THIS SUMMER, two Supreme Court outcomes dramatically affected the reality of the words “Equal Justice Under Law.” In the first, a key component of the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965 was struck down, jeopardizing equal justice under the law especially for black, Latino, and low-income people whose voting rights have historically been assaulted and have continued to be suppressed as recently as the 2012 election. Efforts to increase barriers to voting for people of color, especially those with lower incomes, are already underway in several states. The Supreme Court’s decision was morally shameful.
The decision revealed how politically partisan this bench has become. The conservative justices have aligned themselves with the extreme right-wing politics that has taken over today’s Republican Party—one that has deliberately encouraged and practiced voter suppression against minorities, low-income people, the young, and the elderly.
America has made great progress on racial justice because of the tireless and courageous efforts of many. But the illusory idea of a “post-racial” America is exposed as a lie by this nation’s criminal justice system, the many recent attempts at racially based voter suppression, and now this decision by the Supreme Court.
That same week, the Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional and discriminatory against same-sex couples. The religious community is clearly divided on the issues surrounding marriage equality and what the Bible says about homosexuality. But I believe, along with a growing number of people in the faith community, that equal protection under the law is essential. While some Christians are conflicted about the theological issues involved, they also don’t want churches to be the ones standing in the way of civil rights.