Victories for Pro-Choicers, Gay Marriage; Defeat for Voting Rights

By

As you’re probably aware, we’ve been covering Texas’s grotesque anti-abortion bill SB5, and we’re overjoyed to report it did not pass.

Texas State Senator (and now folk hero) Wendy Davis filibustered the bill for close to thirteen hours under the state legislature’s stringent rules: no sitting, leaning, drinking water, using the bathroom, or speaking about subjects not germane to the topic at hand. Republican state senators registered three points of order saying Davis had violated these rules, once by receiving aid from a colleague who adjusted her back brace to help her stay standing, and twice by straying “off-topic.” (Her irrelevant subject matter? Planned Parenthood’s budget and previous abortion legislation regarding mandatory sonograms. Pretty relevant, actually.)

The three points of order were sustained, meaning Davis could no longer filibuster, but objections from Democratic state senators stalled the voting process until close to midnight. When State Senator Leticia Van de Putte asked in frustration, “At what point does a female senator need to raise her voice to be heard over the male colleagues in the room?” the protestors gathered in the chamber began to cheer—and kept cheering for over ten minutes, preventing the bill from being voted on until just after midnight. Though Republicans tried to claim the vote had happened before the deadline, even artificially altering the recorded timestamp, justice eventually prevailed, and SB5 was officially declared defeated.

To relive the night without all the terror and angst, check out BuzzFeed’s fun GIF-/tweet-based account of events.

***

The Supreme Court gave us another cause to celebrate with their decision this morning to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. Before its invalidation, DOMA had prevented federal recognition of same-sex marriages, which are now legal in twelve states and Washington, D.C. The court also declined to hear a case regarding California’s Proposition 8, meaning same-sex couples will once again be allowed to marry in California. If you want to add a pinch of schadenfreude to your victory celebration, take a look at Justice Scalia’s incoherent dissenting opinion, which Slate calls “the strangest read in the United States v. Windsor decision.”

But though these victories for individual rights are both significant and heartening, there’s still cause for major alarm. The Supreme Court, a day before going the right way on same-sex marriage, went the wrong way on the Voting Rights Act. The nine states affected—all red states except the purple Virginia—will no longer be subject to federal oversight of their voting laws, which, without that oversight, frequently aim to prevent racial minorities and Democratic voters from casting their ballots. From the New York Times:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg summarized her dissent from the bench, an unusual move and a sign of deep disagreement….She said the focus of the Voting Rights Act had properly changed from “first-generation barriers to ballot access” to “second-generation barriers” like racial gerrymandering and laws requiring at-large voting in places with a sizable black minority. She said the law had been effective in thwarting such efforts.

If the consequences of this decision are as widespread as predicted, it could mean the effective disenfranchisement of thousands and thousands of people. The next time a bill like SB5 comes around, there may be few or no liberal elected officials to help stop it.


Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →