It’s been a rather exciting and nerve-wracking week as the Supreme Court justices have handed down their rulings on some of the most controversial topics America has dealt with in decades. On Monday, affirmative action; Tuesday, the Voting Rights Act; Wednesday, gay marriage. These topics have caused deep division and, certainly, the rulings will continue to be up for discussion and further action.
Affirmative action only if necessary for diversity
In a 7-1 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that college admissions processes may only use affirmative action — race-based criteria — if there is no other way to promote diversity on campu s. Such practices should be limited in their impact and be justified in each instance for the cause of diversity. Further, the Supreme Court sent the case, Fisher v. University of Texas, back to the federal appeals court for additional consideration. In the words of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy: “In terms of the law, it always has been established that strict scrutiny requires proof that no less discriminatory alternative can suffice.” The case originated with Abigail Fisher, a white woman who was denied entry at and then sued the University of Texas, which practices affirmative action.
While proponents of affirmative action claim victory in the ruling, in the words of David A. Strauss, a law professor at the University of Chicago, “I’d put it in the category of disaster averted rather than victory achieved.” The debate is far from over as the case goes back to the court of appeals, but one thing is certain — America is changing and attitudes are changing, too. Several decades ago, minorities weren’t being given their fair shake at success, but times are different now. And it isn’t so much that racism is dead, but based on general observation, many individuals in those groups who had once been discriminated against now just want to earn their success based on merit and not through a mandated advantage. While we haven’t heard about a string of discrimination lawsuits in California since Prop. 209 passed in 1996, forbidding universities from using race-, gender-, ethnicity- or national origin-based criteria for entrance, we hope that this recent ruling and what is to become of affirmative action in the future will shake up America and turn it colorblind.
Essential provision of Voting Rights Act struck down
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court justices ruled that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was, basically, antiquated. The provision forced jurisdictions — mainly counties in the South — that wanted to modify voter laws to first receive permission from the federal government. The Voting Rights Act, however, was created 40 years ago and “The conditions that originally justified these measures no longer characterize voting in the covered jurisdictions,” said Chief Justice John Roberts.
The justices continued, ruling that Congress must do a current analysis on voting patterns and create a new list of jurisdictions. While some Voting Rights Act advocates say this is a major blow, we are leaning toward the majority of the justices. And not so much because we are confident that attitudes have changed in a positive direction in many of the jurisdictions — though that is the hope — but because there may be new jurisdictions to add to the list. States such as Arizona, Florida and Ohio created serious hurdles for minorities on Election Day 2012. It’s a shame that suppression in any form still exists, but for those jurisdictions that have progressed with voting equality, let’s not continue to hold them back. On the other hand, for those areas that have taken advantage of certain liberties to suppress voting — it’s time for a reality check. It’s time for Congress to get to work.
Defense of Marriage Act is dead; Prop. 8 deemed unconstitutional, California’s ruling upheld
What can we say? We have advocated for this day since Prop. 8 passed. So, the long and short of it, as in the White House tweet regarding the ruling: Love is love. Gays and lesbians can marry. Now, go out and celebrate and let’s stop the hate!