Here we are, a week before celebrating our country's independence, and there are so many instances of rights-stifling around the country that my head is spinning. Voter rights, women's rights, gay rights. Are you kidding me? This is 2013, correct?
So yeah, this is a soapbox post, but it might be a bit unfocused because frankly I don't know where to start. The good news is that since I started writing this post the Supreme Court shot down DOMA and Prop 8. There's still lots of work to be done, since a majority of states still don't recognize same-sex marriage, but it's a big step.
In Texas, the state Senate attempted to vote on an anti-abortion bill. State Senator Wendy Davis filibustered for 11 hours to ensure that the vote didn't happen. In Texas the filibuster rules are crazy: the filibusterER must stand the entire time and may not sit or lean on anything, much less take a bathroom break, cannot have anything to eat or drink, and he/she must remain on topic. Now let me say that in general I'm not a fan of the filibuster because to me it's a childish attempt to waste time, but it's pretty impressive when someone is so passionate about an issue that they'll talk about it non-stop for hours on end. And I can't forget to mention a certain other state senator, a sponsor of the bill who on Monday actually said that the rape exemption is unnecessary because "in the emergency room they have what's called rape kits, where a woman can get cleaned out." I'm not kidding, people. She said that. More than once. And yes, I said "she." It was a WOMAN. For crying out loud, whether you're pro-choice or anti-abortion, get your damn facts straight.
Let's talk about the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It makes me sick that there even needs to BE a voting rights act, but there is. Back in the day there was a lot of racial discrimination in certain states when it came time to vote, like people having to pass a literacy test or have a character reference in order to be allowed to vote. The Voting Rights Act was put in place to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave non-whites (the men, anyway) the right to vote. Seems crazy to me to have to have an act to enforce a constitutional amendment, but what do I know? Because sure enough certain jurisdictions, mostly in the south, did everything they could to limit or block non-whites from voting.
Enter the Voting Rights Act, which said "no discriminating, assholes," and then went further to say that if your county or state practiced voter discrimination in the past, they couldn't change any voting prerequisites or practices or procedures without approval from a US three-judge panel. The general principles of the act were considered permanent, but parts of it were temporary. In 2006, George W signed a 25-year extension of the act, but then Shelby County in Alabama sued the Attorney General and wanted certain sections of the act declared unconstitutional.
Yesterday the Supreme Court struck down one section of the act. Justice Roberts said that the current system is "based on 40-year old facts having no logical relationship to the present day." I kind of get it, but can we please not pretend that racism is dead and gone? Because it's not. What I think is that the act should be expanded and NO jurisdiction should be able to willy-nilly change their voting practices. Life isn't fair, but the ability to vote damn sure should be.