moot.  Only parties both of whom are legally able to enter into a contract, may marry.  A three-year-old may not enter a valid contract , either.

 Polygamy?  I don't know.  Perhaps we will get around to that.  I don't actually think so, but maybe.  

Can you delineate a specific harm that would ensue, if consenting parties (legally of age and able to give consent) agreed to enter such a relationship?



MrTTT
MrTTT

@notLostInSpace @MrTTT @ARTRaveler   I suggest you get out more when you're in the South. I live and spend practically all of my time between TX, LA, AL, GA, and NC, and I suggest that your family is unique in the modern South.  I get the need for some folks to impose their personal views on others (and thereby improving their now "enlightened" self-esteem) but using distortions as you have stated to justify doing so is, frankly, less that honorable..   I suggest that you pay for your own help for your self-esteem issues rather than doing so funded by the taxpayer funding your "enlightened" perspective that are not fact-based.  By the way... charter schools are a way for disadvantaged kids to obtain a "private" quality education.  Why is it that you oppose those charter schools again?  IS it your preference that kids are slaves to the state schools?

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

@MrTTT @ARTRaveler  Miss.  Ala.  La.  SC.    If you don't believe the white folks there would not want to reinstitute slavery you are in denial.  I'm from La and spent a lot of time in Ala and Oklahoma.  And I'm not saying there aren't folks everywhere who would concur.   Truth is they have enslaved all the poor people, its just not called slavery.  Guaranteed continued cycles from poor schools, bleak job market ("you want fries with that?").   No question money has been spent, and much wasted, but reality is that it would probably take several times more to make a real difference and that is not ever gonna happen.  If right wing has its way the entire public school system will be destroyed (more charters, more outsourcing to private sector, destroy unions).  When I visit my southern relatives I'm always amazed at how little has improved in fifty years.    Except for private "academies".  They seem to improve.  Wonder why?

MrTTT
MrTTT

@ARTRaveler   Please base your argument on critical thinking and on fact.  I agree with the  Arkansas Constitution position not to prevent voters from voting.   Correct my thinking if I am mistaken, but are you supporting a position that anyone who enters a polling place should be considered a registered voter?   I suspect not.  So how does a poll attendant verify that a person is actually a voter?  Furthermore, if IDs are not checked, how can you assume that this is a problem doesn't exist?    Google  news "voter fraud" for several counterexamples indicating that several courts disagree that the problem doesn't exist.

ARTRaveler
ARTRaveler

Voter ID solves a problem that doesn't exist.  It was an ALEC-promoted bill to conservative state legislatures to suppression non-white voters.  In this state of less than 3 million, there are 80,000 who lack the specified documents.  The state budgeted zero dollars ($0) to implement, stating they will use civic clun meetings and social media to reach people who would never be accepted into a civic club and who probably don't have a computer (BTW-outside of the two largest cities, most of the state is on dial-up or worse on unsupported wire lines by ATT).  Our state consitution specifically says nothing will be placed in law to prevent voters so in Arkansas, voter ID is going to court and probably be overturned.  In Texas, only men have rights aopparently so they will shove it through without vasoline.

MrTTT
MrTTT

@Paul,nnto @MrTTT @jmac Are you addressing me or an imaginary friend who's mind you can read?   How, exactly, is requiring identification to verify identity morphed into voter suppression?   Suppression of voter fraud is my intent.  I don't pretend to read your mind but might you consider minorities too simple-minded to perform a task as simple as obtaining identification?   If so, I find your opinion of minorities shockingly offensive.  That position, sir, is exactly the type of position held and publicized by slave owners to convince slaves they could not survive if freed from slavery. You can explain your position to your grandchildren when they point out the offense of it when you're found out.

MrTTT
MrTTT

@Paul,nnto @MrTTT @PerryWhite1 @jmac The Davis-Bacon Act was ratified to stop black workers from the South - who were willing to work for lower wages than the white workers in the North - from taking the construction jobs in the North.  Prior to the Davis-Bacon Act, virtually all construction in the North was performed by black men. The Davis-Bacon Act immediately sent them to the unemployment lines when predominantly white workers replaced them. 

MrTTT
MrTTT

@Paul,nnto @MrTTT @dunedweller Are you referring to modern day slavery where people are wards of the state repeatedly convinced of their victim status?