Supreme Court Tackles Two Landmark Civil Rights Issues

All eyes were on the U.S. Supreme Court last week as it heard arguments from both sides of the same-sex marriage debate. Cases were brought forth questioning the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage in the state, and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which limits federal marriage benefits to opposite-sex couples.

Protesters on both sides of the issue took to the streets surrounding the Supreme Court and made their voices heard on social media. While the Court deliberates on same-sex marriage, Americans are also awaiting a decision on another important civil rights case: Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

An all-important clause in the Act, signed into law in 1965, requires states with a history of discrimination against minorities to get voting rights legislation approved by the federal government before it becomes law. Proponents of striking Section 5 say the requirement is no longer needed, but the facts show that attacks on voting rights are as prevalent as they’ve ever been.  

Since the 2010 midterm elections, 26 laws and two executive actions making it harder to vote have passed in 19 states. On Monday, overriding a veto from Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, the Arkansas state legislature passed a law making it a requirement to show photo ID before voting. Studies show these laws disproportionally affect young, elderly and minority voters.

“We must remember that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is one of the most important and effective pieces of civil rights legislation in American history,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “To strike it down would disenfranchise countless minorities who rely on it to protect their right to vote. We urge the Supreme Court to keep Section 5 on the books.”