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VRA: When The Dancing Stops REALLY Protecting Our Equal Rights

On Wednesday the 26th, I was driving down "the Lodge" (M-10 to you non-Detroiters) listening to NPR – of course – specifically "The Diane Rehm Show," waiting to hear the Supreme Court's decision on DOMA and Prop. 8.
Like most members of the LGBT community, my stomach was in a knot, but my stomach was in more than just a knot. It was in a double half-hitch with a twist knot as I was still reeling from the Supreme Court's decision the day before gutting the Voting Rights Act.
If they would gut this Act that sought to ensure protections for voting rights at the polls for every American, I wondered if the same court could muster sufficient votes to stand for equal rights for LGBT families.
Then it came, the news we had all dreamed, dared hope for, decisions for marriage equality on both DOMA and Prop. 8.
I screamed, tooted my horn, then breaking my rule of not calling/texting while driving, called my good friends Donna Payne at the Human Rights Campaign who has been working for marriage equality nationally, and Susan Horowitz at Between The Lines who had spent many days and nights in the trenches with me on Prop. 2 in Michigan.
These decisions weren't everything. Marriage for LGBT couples is not legal in most states but the walls had definitely started tumbling down.
By the time I reached downtown Detroit, I had shared numerous celebratory horn-toots with cars sporting equality stickers. Sitting at an outdoor cafe, I watched with a grin as same gendered couples walking, with eyes glued to their smart phones, let out a little whoop then reached out and walked the rest of the way hand-in-hand or arm-in-arm.
Every two seconds I received a text or tweet from friends and family. I even heard from people I barely knew but who had stood with us on the cold January day in Lansing when Michigan enshrined discrimination into the constitution believing as King said that, "The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long, but It Bends Toward Justice," and today it had bent for equality. It was a good day to be gay in America.
And could the timing have been any more perfect, the ruling came in June as we celebrate pride in cities across the country.
It's been great seeing jubilant couples in California again exchanging vows; seeing Edie Windsor jubilant in victory and leading the New York Pride parade with co-Grand Marshals Earl Fowlkes and civil rights icon Harry Belafonte; and even though I don't have a wedding (or a date for that matter) on the horizon I could not be prouder.
My country, the United States of America, had affirmed that major statement on human rights within the Declaration of Independence – that in marriage my LGBT community was also endowed with "certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Oh happy day – but maybe not, because I wear this Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat woven with threads from the intersections of race, class, gender and sexual orientation.
The day before a very big thread in my dream coat had got snagged by the same Supreme Court with implications that could set back our march for equality and that snag was the gutting of the Voting Rights Act.
I am first and foremost an African American woman. I didn't have to do anything other than come out the birth canal to be identified as such and to be subject to discrimination based on the very fact that I was born this way. I am also proud, out member of the LGBT community.
Even though the formula struck down by the Supreme Court in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act had, as Chief Justice Roberts said in his bench statement, extended a 40-year-old coverage formula based on "obsolete statistics," it had protected voters most at risk for being disenfranchised or denied their right to vote.
I can't help but wonder how many LGBTQ people of color who gained recognition with the DOMA repeal will now face discrimination in the voting booth? But it's more than just a Black/White, Gay/Straight issue. How many women, including Lesbians, will be denied access to reproductive rights if voting rights can be skewered by partisan politics?
Want a glimpse of the future? Just take a look at Texas where gerrymandering and challenges at the polls threaten to disenfranchise Latino, African-American, the poor and whatever other group is not in favor (like pro-choice/women) voters.
Want a closer glimpse? You need look no further than Saginaw County in Michigan where the Supreme Court decision cleared the way on to dissolving the Buena Vista school district.
The ultimate battle for equal rights will take place in communities, municipalities and states across the country at the ballot box. We must change hearts and minds one person, one vote at a time and not leave equality hanging in a SCOTUS balance.
It's up to us. Time to Gladiator-up community! We will never have the full freedom to marry without the freedom to vote! Congress can reverse the effects of the court's decision on the Voting Rights Act. Get involved by visiting www.freetovote.org.
Today I'm doing my happy dance for marriage, but I'm gearing up for the real fight. Let's protect every vote so when the dancing stops I won't find my Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat unraveled and all of our rights flapping in the wind.



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