BY VERN TURNER
In Austin, TX yesterday, a woman named Wendy Davis stood for 10 hours before the state Senate and filibustered a terrible bill that would outlaw abortions for women after 20 weeks, irrespective of cause. When the presiding officer, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, called a halt to her bravery for procedural reasons, dozens of women who crowded the gallery picked up Davis’ baton and shouted down the bill until time ran out. It failed to pass.
The Earth shook. Angels wept. Real people actually let their voices be heard for what was right, just and fair for the greater good of all. Be still my beating heart!
What had been an arrogant, bullying extra session of the state Legislature called by the governor, Rick Perry, allowed some real governance and democracy for a change. Maybe, just maybe, the other people of Texas will wake up to their duties as citizens and let their voices be heard too. Maybe, just maybe, there will be some hope for ordinary Texans and that the ruling party and its wannabe king will have to accept that they are beholden to more than just the fat cats who line their pockets.
We also have the U.S. Supreme Court declaring the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and paving the way for same-sex marriage to be reinstated in California [in effect affirming a lower court ruling that declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional].
States will now be allowed to determine their own marriage laws.
This will, of course, create even more ideological separation between so-called conservative states like Texas and Oklahoma and the other forward-thinking states. The really good news is that the states will be required to practice reciprocity between the states irrespective of their marriage laws.
Then we have the Voting Rights Act decision. By striking down Section 5 of this law, the Supreme Court allowed states to practice any kind of voter regulation and suppression they care to. The attorney general of Texas calls this decision a “victory.
Justice Scalia commented in his decision that racism is dead and that the 15 states covered by Section 5 were as racist as he was. THAT should send a chill through the bones of everyone not lily white.
I see this decision having onerous tones that will allow Jim Crow to roll back the stone and be resurrected as a throwback to the days of separate but equal and segregated water fountains.
How could anyone claim that this decision is a “victory” unless there was prejudicial intent in their agenda?
There is an irony, though. Many elderly and rural Americans don’t have a government issued ID, don’t drive and live far, far away from government facilities that provide the ID service. The irony is that these people tend to vote Republican.
With voting districts already gerrymandered to favor incumbents, the potential for voter suppression is heightened even more by this decision; some states will think they now have carte blanche to return to the bad old days. Many of us who marched, sang and carried signs during the 1960s and ‘70s are dismayed by this ruling.
“Why,” some of us ask, “didn’t Section 5 simply apply to ALL 50 states?” This case would then be moot and the voting rights of everyone would be protected.
When President Lyndon Johnson, a Texas Democrat, signed the Voting Rights Act, he lamented that he just threw away the Southern vote. Why is that the case? Why does the Supreme Court have to rule on voting rights? That is what the United States of America was founded on. It is what democracy means.
Why are our prejudices stronger than the basic founding principles of our country?
The answer to those questions will determine whether or not we continue as a democratic republic or something different.
– Vern Turner is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. He lives in Marble Falls, TX, where he writes a regular column for the River Cities Daily Tribune. He is the author of three books – A Worm in the Apple: The Inside Story of Public Schools, The Voters Guide to National Salvation and Killing the Dream: America’s Flirtation With Third World Status – all available through Amazon.com.