The Voting Rights Act and DOMA are Dead, and John Lewis is Alive

At the end of a resounding and thunderous two days for this country, I am reminded of a speech given in 1996 by civil rights hero and Congressman John Lewis. He helped form the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and was one of the Freedom Riders who publicly and peacefully defied segregation, and he was nearly beaten to death by racist assholes trying to keep Jim Crow in US law now and forever in the 1950s and 60s (

But he didn’t stop fighting for basic freedom after the Voting Rights Act (which he lived to see the US Supreme Court murder) and Civil Rights Act were signed, or after he became a Congressman in the 80s. In the 1990s when Democrats nationwide were running to the right (most have never run back), John Lewis saw exactly what the “Defense of Marriage Act” was and nailed it to the fucking wall before it ever got voted out of Congress, before it was ever signed into American law by that self-serving corporate toady masquerading as an elder statesman Bill Clinton.

In case you ever need help divining or recalibrating your moral orientation, John Lewis’s compass tends to point true north.*

“Why do you not want your fellow men and women, your fellow Americans to be happy? Why do you attack them? Why do you want to destroy the love they hold in their hearts? Why do you want to crush their hopes, their dreams, their longings, their aspirations? We are talking about human beings, people like you, people who want to get married, buy a house, and spend their lives with the one they love. They have done no wrong.

I will not turn my back on another American. I will not oppress my fellow human being. I have fought too hard and too long against discrimination based on race and color not to stand up against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Mr. Chairman, I have known racism. I have known bigotry. This bill stinks of the same fear, hatred and intolerance. It should not be called the Defense of Marriage Act. It should be called the defense of mean-spirited bigots act.”

Two end notes and that asterisk:

*Except, unfortunately, he did the 09/2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force that launched America’s Forever War against a tactic… only one Congressman, California’s Barbara Lee, was brave enough to vote against the AUMF.

1) Watch this video clip of most of John Lewis’s 1996 DOMA soliloquy here and remain completely unmoved. I dare ya.

2) From his Wikipedia page: “John Lewis opposed the U.S. waging of the 1991 Gulf War, NAFTA, and the 2000 trade agreement with China that passed the House. Lewis opposed the Clinton administration on NAFTA and welfare reform. After welfare reform passed, Lewis was described as outraged; he said, ‘Where is the sense of decency? What does it profit a great nation to conquer the world, only to lose its soul?'”