The last 24 hours have been a veritable roller coaster for any American who has any interest in the civil rights and personal freedoms of every citizen of this country. And that's all of us, right? We all care about this country, don't we? I thought so. Let's relive all the excitement together, in the common cultural language of tweets and memes. Shall we begin?
The Dismantling of the Voting Rights Act
So this was a low. This was a devastating low, and a troubling indicator of what might come from the Supreme Court with the other decisions on its docket. Representative John Lewis, a civil rights icon, said, "It is awful, it's a sad day, I never thought that I would see the day when the U.S. Supreme Court would put a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965." Basically, the 5 justices who formed the majority opinion declared that racism was dead. Which, fuck that noise. As Nell Scovell notes, it's illogical to remove a successful protective measure by claiming that it's worked so well that it's no longer necessary. Without the prophylactic that is the VRA, little racist sperms will get through and impregnate our country with their bigotry. Or something like that. Anyway, because of that decision, it was a rough morning.
The Beginning of the Filibuster
On the heels of the depressing VRA news, the report that the Texas State Legislature was probably going to pass a law effectively ending access to abortions for all Texan women was the icing on the turd cake of conservative policies. But then word started to trickle out—via social media, not any major news outlets—that Texas state legislator Wendy Davis was going to attempt a thirteen hour filibuster, during which she would need to speak on topic the whole time and refrain from sitting, leaning, eating, drinking, or even going to the bathroom. It seemed almost impossible that she'd be able to do it, but damn was it ever inspiring that she was going to attempt it.
Who Is Wendy Davis?
For those of us who had never heard of Wendy Davis before (including me), not only was the act of filibustering destined to inspire us all, but her whole life story was just as impressive. Pregnant and single at nineteen-years-old, Davis worked her way through community college, transferred to Texas Christian University (where she was valedictorian), and then went to Harvard Law School, where she graduated with honors. Davis has held her seat in notoriously conservative Torrant County since 2008, when she unseated a heavily favorited Republican incumbent. To sum up, Wendy Davis is awesome.
You Don't Own Me
As the night wore on and the Texas Republicans tried to derail Davis from completing her filibuster, things began to get a little crazy. The misogynists in the legislature were trying to shut Davis down, and maybe would have even been successful if fellow Texas Senator Leticia Van de Putte hadn't said the following, "At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” Let's bear in mind that Van de Putte had just come back from her father's funeral because she recognized the importance of being present for the vote. What a bad-ass. After she spoke, about fifteen minutes before midnight, all hell broke loose (in the best possible way) and the abortion rights activists made their voices heard in order to prevent a vote.
DOMA and Prop 8
As glorious as Wendy Davis was, there was another major political issue about to be decided, namely, would gay men and women have the same rights as everyone else in this country to be joined in wedded, uh, bliss. Although many experts were hopeful, after the demoralizing VRA defeat the day before, it was hard to be too optimistic. But...let freedom ring! And let Antonin Scalia choke on the bilious and hateful words that spew out of his mouth. DOMA is gone, Prop 8 is vanquished and this is going to be the best Pride weekend NYC has ever seen!
Let's Not Forget
As much of a high as fans of civil liberties might be on right now, it's essential to remember that, with the negation of the VRA, there is a lot of work to be done. But in spite of the terrible injustices that occur, in fact, because of those injustices, it is important to celebrate the victories we do win. And to go on fighting for the rights of all marginalized and oppressed people. Hearing the voices supporting Wendy Davis last night brought me to tears. Those voices were loud, they were full of hope, they were full of anger, and they were full of power. They could not be silenced. But they will need to stay loud because, as Think Progress reported today, the dismantling of the VRA could mean that Wendy Davis, and countless others like her, are maneuvered out of office by those same men who tried to silence her last night. We can not let that happen. We need to stay loud.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen