Landmark Supreme Court decisions draw mixed reviews - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Landmark Supreme Court decisions draw mixed reviews

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Two landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions are drawing mixed reviews from equal protection organizations across the country.

In Memphis the High Court's decision to strike down a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act was viewed as a step backwards in racial equality by the local NAACP chapter.

The Bluff City's Gay and Lesbian community celebrated  Wednesday's court decision ruling unconstitutional the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

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One had been federal law for nearly 50 years. The other had been viewed as the law of the land for 20 years. But to this contentious group of Supreme Court justices there appears to be no sacred cows when it comes to interpreting their present day constitutionality.

For a judicial institution that has in recent years been ridiculed for allegedly being oblivious to changing political and social trends, rulings on two monumental cases in the last 24 hours demonstrated both a frightening disconnect for some, and yet a new insightfulness in regards to the civil rights others.

"There's no reason to treat gay and lesbian couples differently from straight couples," said Will Batts, Memphis Gay and Lesbian Executive Director. "That's huge. That's monumental, and that will have rippling effects throughout all the states I believe."

"Without the formula and this protection, voters could face an onslaught of restricted legislation ahead of elections for local and state entities," said Madeleine Taylor, Memphis NAACP Executive Director.

Two polar opposite reactions, first to the High Court's ruling on Tuesday that deemed a key provision of the vaunted 1965 voting Rights Act was unconstitutional to the euphoria generated among the nation's gay and lesbian communities after the justices legally struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act which had defined marriage as a union only between a man and a woman.

In Memphis, local NAACP leaders joined other black civil rights organizations in blasting the court's decision. In a written majority opinion Chief Justice John Roberts asserted in the  nearly 50 years since the landmark legislation passed, "things have changed dramatically" and there was no need for 15 states to get permission from the federal government before making changes in their election procedures.

But, even those not directly effected by the court's ruling still have their suspicions as to what might come next to repress minority voter participation.

"Although Tennessee was not among the states required to seek preclearance, because of their history in voting rights, they have actively been involved in making laws to restrict voting rights of citizens," Taylor said.

"We have to look at each election and those issues will be even more important during the small elections when everyone is not watching," added Van Turner of the Shelby County Democratic Party.

In midtown, at the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center, talk of the future centered around a more optimistic theme. Since the High Court failed to pass a full judgment on California's challenged Proposition 8 same sex marriage measure, it's believed the Golden State will follow through with resuming gay and lesbian marriages.

I think that is going to be the basis for moving forward with all of these other states, especially in the South, that say we want to treat you differently," Batts said.

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