June 26, 2013

This Supreme Court is a remarkable one.  Their latest rulings on gay marriage and voting rights say a lot about the unique balance of this Court. The Roberts Court made clear-eyed decisions on two issues that, by today’s political standards, are in ideological conflict.

First, the Justices ended the punishment of a few Southern states by disabling Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act.  Second, the Court allowed gay marriage by remanding Proposition 8 to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court and declaring the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.  The rulings were elegant yet narrow.  The Justices stuck to the facts of the cases in front of them, and avoided the temptation of creating an excuse to expand the reasoning of their decisions, which could have appeared to favor a partisan view on these politically contentious issues.

At their core, the rulings simply acknowledge the obvious.  Striking down DOMA and allowing gay marriage acknowledges the obvious about personal freedom and the importance of letting people live their lives the way they want to without government interference.

The day before, sending Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act back to Congress and forcing them to rework the law’s present formula acknowledges the absurdity and unfairness of presuming that states are guilty of racism today because of the actions of others decades ago.  In reaction to the Voting Rights Act decision, the usual suspects are crying foul and declaring that the Court’s ruling will take the country “back to another period.”  But the fact of the matter is that this generation of Southerners believes the good guys won the civil rights war. Suppressing racism is an ongoing goal but it’s not right to punish certain states for the mistakes of previous generations.  Combating racism is a task for all Americans, not just a task for a few in certain states.

I hope that the delicate balance on this Court is preserved throughout the rest of the Obama presidency.   In other words, I sure hope President Obama doesn’t get another Supreme Court pick.