Matt Towery

As I often say, "OK, I get it." People have very passionate views both on the value of the Voting Rights Act and its past requirements of certain states and on the issue of same-sex marriage. Polls show people split on the issues. Delving into the merits of the central issues involved in all of the major decisions handed down by the Supreme Court on these matters will obscure a valuable silver lining for devotees of our constitutional framers.

In the instance of the Voting Rights Act, the court in essence said that to single out certain states based on transgressions many decades old, without re-examining whether such unique treatment is still justified today, violated the rights of the citizens of those states. The court basically declared that the VRA still stood to provide equal protection under the Constitution, but that if certain states are to be required to go extra steps in preserving rights, then a modern criteria must be created by the Congress.

While the decision in that case was less explicit as to any one constitutional basis for the majority's ruling, what came across loud and clear was a general reinforcement of an interpretation that states have their own right to write laws and create political boundaries.

The court did not establish some affirmation of the old "States' Rights" argument used by lawyers and politicians to counter the civil rights movement in the 1960s. But the court reaffirmed the concept that states are presumed to know what is best and fair in implementing equality, which is still required by the law, and should be treated differently only by determination of Congress based on the facts of 2013, not 1964.

While declaring the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, the court focused on the rights of individuals in individual states, essentially saying that a state that does not recognize same sex-marriage has no responsibility to enforce the laws of another state where same sex marriage is legal. But the court asserted that states that do recognize same-sex unions may do so.

Of course what many don't like to admit is that any negative reaction they might have to any one of these decisions is actually a reaction to political positions, not the court.


Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a former National Republican legislator of the year and author of Powerchicks: How Women Will Dominate America.
 
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