Fight on for equality freedomThe news last week spun faster than many of us could keep up with. Decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court impacted marriage equality and voting rights, while a battle over women’s bodies raged in Texas underscoring the connection between these human rights issues.
By: Chris Taylor, Superior Telegram
The news last week spun faster than many of us could keep up with. Decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court impacted marriage equality and voting rights, while a battle over women’s bodies raged in Texas underscoring the connection between these human rights issues.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions on several key pieces of law twisted and turned, finally extending needed protections to gay families while simultaneously dismantling one of the most important and successful pieces of civil rights legislation in our history.
As the country awaited the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in two landmark marriage equality cases, Texas Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis spent 11 hours filibustering a bill that would have shut down most abortion access in the state and ban all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. All of this unfolded shortly after five members of the U.S. Supreme Court eviscerated the Voting Rights Act, reasoning that its success negated its continued necessity.
The simultaneous discussion of reproductive rights and marriage equality highlighted the inextricable link of these issues. The right to privacy in childbearing decisions was first recognized almost 50 years ago, and provided the underpinning to legal birth control, abortion and to Roe v. Wade’s extensive legal progeny.
As stated by a plurality of the U.S. Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (2003), “[o]ur law affords constitutional protection to personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing and education. Our cases recognize the right of the individual … to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person …”
On the eve of the Supreme Court affirming marriage equality in California and extending federal benefits for same sex married couples, state legislatures in Texas and throughout the country were attempting to roll back fundamental privacy rights for women.
And as voter identification laws and gerrymandered legislative districts proliferate in states around our country, the Voting Rights Act was gutted. The heart of the voting act pro-actively required that nine mostly southern states with a pernicious and persistent history of racial discrimination obtain federal approval before changing election laws. Soon after the ruling, the Texas Attorney General stated his intention to immediately enforce Texas’s voter ID law and most likely the gerrymandered redistricting map — familiarly drawn in secret by mostly white lawmakers — both previously impermissible under the voting act.
In lamenting the decision, civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis stated he would return home and hold the pen President Lyndon B. Johnson used to sign the historic legislation, the most tangible fragment that remained.
On March 7, 1965, Lewis and hundreds of others marched for voting rights across a bridge in Selma, Ala., into the clubs of police officers, who beat fleeing participants and cracked Lewis’ skull. But they marched again several weeks later and the voting act became a reality later that year.
Despite and because of the events in the last week, this 4th of July we must commit to continuing to march over bridges, into our communities and to our neighbors’ doorsteps until equal rights and freedom are extended and protected for all people.
Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, represents the 76th Assembly district, which includes the State Capitol. Taylor is an attorney and a former policy director for Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin.