UPDATE: President Barack Obama deeply disappointed in Voting Acts ruling. (see his statement below)
House of Deputies President Gay Jennings issues a statement lamenting the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down part of the Voting Rights Act. Jennings recalls the martyrdom of Jonathan Daniels and contributions of Thurgood Marshall in the struggle to secure these rights:
The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies of The Episcopal Church, issued this statement in response to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County vs. Holder:
In the summer of 1965, two weeks after President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, Episcopal seminarian Jonathan Myrick Daniels died a martyr’s death in Alabama where he was spending the summer registering African American voters. Four days later, Episcopalian Thurgood Marshall, who was already a lion of the civil rights movement, became United States Solicitor General. In that office, and later as the first African American justice of the Supreme Court, he championed the voting rights of all Americans. The legacy of these two men, both saints of the Episcopal Church, guides us to this day.
The Episcopal Church has given its best and brightest to the cause of voting rights for half a century, and today’s regrettable Supreme Court decision will not change that. Together with Episcopalians across the church, I call on President Obama and Congress to move quickly to pass legislation, consistent with the court’s decision, that will ensure the protection of equal voting rights for all Americans. We will not rest until the legacy of Daniels, Marshall, and thousands of other Episcopalians who fought with them is secure.
I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision today. For nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act – enacted and repeatedly renewed by wide bipartisan majorities in Congress – has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans. Today’s decision invalidating one of its core provisions upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent.
As a nation, we’ve made a great deal of progress towards guaranteeing every American the right to vote. But, as the Supreme Court recognized, voting discrimination still exists. And while today’s decision is a setback, it doesn’t represent the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination. I am calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls. My Administration will continue to do everything in its power to ensure a fair and equal voting process.