By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Well, they got it half right. That was the reaction of Councilwoman Letitia James to the landmark Supreme Court rulings earlier this week. James hailed the rulings on same sex marriage, but expressed profound disappointment that the highest court in the land threw out a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
James (D-Fort Greene-Clinton Hill), who is a candidate for public advocate, issued a strongly worded statement blasting the court’s June 25 decision striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. The section mandated states and counties, primarily in the Deep South, that had histories of discrimination against minorities, to obtain permission from the US Department before implementing changes to voting procedures.
Brooklyn falls under the provisions of Section 4.
Charging that the court “dealt a devastating blow to civil rights in our country,” James said the ruling showed that the nation still had a long way to go to ensure rights for minorities.
The court ruled that the formula for determining which states had to get prior clearance from the Justice Department was outdated and that Congress should go back to the drawing board and draw a new map of the states that would have to adhere today to Section 4.
The New York Times reported on June 25 that Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the 5-4 majority of justices, that “the country has changed” in terms of race relations and the ballot box.
The court doesn’t get it, James said. “The decision to allow a right-wing Tea-Party dominated Congress to determine the voting rights that generations have secured with blood and sacrifice is simply unjust and unacceptable,” she said.
“One needs to look no further than the most recent attempts to suppress the black and Latino vote around the country to know that we must come together and launch a new voting rights movement for our time. Until Congress acts, elections this year and in the years to come will be altered and the voices of many will be silenced by this decision,” James warned.
While James was angered by the Voting Rights Act decision, she said in another statement that she was pleased with the June 26 ruling which found that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) banning same-sex marriages.
The decision, coupled with the high court’s refusal to even decide on a case in which plaintiffs were seeking to reinstate California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage, meant that the justices had gotten it right, James said.
The decision “reaffirms America’s natural instinct in support of equality for all,” said James, who spoke out shortly after the decision was announced.
“Though our joy maybe tempered by yesterday’s ill-conceived decision weakening the Voting Rights Act, we know that because of DOMA’s demise, we are on our way to a more perfect union. Our struggle for equality must go forth until every single American is guaranteed equal rights under law, regardless of where he or she may live,” James said.