November’s presidential election has dominated news headlines for a year, but tomorrow’s new term for the Supreme Court could end up having more of an impact on our everyday lives than anything Republicans or Democrats decide at the polls this year.
According to the Associated Press, several appeals ask the court to invalidate a cornerstone of civil rights era legislation, a provision of the Voting Rights Act that requires all or parts of 16 states, most in the South and all with a history of past discrimination, to get approval from the Justice Department or the federal court in Washington before instituting any changes affecting elections and voting.
Many have expressed skepticism about the continued need for this measure.
There is burden felt by the residents of southern states who are still stigmatized in 2012 by the faults of generations from long ago. You don’t have to wait very long to hear someone who is not from the South make a joke about the South and its perceived backward ways.
Part of that legacy is aided by the requirement for Justice Department or federal court approval in Southern state business. This needs to be overturned. If the goal is a land without discrimination, then lets start by unburdening the elected officials and justices of the South.
In another hot button issue, Supreme Court justices are expected to take up gay marriage in at least one of the many appeals pending at the high court.
The AP is reporting several lower federal courts have struck down as unconstitutional a provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that denies federal benefits, including favorable tax treatment and health benefits, among many others, to legally married same-sex couples.
The court almost always has the last word when federal laws are struck down. A separate appeal involves California’s ban on gay marriage, ruled unconstitutional by federal courts.
The decisions made in coming weeks by the Supreme Court will potentially have more of a lasting impact than anything President Barack Obama or Mitt Romney promote in next month’s debates.
Our future is being molded in the coming weeks. It is important we stay informed on how any changes impact us beyond the crush of election season.
Stephen Hemelt, managing editor