By Carnie Young
Two of Gwinnett's congressmen found reasons to celebrate Wednesday, as the Supreme Court handed a major victory to the gay community, striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
"Today, the Supreme Court declared DOMA unconstitutional and properly discarded it in the dustbin of history," said Democrat U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, whose district includes portions of southern Gwinnett. "Our nation is now one small step closer to realizing the Constitution's promise of equality for all Americans."
Republican Rob Woodall, whose district includes more than half of the county, saw positives, too.
"While disappointing in many ways, the Supreme Court's decision is a victory for federalism, the 10th Amendment, and the power of the states to be free from interference by the federal government in matters that have long been within the states' exclusive domain," he said. "Georgia and 37 other states have chosen to define marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman, and the Court's decision today supports their right to do just that. Our Founders had the wisdom and foresight to know that by allowing states to be incubators of ideas, and keeping most decisions local, we would build a stronger America."
The Lawrenceville congressman also found reasons to celebrate this week's decision to strike down a portion of the Voting Rights Act, although he said people should still be protected from discrimination at the polls.
"The Voting Rights Act is still alive and well today, as is the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution," Woodall said. "The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Georgia will no longer be a second-class citizen because of the mistakes of its past. For decades, because of past sins, Georgia has been subject to strict oversight by the federal government. The court ruled that Georgia can no longer be judged and penalized for practices that were ended more than 40 years ago.
"As the court stated, even one episode of discrimination in voting is too many, and I absolutely agree," Woodall continued. "We must seek out and punish discrimination in voting practices wherever we find them. With (Tuesday's) ruling, all states will now face the same high standards for fighting discrimination, and America will be the better for it."
Johnson, though, said the law is still necessary, and Congress needs to remedy the problem.
"The court today engaged in historic overreach, ignoring their own precedents and disregarding evidence of ongoing discrimination at the polls," he said. "A call for strong, swift action by the Congress is now front and center. I will work with all my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, to ensure voters have every necessary protection. In 2006, during the last renewal of the landmark Voting Rights Act, Congress conducted more than 21 hearings with nearly 100 witnesses and amassed a 15,000-page record documenting the ongoing discrimination against minority voters. This is occurring not only in states with a history of discrimination. Most recently, we have seen an uptick in attempts to disenfranchise voters in many other jurisdictions around the country. The Voting Rights Act is as necessary today as it was almost 50 years ago. Congress must act quickly to strengthen it."