Statement from APALA National President Johanna Puno Hester
Mixed Supreme Court decisions must strengthen our resolve
to further civil rights for all
June 28, 2013 – This week has truly sparked a nationwide debate on equality and civil rights. From marriage equality to voter protection to affirmative action, we as a country must unite through our values to ensure civil rights for all community members. The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO, the first and only national organization for Asian Pacific American workers and allies, is deeply impacted by the Supreme Court rulings which leave us at a crossroad in our movement going forward.
I am encouraged by the Supreme Court decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act and rule out the appeal of the overturned Prop 8 ruling in 2009. This is a huge step forward for the LGBT community in gaining equal protection under the law. The 5-4 Supreme Court vote allows same-sex couples to have access to the same benefits as heterosexual couples including family reunification. What the Senate could not and refused to do in the negotiation of the Senate immigration bill S.744, this decision has accomplished. It will clear the path for LGBT Americans to petition for and reunite with their loves ones if immigration reform passes into law. As an ally, I celebrate this victory with my LGBT brothers and sisters, and will continue to uplift other issues that intersect across communities. I thank Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan for standing strong on the right side of history.
However, I am extremely disappointed by the 5-4 Supreme Court decision to gut Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). By effectively striking down the heart of VRA, state election laws will change without advance federal approval. This will already allow nine states, most with a long history of racism and discrimination, to disenfranchise and deter voters from diverse communities. The legacy and fundamental principles the civil rights movements are at stake. Justice Scalia, one of five justices who argued that Section 5 is outdated, has severely underestimated the impact and need of voter protection from discrimination. Over the years, APALA has fought to protect and empower voters from the ongoing assault against civic participation. From extreme voter I.D. laws to voter suppression tactics, voters have long endured strategies to strip them of their rights. The Voting Rights Act plays a vital role in allowing as many people to vote as possible. APALA, along-side diverse communities and labor unions, will continue to fight against discriminatory practices.
On Monday, the Supreme Court gave an unresolved ruling on Fisher vs University of Texas, a case involving diverse inclusion and affirmation action within college admissions. The 7-1 vote will send the case back to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals for reconsideration. The lack of clarity from the highest court in our country leaves us at a standstill on diversity inclusion across all college campuses. Once again, the legacy of the civil rights movement of the 1960s calls on our communities to speak out and stand up for justice.
I continue to remain vigilant and committed to addressing equality and equity for all communities, especially those that have long been marginalized and oppressed. Though the Supreme Court decisions deeply and widely impact the lives of our community members, we must remind ourselves that our communities hold the power to fight for our families and our future.
The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), AFL-CIO was founded in 1992 as the first and only national organization for Asian Pacific American union members to advance worker, immigrant and civil rights. For more information, visit www.apalanet.org and follow@APALAnational