The Commercial Appeal

A setback and a win for civil rights

- Eric Duncan, Memphis

This has been a momentous week for the civil rights movement, and not all for the better.

On Tuesday the Supreme Court ruled that the mechanism by which the Voting Rights Act determines which areas of the country must obtain preclearan­ce from the Justice Department before changing the way they run their elections is outdated. Many of the states covered under the act wasted no time in moving forward with laws intended to make it much harder to vote — such as strict voter ID laws, rollbacks in early voting and ending same-day registrati­on.

The states that have made it more than obvious that they still should be covered under the Voting Rights Act will hopefully lose their newfound freedom in the end, but probably not before they change the outcome of some crucial elections and disenfranc­hise millions of voters of their right to participat­e in those elections.

The next day the same Supreme Court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitu­tional. This is the beginning of the end of the state-level bans on gay marriage. Even in a state as conservati­ve as Tennessee, we will one day be marrying gay couples, because the Supreme Court ruled that gays are covered under the equal protection clause in the Constituti­on. So it’s only a matter of time before someone sues, wins their case, and the law is overturned.

You can go right on thinking that it’s a sin, or that “they are choosing to be gay.” But we are born heterosexu­al or homosexual. There is no choice, and I don’t see how there can be a sin if there is no choice.

Even if your religion continues to label homosexual­s as sinners they still deserve to enjoy, and will enjoy, the same rights heterosexu­als do everywhere in our country in the not-too-distant future. Our Constituti­on and laws are not based on what the Bible or any other religious text says. And this victory for civil rights should not be viewed as a victory solely for homosexual­s. We are all freer for it.

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