Bongo Thompson: Non secular liberties should not outweigh civil rights

On August 28, 1957 at 8:54 p.m. Strom Thurmond began to speak. The South Carolina senator from Dixiecrat had a lot to say. With the support of President Eisenhower and Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson, the Senate stood ready to pass the first civil rights law in 82 years.

The main provision was the creation of a civil rights division in the Justice Department that could file lawsuits on behalf of disenfranchised voters, but even Thurmond’s Senate ally, Dixiecrats, didn’t bother to wage a major battle against the bill when they realized that all-white juries are practically responsible for ruling on disenfranchisement cases in their home states, and the bill would therefore be practically useless to black voters.

The bill was symbolic at best, but for Thurmond, who bucked the trend among the Dixiecrats and planned to delay the bill with a filibuster, the symbolism was still a step too far. To prepare for a long ordeal, he took a steam bath every day to dehydrate his body so he could soak up moisture on the Senate floor so he wouldn’t have to use the toilet while he was speaking.

Thurmond’s filibuster became the longest in the history of the United States Senate – a record he still holds. Although Thurmond was determined to stop an already lousy civil rights law, he was careful not to be classified as a racist. As the New York Times wrote the day after: “No racist language featured his speech. His whole argument was that the Civil Rights Act was unconstitutional and that voting rights were a prerogative of the state. “I want,” he said, “that every man who is eligible to vote should vote.” ”

In other words, he would have liked to support civil rights, but state rights were just too important to be ignored.

When Thurmond read the Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, and George Washington’s farewell speech, he was eventually so exhausted that he leaned on his lectern and mumbled his speech so that it was almost impossible to hear. He was helped by cooked hamburger pieces and a glass of orange juice – the latter from his Democratic colleague from Illinois. His Senate assistants set up a bucket in the cloakroom in case Thurmond had to urinate while keeping one foot on the Senate floor. The filibuster lasted 24 hours and 18 minutes; He spoke for so long that it cost $ 6,468 ($ 58,835 in 2019) to print for the Congressional report.

But it was a losing battle. The law was passed 60-15 after the filibuster ended and was signed into law by Eisenhower. Strom Thurmond may have lost the civil rights battle, but his kind of obstructionism won the Republican Party war, which he converted 4 months after the 1964 Civil Rights Act banned racial segregation.

In February 2021, the House passed the Equal Opportunities Act, a law designed to amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include safeguards against LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace, education, and housing. All but three House Republicans voted against. Some members said the quiet part aloud; Colorado Republican Lauren Boebert stated, “Equality has nothing to do with this act. If anything, it’s the predominance of gays, lesbians, and transvestites. Arizona Congressman Debbie Lesko tweeted, “The Dems’ so-called“ Equality Act ”would force schools and women’s shelters to allow biological men access to women’s rooms, including women’s baths and locker rooms! This completely undermines the privacy of women and girls! “

These outwardly bigoted remarks were the exceptions to the rule.

Most Republicans tried to disguise their own opposition to LGBTQ rights by tracking down an alleged violation of religious freedom. The actual difference between these two justifications is questionable. The more buttoned-up justification depends on the argument that since the Equal Opportunities Act does not explicitly exclude places of worship from anti-discrimination laws, it is a violation of religious freedom. In short, the belief is that churches and synagogues may be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ office defended her no, stating, “We can all agree that no American should be discriminated against. Discrimination on the basis of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, age, and religious beliefs is wrong. The Equal Opportunities Act is well meant, but is not enough to protect religious freedom. “

In other words, we would like to support civil rights, but religious freedoms are just too important to be ignored.

Bongo Thompson lives in Spokane.

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