Supreme Court decisions

News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 

The California Federation of Teachers today issued the following statement regarding two important decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court:

On the Voting Rights Act: In striking the section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act subjecting states and local governments with a track record of voting exclusion to preclearance, the Supreme Court majority is sending an unfortunate message to young people of color: if you live in the wrong place, don’t expect, when you are voting age, to be able to vote, and don’t expect the government, if you face problems, to help you vote.

In stating that “Our country has changed,” it appears the majority on the Court has no awareness that voting discrimination may have changed its shape, but lives on. While saying that it is Congress’s job to determine how to address contemporary racist practices during elections, the Court majority is well aware that the current Congress is not capable of doing that.

In the sharply dissenting words of Justice Ginsburg, “Just as buildings in California have a greater need to be earthquake proofed, places where there is greater racial polarization in voting have a greater need for prophylactic measures to prevent purposeful race discrimination.”

Declaring that 1965 is too long ago to worry about today, the Supreme Court majority misses the point. It has eliminated protections that enabled colorblind voting in the name of our society having magically achieved colorblindness.

It is true that their decision is not about race per se. It means that the conservative majority, without saying so directly, understands that voters of color generally vote Democratic. Only in this way is it a colorblind decision.

On Proposition 8: In ruling that those who brought the suit to reinstate Prop 8 had no standing to do so, the Supreme Court majority sidesteps the central issues once more, but in a way that allows the right choice to be made, and enables the refusal of Governor Brown and Attorney General Harris to defend Prop 8 to be vindicated.

The decision means same-sex marriages in California are legal once again. We are pleased that this reaffirms the right for all people to marry whomever they want to; this reflects the broad shift in consciousness on the issue in the country. Our members celebrate with the rest of California that all loving couples now possess the same rights.

The additional decision of the Court to strike down the section in the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) excluding same sex couples from the definition of marriage, while narrower, underscores the message of the Prop 8 decision: the federal government recognizes marriage equality for all.

In the dramatic decisions made this week by the Supreme Court, some have stripped protection of equal rights and some granted equal rights. We applaud the gains and will fight hard to regain those rights lost.