United States: Supreme Court decisions one step forwards, two steps back

June 26, 2013

The United States Supreme Court, the nation’s highest judicial body, made two very significant rulings that affect the rights of oppressed peoples across the US on June 26.

The Supreme Court voted to strike down the Defence of Marriage Act, which allowed individual states to outlaw equal marriage without any repercussions from the federal government. The court ruled that such a law was unconstitutional, as it repressed the civil rights of a certain section of the population, in this case LGBTI people.

This huge victory in the Supreme Court opens the way for a federal act legalising marriage equality. In many states, equal marriage rights have already been won.

It is couple coupled with a win in the Californian Supreme Court, which ruled that Proposition 8, that would outlaw marriage equality, was also unconstitutional.

However, in the same session, the Supreme Court ruled to cut a significant section out the Voting Rights Act.

The act, which was won during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, forbid the suppression of the voting rights, especially in regards to the suppression of national minorities such as African Americans.

The fourth and fifth sections of the act specified that states with a history of racial oppression needed to get pre-clearance before making changes to their electoral laws. This stipulation has seriously hampered bids by states such as Arizona and Texas from implementing savagely racist voter-ID laws. Such laws which would disenfranchise thousands of the most oppressed people in those states.

However, the Supreme Court ruling struck this section from the Voting Rights Act, essentially rendering one of the most important victories of the civil rights movement powerless to stop states passing racist laws to disenfranchise minority groups.

This change in the act has already lead Texas, also in the midst of a bid severely limit access to abortion, to pass one of the most strict voter-ID laws to date.

These developments show that while some victories are being made, much larger and more intense struggle is needed across all sections of US society in order to win progressive demands. It is large-scale movements that must be deepened if any permanent progress is going to be won.

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