Monday, July 01, 2013

The Bipolar Court







It was a rough week to be a gay black man in the South. Although I imagine every week is similarly rough, the two decisions last week by the Supreme Court were enough to give a civil libertarian whiplash. The same politicized court that gave us Bush v. Gore and Citizens United has  successfully extended rights to some while depriving rights to others. On one hand, the Court ruled the Clinton Era Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional, paving the way for same-sex marriage equality under the law. On the other hand, the majority of justices kicked out the cornerstone of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the crowning achievements of the civil rights movement, allowing states with a history of discriminatory voting practices to charge full speed ahead with the very same onerous legislative trickery that brought them under Justice Department scrutiny in the first place. After Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the majority on the legality of Obamacare, I thought perhaps the court might assume a more moderate tone ever since they ruled that corporations were people and money was speech, but I guess that was an aberration. Or was this an aberration? Every time the Supreme Court goes into session, I don't know whether to crawl under my desk or get out the flowers and balloons. The declaration by Justice Roberts that "our country has changed" is true enough, but it was followed by the plaintiff's attorney's astonishing remark that, "the problem to which the Voting Rights Act was addressed is solved," which made us laugh out loud at my house. We figured the lawyer didn't live around here, but the case was  brought against the Justice Department by Shelby County, Alabama. Roll Tide.

The Voting Rights Act was purchased in blood, but Justice Roberts and company seem hell-bent on destroying the last vestiges of Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society." People either have short memories or they choose not to remember. The Act was passed in the wake of "Bloody Sunday," in1965, when a group marching for voters' rights were attacked and beaten by police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Representative John Lewis took a rock to the head that fractured his skull, while others were trampled or pummeled with nightsticks. Of the court's ruling, Congressman Lewis said, "The Supreme Court has struck a dagger into the heart of the Voting Rights Act." A provision of the 1965 law singled out fifteen states, mostly in the Old Confederacy, with the notable exception of Tennessee, and a slew of municipalities elsewhere that had a history of voter suppression, and stated any future changes in voting laws must first be approved by the Justice Department. Even Justice Roberts, citing the Freedom Summer of 1964, when three young activists were murdered near Philadelphia, Mississippi for attempting to register black people to vote, said, "There is no denying that, due to the Voting Rights Act, our nation has made great strides." Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in rejoinder said, "The sad irony of today's decision lies in its utter failure to grasp why the VRA has proven effective." The great strides have been made because of the VRA. The decision frees nine states, mostly in the south, to change their election laws without advance Federal approval. Clarence Thomas, as usual, said nothing, but voted with the majority.

Although some have said the VRA is dead, the courts have thrown the decision whether or not to reinstate the act back to Congress, proclaiming they can re-impose federal oversights, but they must be based on contemporary data. That sounds reasonable enough until you consider that Texas officials quickly announced that a voter ID law that was previously blocked under the VRA would go into effect immediately. Florida is now free to set early voting hours and cut down on polling places in ethnic areas. Does anyone actually believe, in our little blue corner of a red state world, that Southern states liberated from federal oversight are about to reinstate the VRA? Congress can't even pass a Farm Bill. Gov. Rick Perry must be dancing a Texas Reel in the flickering light, that he need no longer give a second thought to the legality of the redistricting maps drawn to protect Republican seats, that is--in between his crass, gooberesque critiques of Texas state Senator Wendy Davis' personal life. Speaking for the majority, Antonin Scalia, son of Italian immigrant parents, said, "Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them." Since when is the right to vote an "entitlement," especially a "racial" one? In John Lewis' words, “The literacy test may be gone, but people are using other means, other tactics and techniques," to suppress the black  vote. Instead of Jim Crow era poll taxes, Republican controlled Southern state legislatures use pesky and costly photo ID regulations and restrictions on early voting to remain in power. They quake before the shifting demographic.

Judge Scalia had a rollercoaster week. The 77 year-old Justice has been warming that bench since Ronald Reagan sat in the Oval Office, so the Court's simultaneous overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act and discarding California's Proposition 8, nearly gave the conservative Scalia apoplexy. He said angrily from the bench, “Few public controversies will ever demonstrate so vividly the beauty of what our framers gave us, a gift the court pawns today to buy its stolen moment in the spotlight: a system of government that permits us to rule ourselves.” After the official pomposity was over, Scalia claimed his allegiance to DOMA was criticized, "because it is harder to maintain the illusion of the act’s supporters as unhinged members of a wild-eyed lynch mob when one first describes their views as they see them.” Lynch mob? I thought only Judge Thomas accused his detractors of such a thing. Scalia later surmised that gay-marriage was inevitable, "when the Court declared a Constitutional right to homosexual sodomy." I don't recall reading the Sodomy Clause in the Constitution, but if Scalia said it, it must be so.

While 35 state legislatures, including Mississippi and North and South Carolina, are poised to act on voter ID laws, and other states like Alaska and Arizona are considering changing early voting laws, California has been experiencing euphoric joy over the demise of Prop. 8, which made same-sex unions illegal. It was joyous to watch the parade of weddings on Cable News, particularly the one officiated by outgoing Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa between Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami, who successfully challenged Proposition 8 before the court. Isn't this what critics of the gay lifestyle always wanted? If gay people can enter into lasting unions, it eliminates the prejudicial perceptions of promiscuity and replaces it with those of loving relationships. But then there's Texas, whose governor said, "It is fairly clear about where this state stands on that issue." I'm sure all Texans don't agree with Rick Perry, but the state passed an amendment to ban same-sex marriage in 2005 with a 76 percent majority, exceeded only by similar vote totals in Louisiana and Alabama. But gay weddings are coming to Texas, even if it takes a minute, and even while the state legislature fast-forwards its' attempt to gerrymander Hispanics and African-Americans out of the political equation. The Supreme Court's decisions may have far-reaching societal consequences, but for a gay, black man in the south, it was just another week.




10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Making gay marriage legal is a good start, but it is not nearly enough. I think that Congress should mandate that every stall in men's public restrooms across the country have a glory hole and that these restrooms be equipped with free butt plugs, lubricant, wipes to eliminate the santorum from one's penis, and gargle to eliminate the taste of semen from one's mouth. Women's public restrooms should be equipped with free strap-ons, vibrating dildos, taint wipes, and gargle to eliminate the taste of vaginal ambrosia from one's mouth. Also public school children beginning with kindergarten should be forced to watch the most lurid gay sex videos imaginable. In the spirit of egalitarianism, this should serve to increase the numbers of young gay people for us older gays to feed upon. As good liberals, we should not rest until these things are effected. Do I hear an amen?

T-BAG said...

I LOVE YOU BRAIN MINE IS GONE...I AM A ROBOT.....IT

Gregg said...

Sorry it took me until now to comment on your consistently intelligent viewpoint on the news of the day. It's always a joy to read your
prose.

It's hard to figure what was going on with the comment by Anonymous. I do understand frustration, though, and how it can spill into a rage. I've visited that space. Tough space.

Anyway, thanks, RJ, for your clear eye. I guess you're saying that you never know when somebody might need an unexpected friend. Funny how things can turn around when you least expect it. Ho, boy, then everybody wants a little respect, a little help, a little humane perspective, a little tug on their bootstraps..........even a "handout". Best of luck, everybody.

alittlegreen said...

Well Anonymous aren't you just a pissed off, sick little fuck. I hate that you could very well be breathing the same air as me, go find your hole and climb back in, this ain't your forum loser.

Anonymous said...

Now I know that you are delusional. Not a pernicious liar, just delusional. Whatever goes through the uber-liberal screen that surrounds your mind, comes out warped and distorted. Do you really think that rabid, institutional racism will be enacted by the nine southern states in question? How can you see so much evidence of modern-day racial discrimination when no one else can, but for a few deluded Leftists such as yourself who seem to see it everywhere. LBJ's Great Society was Marxism on the hoof, but so was FDR's New Deal. None of that matters anymore because the Marxists have won the war. What in the world is wrong with showing an I.D. to vote? Everyone needs to show an I.D. to buy a six-pack of beer. Only Leftists such as yourself see racism in that issue. Both parties work to gerrymander voting districts to their advantage. But again, in your mind only the Republicans do this...what a joke. Scalia was being facetious when he said that 'the Court declared a constitutional right to sodomy'. Of course that is not in the Constitution and that was his point. Try to muster a tiny bit of honesty. The one thing that you are right about is that the Supreme Court no longer bases its decisions on the Constitution, but upon political expediency. Traditional America is almost dead now. I hope that you like what will take its place, but it won't be pretty. Lenin planned on eliminating the 'useful idiot' Leftists in America as a first order of business after the Communist takeover. His reasoning was simple...how can you trust an element that was so unfaithful to their own country. They can't be trusted, so eliminate them. I can refer you to a video by a former KGB officer who defected to America who said this very thing. You'd better hope that the Communists come to power after you are gone.

Anonymous said...

alittlegreen, I shudder to think that you might be female. Are you? You talk like a male Neanderthal truck driver. It would surprise me if you have ever had a man in your life...for long. Your filthy mouth would back a buzzard off of a gut wagon.

Anonymous said...

Gregg, I am a gay man. Though I went a little bit overboard, my point was that this country needs to do more to accommodate the gay life-style in all of its glory and to make it more public. We cater to the tastes of heteros through public venues, why not show a little more of the queer side of life? Equal is equal. Nobody thinks a thing about heterosexual oral or anal sex so why shouldn't our sexual tastes be broadcast also. Granted the public restrooms satire was a bit out of line. If I hate anything it is the self-righteousness of heteros who seem to think that their sexual practices are moral than ours are not. There seems to be a lot of vitriol on this blog. I can't tell if the gay life style is supported here or not. Another thing, I am new here but there seems to be so many anonymouses here that some innocent people are wounded in the crossfire.

Anonymous said...

What's all this fuss about? Some of the very best people are fudge-packers and muff-divers. All I ask is that they clean up afterwards. It bugs the heck out of me to see pubes sticking out from between some muff-diver's teeth, or to smell fecal odors coming from a fudge-packer who hasn't properly washed himself. Besides that, who cares what anyone does to get his/her rocks off? I, for one, have a coat hanger fetish. Whose business is it if I get all worked up when I see coat hangers?

performs said...

Randy, after reading your essay, I considered chiming in. However, after wading through the slimy thoughts offered up in this sadly polluted comments section, I will keep my thoughts to myself on your subject matter. I wish there was something you could do to raise the level of discourse.

Randolph Haspel said...

Dear Mr. Anon. of 7/1 @ 10:21. I had to chuckle at your Rush Limbaugh-like response. There's not a Leninist nation left in the world except N. Korea, and you say the communists won? Beeeep! You're discredited!