Who would have ever believed that the highest court in all of the land, The United States Supreme Court could have brought people on both sides of the political aisle such disappointment and such joy in the same week.
That is indeed what happened when the court on Monday and Tuesday respectively put both Affirmative Action, particularly as it relates to college admissions and The 1965 Voting Rights Act on life support only to then come back on Thursday and strike down The Defense of Marriage Act as it relates to same-sex couples in the twelve states in the union that recognize marriage equality and choosing not to rule on Proposition 8 in California, clearing the way for same-sex marriages to take place once again in the golden state.
As a Progressive and as a black man born and raised in the south, the announcements on Monday and Tuesday were as big of a punch in the gut as you can imagine especially the news on The Voting Rights Act. The results on Wednesday with Prop 8 and DOMA put the wind back in my sails a little, but it also got me to thinking about the fact that if there were ever a time to build a strong progressive coalition involving a multitude of groups it is now.
The court, by doing the right thing on DOMA and Prop 8 finally afforded the LGBT community of America some of the basic rights that they have been deserving of for a very long time, the rights that a lot of the rest of us take for granted. Does it really make any sense that Edie Windsor, the plantiff who brought the DOMA case all the way to the Supreme Court, had to pay an almost $400,000 tax bill to the federal government because her longtime partner Thea Spyer wasn’t a man.
With DOMA and Prop 8 now gone a mass coalition of Progressives must now move forward on making Marriage Equality a reality in the other 38 states that don’t recognize it. As Rachel Maddow hypothetically put it on her show on Wednesday night “What happens to that same sex couple whose marriage is legally recognized in New York, but the job of one of them decides to transfer them to Utah.” What does that mean for their marriage when it won’t be recognized in a state that is redder than a bottle of Heinz 57 ketchup?
In the early and mid 60s politicians from both parties took this same approach when it came to African-Americans and their civil rights. Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, who wound up being the Republican nominee for President in 1964 basically took the same tact as many Southern Democrats of that time which was if they are lynching you in Mississippi move to Massachusetts. States Rights should always trump whatever the federal government thinks is the best way for the nation to proceed.
Which brings me back to this broad coalition. A Gallup poll commissioned in October of 2012 found that 4.6% of African-Americans and 4.0% of Hispanics identified as non-heterosexual. Imagine the roller coaster of emotions these individuals felt during this week. The feeling of finally being recognized as first class citizens on some level as it relates to their sexuality, back falling back into second class status in terms of their race and the ability to vote or get into college.
All liberals now have to be willing to take on these Republican Governors and right leaning state legislatures over the ability of the poor and minorities to access the ballot box without impediment. Does anybody really trust that Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Phil Bryant and their minions won’t pull every sneaky and dirty trick in the book to put a lid on African-American and Latino voter turnout. In the days since the VRA ruling states like Texas, Mississippi, and North Carolina have already announced plans to go forward with restrictive Voter ID laws that were struck down by The Department of Justice just last year.
Racial minorities, The African- American community in particular have to be willing to return the favor and go to the mat for their LGBT friends and colleagues. The tide is starting to turn in this regard with President Obama’s unwavering support for the Gay community and the passage of marriage equality last February in Maryland with the help of heavy black support.
What the African-American community needs to continue to do is ignore the refrain coming from certain aspects of the black church that continues to foolishly maintain that Homosexuality is wrong and that marriage can only be defined as being between a man and a woman. Black ministers like Virginia Lt. Governor candidate E.W. Jackson and supposed intellectuals like famed neurosurgeon Ben Carson have fully brought into this warped way of thinking. The challenge for all of us black folk is to remember that in many ways our plight, then and now is so eerily similar to those in the LGBT community and that bigotry and discrimination is bigotry and discrimination.
What about the DOMA and Prop 8 decisions and how it relates to immigration. There are countless American citizens who are either married to or are in same-sex relationships with individuals who are not. Many of these couples have had to leave the country out of fear of their partner’s possible deportation. The death of DOMA and Prop 8 takes care of one aspect of that fear, but it won’t fully go away until we as a nation have an immigration policy that welcomes all people in a timely fashion and offers the opportunity for all of them to live the American Dream.
With it’s decisions this week, The Supreme Court has provided the blueprint for a new and broad Progressive Coalition. The job of doing the building is now ours.