Forward and backward—It matters for public health
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law barring the federal government from recognizing state-legalized same-sex marriages, is unconstitutional, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday by a 5-4 vote. By declaring DOMA unconstitutional, the Court allowed marriages to continue among gay and lesbian individuals in California. The ruling is a step forward for this country. Marriage should be about commitment and not about gender. Why is the issue relevant to public health? There are many reasons. Without formal marriage, partners may be denied benefits, putting their health at risk and often causing severe financial hardship when a partner dies, and the remaining partner cannot inherit.
The Court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act is appalling. The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. The provision cannot be enforced until Congress creates a new formula to determine which states and counties need to have voting law changes cleared by the federal government or in federal court. The decision on the Voting Rights Act came by a 5-4 vote: the opinion in Shelby County v. Holder. The consequences could lead to reduced voting among disadvantaged populations, especially in some parts of the country. This could have the long-term consequence of exacerbating health disparities if the needs of these populations are not reflected in local elections and resulting policies.
As reported in Huffington Post, long-time Congressman John Lewis, an activist proponent of civil rights for many years, reacted with anger, disappointment and outrage. “These men that voted to strip the Voting Rights Act of its power, they never stood in unmovable lines, they never had to pass a so-called literacy test,” he said. “It took us almost 100 years to get where we are today. So will it take another 100 years to fix it, to change it?”
More from UNC News: Court ruling on Voting Rights expected to impact NC—The News & Observer (Raleigh)
Tuesday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act could have far-reaching effects in North Carolina – affecting everything from voting districts to voter ID legislation. … But Michael Crowell, an expert on voting law with the University of North Carolina’s School of Government, said Tuesday’s action shifts the burden of proof. “The burden was on the state to show it was not discriminating,” he said. “Now the burden is on the challenger.”
It was a consequential week, and my comments don’t include the case on affirmative action—that’s for another time. Happy Monday and a good July 4th. Barbara