|Photograph taken directly after the Citizen's United decision.|
I have to admit I was temporarily happy yesterday when the Supreme Court decisions regarding DOMA and Prop 8 were announced. I was happy that gay couples in California and the other states where gay marriage is legal will have the same benefits as married heterosexual couples and that includes insuring their children will also have the same benefits as children of straight couples. It was a short moment of euphoria because the real war was declared on Tuesday with the SCOTUS decision on the Voting Rights Act. For me Wednesday's decisions were diversionary, meant to blind us to the other trend of the Robert's Court which is the constant reaffirmation and/or expansion of the rights of those who really hold power in this country, and almost all those holders of power are white supposedly straight supposedly Christian males. When I couple Tuesday's decision with the United Citizen's decision, and that with all the gerry mandered districts that allowed the Republicans to keep the House, I see very tough times ahead for those of us who care about democracy as something more than an easily manipulated system of governance for the benefit of the rich and powerful.
In her latest post at the NCR, Jamie Manson writes in a similar vein. In it she quotes Michael Bayly whose blog 'Wild Reed' is linked on my sidebar. Michael warned about hollow victories, and he's right. I would only add a warning about Trojan Horses, and the DOMA decision might be one such horse. The following is the last half of Jamie's post.
When I was invited to give the presentation on voter ID and same-sex marriage, Michael Bayly, executive director of Catholics for Marriage Equality Minnesota, told me that if the amendment banning same-sex marriage was defeated but the voter ID amendment passed, it would be a "hollow victory." (In the end, Minnesotans managed to defeat both the voter ID and the ban on same-sex marriage amendments in November.)
Bayly's "hollow victory" phrase has been reverberating in my mind this week as the sidewalk outside the Supreme Court building transitioned from a place of frustration and defeat for racial justice activists Tuesday into a place to relief and rejoicing for LGBT activists Wednesday.
The fight against voter suppression laws and the fight for LGBT rights share some deep connections. At the most fundamental level, both are civil rights battles for equal protection under the law. In the same way that LGBT activists have asked other victims of discrimination to identify with our struggle, LGBT people must continue to foster the bonds of identity and solidarity across communities of justice-seekers.
At a strategic level, LGBT activists must also consider the ways in which voter suppression could undermine the fight for equality in the 35 states where same-sex marriage continues to be illegal. If right-wing lawmakers are successful in restricting voter eligibility among the disenfranchised, LGBT civil rights will be as vulnerable as government entitlements, civil liberties, collective bargaining and protections for immigrants.
LGBT activists and their allies know that, even in light of these historic victories, there is still much work ahead. The Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act serves as a cautionary tale of how, decades after they are won and codified, civil rights can be gradually dismantled or undermined.
Even as we reap the fruits of justice, we must always be watchful that the arc of the moral universe continues to bend, not boomerang.
Jamie's last line is a needed warning. Entrenched power never gives up easily and this particular entrenched power has had it's way for thousands of years. I suspect the cultural forces which are reshaping society will eventually overcome the idea that men are entitled to wield all the power from the moment of conception to their natural deaths, but we aren't there yet. Power sharing is not a concept which powerful men are want to accept. The idea of cooperation is not a particularly masculine attribute, certainly not in the way we see competition as a male attribute, but cooperation is the only way to insure a future for all of humanity and cooperation will be one of the key attributes of the future.
Michael Bayly and Jamie Manson are right that gays and other disempowered minorities will have to cooperate in their vigilance against a major boomerang effect from the well placed entrenched power brokers. This Supreme Court is still a tool of those men, Chief Justice Roberts still a man capable of throwing bones in the best interest of the over all agenda and that agenda is not about minority rights or dignity for gays. It's about Wall Street and Fleet Street and other powerful men---and I never forget that some of those other powerful men reside in the Vatican City States