Washington, DC Today, the Supreme Court struck down a central part of the Voting Rights Act, invalidating crucial protections passed by Congress in 1965 and renewed four times in the decades since. The sharply divided decision will significantly reduce the federal government's role in overseeing voting laws in areas with a history of discrimination against African-Americans.
We, America's leading LGBT advocacy organizations, join civil rights organizations and indeed, all Americans whom this law has served to protect in expressing acute dismay at today's ruling. Not only had Congress repeatedly reaffirmed the need for this bedrock civil rights protection, but authoritative voices from across America had filed amicus briefs urging the court not to undermine the law: the NAACP; the American Bar Association; the Navajo Nation; the states of New York, California, Mississippi and North Carolina; numerous former Justice Department officials charged with protecting voting rights; dozens of U.S. senators and representatives; and many others.
These varied and powerful voices attest to the self-evident reality that racial protections are still needed in voting in this country. As recently as last year's elections, political partisans resorted to voter suppression laws and tactics aimed at reducing the votes of people of color.
Voting rights protections, which have long served our nation's commitment to equality and justice, should not be cast aside now. The court has done America a grave disservice, and we will work with our coalition partners to undo the damage inflicted by this retrogressive ruling.
Center for Black Equity
CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers
The Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals
Family Equality Council
Freedom to Marry
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders
Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC)
Human Rights Campaign
Immigration Equality Action Fund
National Black Justice Coalition
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
PFLAG - Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays
Pride at Work, AFL-CIO
Task Force attacks Supreme Court Voting Rights Act decision
WASHINGTON, June 25 The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is describing the Supreme Court's decision to strike down a central part of the Voting Rights Act in its ruling on Shelby County v. Holder as a major step backwards in the ongoing effort to eliminate racism from our democracy.
The ruling invalidated crucial protections passed by Congress in 1965 protections subsequently renewed four times in the decades since.
"Discrimination at the ballot box is a real problem and causes real harm to our democracy. This ruling is a major step backwards in the ongoing fight for a truly free and fair democracy and democratic system," said Rea Carey, Task Force Executive Director.
The controversial ruling will significantly reduce the federal government's role in overseeing voting laws in areas with a history of discrimination on the basis of race, color or membership in a language minority group.
The Task Force has joined with other LGBT and civil rights organizations to express its deep concern with today's ruling.
"We are committed to working with Congress and continuing our work on the ground in the states to make sure America's democracy is free, fair and accessible for all," Carey stressed.
To learn more about the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, visit www.theTaskForce.org ( www.thetaskforce.org/ ) and follow us on Twitter: @TheTaskForce ( http://www.twitter.com/thetaskforce).
Statement by the President on the Supreme Court Ruling on Shelby County v. Holder
I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court's decision today. For nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act enacted and repeatedly renewed by wide bipartisan majorities in Congress has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans. Today's decision invalidating one of its core provisions upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent.
As a nation, we've made a great deal of progress towards guaranteeing every American the right to vote. But, as the Supreme Court recognized, voting discrimination still exists. And while today's decision is a setback, it doesn't represent the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination. I am calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls. My Administration will continue to do everything in its power to ensure a fair and equal voting process.
REMARKS AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY BY ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER ON THE SUPREME COURT DECISION IN SHELBY COUNTY V. HOLDER
June 25, 2013, WASHINGTON, D.C.
Good afternoon. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision in the case of Shelby County v. Holder — and invalidated an essential part of the Voting Rights Act, a cornerstone of American civil rights law. Like many others across the country, I am deeply disappointed with the Court's decision in this matter. This decision represents a serious setback for voting rights — and has the potential to negatively affect millions of Americans across the country.
In the nearly half-century since its initial passage — in 1965 — the Voting Rights Act has consistently enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress as well as the Executive Branch. After extensive hearings, Sections 4 and 5 of this important law were reauthorized most recently in 2006, with the unanimous support of the U.S. Senate and the near-unanimous support of the House of Representatives. This is a uniquely legislative function and responsibility that the Constitution expressly gave to Congress. The last reauthorization was signed into law by President George W. Bush — just as prior reauthorizations had been signed by Presidents Reagan, Ford, and Nixon — in accordance with core nonpartisan American values.
After all, as Congress correctly recognized in the hearings held in 2006 — racial and language minorities face significant voting discrimination in some parts of our country. Given the successful decisions in the Department's Voting Rights Act cases over the last 18 months, the need for a vital — and intact — Voting Rights Act remains clear.
Last year, a federal court cited the value of the Voting Rights Act in blocking the Texas congressional redistricting map on the grounds that it discriminated against Latino voters. In that case, the court noted that the parties "provided more evidence of discriminatory intent than we have space, or need, to address here." The federal court that reviewed South Carolina's photo ID law also noted the "vital function" that the Voting Rights Act played in prompting the state to change how it will implement the statute in future elections so that it would no longer disproportionately impact black voters. Without the Section 4 coverage formula, neither of these discriminatory voting changes would have been subject to review and both could have been implemented immediately.
These are just two of many examples demonstrating that these problems have not been consigned to history — they continue to exist. Their effects are real, they are of today — not yesterday — and they corrode the foundations of our democracy. Our country has changed for the better since 1965 but the destination we seek has not yet been reached. Indeed, a reading of today's opinions demonstrates that every member of the Supreme Court agrees with this fact — as the Chief Justice wrote, "voting discrimination still exists: no one doubts that." This is why protecting the fundamental right to vote — for all Americans — will remain one of the Justice Department's highest priorities.
The Department of Justice will continue to carefully monitor jurisdictions around the country for voting changes that may hamper voting rights. Let me be very clear: we will not hesitate to take swift enforcement action — using every legal tool that remains available to us — against any jurisdiction that seeks to take advantage of the Supreme Court's ruling by hindering eligible citizens' full and free exercise of the franchise.
As the President has made clear, Congress needs to act to make sure every American has equal access to the polls. The Department also will work with Congress and other elected and community leaders to formulate potential legislative proposals to address voting rights discrimination — because, on their own, existing statutes cannot totally fill the void left by today's Supreme Court ruling. And I am hopeful that new protections can and will pass in this session of Congress.
The Voting Rights Act has always had strong bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, and today's ruling should not change that. This is not a partisan issue, it's an American issue — because our democracy is founded on ensuring that every eligible citizen has access to the ballot box.
Finally, we need to be clear about what happened today. Part of the Voting Rights Act, but not all of it, was struck down. The constitutionally protected voting rights of all Americans remain fully intact. And the right to vote, free from discrimination based on race or language, requires our vigilant protection. We know from many decades of long, hard struggle that the best way to defend a right is to go out and exercise it. So no one should conclude that today's unfortunate decision has rendered her or his voting rights invalid, or has made attempting to cast a ballot on Election Day futile.
To the contrary, it is incumbent on all American citizens to stand up for their rights by registering to vote, going to the ballot box, exercising that most fundamental of rights, and voting for their preferred candidates of any party. Our democracy is dependent on each of us, and on our active participation in the electoral process. Although today's decision represents a serious and unnecessary setback, the Justice Department remains committed to moving forward in a manner that's consistent with the arc of American history — which has always been a story of increasing equality, inclusion, and access to the franchise. This is what makes the United States of America truly exceptional. And this is what we will zealously guard.