Rich Galen

The President is on a goodwill trip to Africa, while back here in our nation's capital it was one of the most important weeks in the history of the Republic.

On Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court announced its ruling on a case involving the Voting Rights Act -- the part of the act that required nine states to get Justice Department permission to make any changes to voting practices.

That sanction was the result of decades of mistreatment of minority voters at the hands of the White majorities, so Congress decided they couldn't be trusted to run their own elections.

Writing for the 5-4 majority, Chief Justice John Roberts didn't forbid any Federal interference in state voting laws but said, as quoted by the New York Times:

"Our country has changed. While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions."

So look for Democrats in the House and Senate to introduce new legislation with an eye toward requiring the same "pre-clearance" that was required before this ruling.

Liberals are fuming, but Barack Obama is missing from the discussion.

The next day, the very same Supreme Court struck down the "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA) which limited Federal spousal benefits to a marriage between a man and a woman.

In that case, as we read in the Washington Post,

"The court declared that gay couples married in states where it is legal must receive the same federal health, tax, Social Security and other benefits that heterosexual couples receive."

The Court did not directly rule on the other gay marriage case -- whether the ban on gay marriage in California (Proposition 8) was constitutional.

The Court decided that the group that had sued to uphold Prop. 8 didn't have the "standing" to bring such a case and let the lower court ruling that permitting same-sex marriages in California stand.

Thus gay couples - within a couple of weeks - will have the right to marry in California. And they can receive the same federal benefits as any other married couple.

Tea Party Republicans and their allies on the religious right were quick to declare the end of civilization as we know it. They were busily preparing language to propose a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

Now it's conservatives who are angry, and Barack Obama is still missing from the discussion.

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at