Love was in the air this week as the Supreme Court took up the issue of gay marriage. But as justices heard arguments dealing with couples who have already found the loves of their lives, not everyone was so lucky.
Some court watchers were apparently stung by Cupid's arrow and were too timid to make their move. As a result, they turned to the Missed Connections section of Craigslist in an effort to reconnect with the people who caught their eye as lawyers argued over California's gay marriage ban and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
TPM scoured Craigslist and found several hopeful romantics who missed their match on the courthouse steps, in the subways of Washington, D.C. and even at a notorious New York sex party:PERMALINK | COMMENTS (0) | RECOMMEND RECOMMEND (0)
In expressing his deep skepticism Wednesday for the constitutionality of a centerpiece of the Voting Rights Act, Justice Antonin Scalia questioned the motivations of Congress for repeatedly reauthorizing it since it was initially passed in 1965.
"I don't think there is anything to be gained by any Senator to vote against continuation of this act," Scalia said during oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder. "They are going to lose votes if they do not reenact the Voting Rights Act. Even the name of it is wonderful -- the Voting Rights Act. Who is going to vote against that in the future?"PERMALINK | COMMENTS (0) | RECOMMEND RECOMMEND (0)
The Voting Rights Act took a beating from conservative justices Wednesday during oral arguments at the Supreme Court.
At issue is the constitutionality of Section 5 of the 1965 law, which requires state and local governments with a history of voter disenfranchisement to pre-approve any changes that affect voting with the Justice Department or a federal court.
Oral arguments showed a sharp divide along ideological lines and suggested that the conservative majority is strongly inclined to overturn Section 5 of the half-century-old law.
A question posed by Chief Justice John Roberts to the Obama administration's lawyer defending the Voting Rights Act captured the tenor of the proceedings.
"Is it the government's submission that the citizens in the South are more racist than the citizens in the North?" Roberts asked.PERMALINK | COMMENTS (0) | RECOMMEND RECOMMEND (0)
At issue is the constitutionality of Section 5 of the 1965 law, which requires state and local governments in 16 states to receive preclearance from the Justice Department or a federal court before making any changes to laws that affect voting. The purpose was to proactively snuff out voter discrimination where it's most likely to emanate, but conservatives argue that it has worked so well it now discriminates against the mostly southern regions covered.
Although Congress has repeatedly reauthorized and the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld it, Section 5 faces a clear danger now as the Roberts Court's five conservative-leaning justices signaled their misgivings with it in a 2009 case involving a Texas jurisdiction's right to "bail out" of the preclearance requirement.
In that 2009 case, the Court refrained from ruling on the underlying constitutional question, but during oral arguments and in eventual written opinions, the five Republican-appointed jurists built their case against that portion of the law -- which is why supporters are nervous. Here are some excerpts from that case:PERMALINK | COMMENTS (0) | RECOMMEND RECOMMEND (0)
When the Supreme Court hears oral arguments Wednesday on the Voting Rights Act, opponents will argue that a centerpiece of the law aimed at letting the federal government proactively thwart attempts at voter discrimination has outlived its validity.
"The only reason Section 5 was originally justified and upheld by the courts was because of Jim Crow -- the unusual circumstances at the time in terms of voter disenfranchisement," Ilya Shapiro, the editor-in-chief of the Cato Supreme Court Review who filed an amicus brief in the case, told TPM. "I don't think there's a way to justify Section 5 anymore."
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires state and local governments across 16 states -- mostly in the South -- to seek preclearance from the Justice Department or a federal court before making any changes to their laws which affect voting. Shapiro said the point of the lawsuit is that residents in each of the covered jurisdictions are being treated unfairly.
"There's a tremendous imposition of paperwork and litigation costs on these jurisdictions to making voting changes -- even miniscule things like moving a polling place from a park to a school," he said, pointing out that the vast majority of proposed changes get approved. "All this would say is that you would no longer have a presumption that everything that states in the covered areas do is unconstitutional."
The case carries important implications, not merely for voting rights in the mostly southern regions targeted by Section 5 but also for the conservative legal movement's longstanding efforts to limit the scope of federal power.PERMALINK | COMMENTS (0) | RECOMMEND RECOMMEND (0)
On March 15, 1965, a week after Alabama state troopers brutally attacked civil rights protesters in Selma, President Lyndon Johnson delivered a stirring speech to a joint session of Congress introducing a bill to end voter discrimination against blacks.
The law that it gave birth to, the Voting Rights Act, now hangs in the balance, with oral arguments next week before the Supreme Court. Five conservative justices are skeptical that a centerpiece of the nearly-half-century-old law is constitutional.
"I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy," Johnson said that night, nearly half a century ago. "A century has passed, more than a hundred years, since equality was promised. And yet the Negro is not equal. A century has passed since the day of promise. And the promise is unkept. The time of justice has now come."
Days later, he submitted legislation to Congress aimed at taking stringent, unprecedented steps to end voter discrimination and disenfranchisement. As Congress took it up, opponents rebelled.PERMALINK | COMMENTS (0) | RECOMMEND RECOMMEND (0)
Supporters of the Voting Rights Act are painting a bleak picture of what it would mean for the rights of minority voters if the Supreme Court were to strike down the landmark 1965 law's Section 5, which requires state and local governments with a history of disenfranchising minority voters (i.e. mostly in the south) to receive preclearance from the Justice Department or federal court before changing laws that affect voting.
"Broadly speaking, if we didn't have Section 5 we would find that minority voters are in many places around the covered jurisdictions will have their ability to equally participate in the political process severely compromised," Julie Fernandes, a civil rights activist and former deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, said this week. "We'll see a lot more of the diluting tactics that we used to have."PERMALINK | COMMENTS (0) | RECOMMEND RECOMMEND (0)
When the Supreme Court hears oral arguments next week about the constitutionality of a key element of the Voting Rights Act, the Obama administration and other proponents of the law will be facing five very skeptical justices.
Shelby County v. Holder is the latest in a string of landmark cases that will shape the legacy of the Roberts Court. Proponents of the law are extremely nervous, and privately acknowledge that they face a steep uphill climb in winning over a majority of the justices.PERMALINK | COMMENTS (0) | RECOMMEND RECOMMEND (0)