A broad cross section of social justice organizations — from environmentalists to immigrant reform-focused — came together last week to announce a concerted fight to restore voting rights lost when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a key provision of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional last week. Among the groups assembled for the "tele-townhall" conference call were the NAACP, the environmental groups Sierra Club and Greenpeace, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, NCLR, Voto Latino and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, all of which were represented by their leading directors pledging pro-active fights against voter suppression efforts.
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said that his organization’s 2.1 million members "are ready to fight" to preserve voting rights in America by "knocking on doors, making phone calls and lobbying Congress." Brune said that the same people the Sierra Club is fighting for attacking clean energy and climate change protection laws are the same people who are trying to restrict voting.
"We know that to protect our environment we must protect our democracy," said Brune.
Well before the Supreme Court decision, the Sierra Club joined forces with the NAACP for what’s called the "Democracy Initiative," a coalition dedicated to defending progressive election reform initiatives and protecting the right to vote.
Last week, the Supreme Court and the U.S. Senate produced a number of victories and near-victories for organizations fighting for marriage equality and immigration reform. Groups representing those issues said they would not back down from counteracting the SCOTUS decision on the Voting Rights Act, which NCLR President Janet Murgia called "terrible and wrong-headed" on the call.
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive director Rea Carey said the SCOTUS decision on DOMA was sweet but, "The sweetness does not erase the bitterness."
"Those who seek to deny any of our votes seek to deny all of our votes," said Carey. "I do have hope and we can’t stand for this, the LGBT community will not stand for this."
Myrlie Evers-Williams, voting rights advocate and wife of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, sent a statement to the audience — which the call’s organizers number at over 17,000 — saying:
"My husband Medgar and courageous leaders risked everything to register citizens to vote. We knew what they fought for.
I never thought that I would say this, but today the situation is just as dire.
It is not enough to just remember the legacy of Medgar Evers. It is not enough to just be members of our respective organizations.
We will have to put action to our affiliations and we will have to remember what originally brought us here."