Congressman Jim Cooper

Representing the 5th District of Tennessee
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Civil Rights and Equality


Tennessee has a strong history of promoting civil rights and equality for all Americans. In 1920, the state of Tennessee cast the deciding vote for women’s suffrage in Nashville. Forty years later, Tennesseans helped to advance the Civil Rights movement. Martin Luther King, Jr. said he came to Nashville “not to bring inspiration, but to gain inspiration from the great movement that has taken place in this community.’’

I had the honor of going to Selma to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of “Bloody Sunday.”  As I reflect on that historic day, our nation would be a better place if we remember both how far we’ve come, and how much work we have yet to accomplish. Our laws today do not overlook all of our differences. That’s why I support legislation and ideas in Congress that strengthen our civil rights and promote equality for all Americans.

If you have the chance, be sure to visit the Civil Rights Collection at the Nashville Public Library. It’s a remarkable collection of Nashville’s history during the Civil Rights movement, and I hope you’ll also stop by my office while you’re here.

Equality Under the Law

America has been slow at times to expand protections for everyone. But I believe that regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, disability and sexual orientation, everyone deserves equal protection from the government.

I’m pleased the Supreme Court ruled on the right side of history on marriage equality.  Equality under the law should apply to all Americans, and now we're one step closer towards fulfilling this promise.

I’ve also co-sponsored the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). I supported the repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in 2010 which is now the law of the land.

Bottom line: America is about bigotry toward none and equality for all. Just recently, I joined with NOH8, an organization devoted to promoting same-sex rights and eliminating all forms of discrimination.

Voting Rights

After the first ten amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, seven of the seventeen remaining amendments are related to expanding voting rights. No other part of the original Constitution was so broken or so hard to fix. And more repairs are still needed because citizens still do not have an explicit right to vote.

I recently offered a proposal to give Americans, for the first time in our history, a Constitutional right to vote. My text for the 28th Amendment could not be simpler.

The right of adult citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State.

This proposed amendment bans voter suppression; any future restriction on voting would have to survive “strict scrutiny” by the judiciary. For more about this proposal, click here.

In the meantime, Congress must restore the Voting Rights Act.  In Shelby County v. Holder, the US Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. This section determines which states have a history of voting discrimination and must get federal preapproval before changing their voting laws or practices. I support the bipartisan Voting Rights Amendment Act which creates a new formula used to determine which states must get federal preapproval. 


America is a nation of immigrants, and I support comprehensive immigration reform. We can find the right balance to fix our broken system and protect our nation. The creation of an earned path to citizenship is good for America, and I'm proud to co-sponsor a comprehensive immigration bill.

The Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan agreement last Congress. It was the most promising development on comprehensive immigration reform we've seen in decades. Support came from 14 Republican Senators – including both of our Tennessee Senators, Republicans Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker – after the inclusion of new, tough border security measures. There’s a very broad coalition behind this approach. Folks ranging from the Chamber of Commerce to Nashville’s colleges and universities to church groups like the Southern Baptists and the Catholic Church. But the House was never even allowed to vote on it.

In 2010, I voted for the DREAM Act which also a part of the Senate proposal, because I believe that those young people who are willing to serve in our military and get an education should be encouraged to pursue the American dream of citizenship. They came to America through no fault of their own; many are now top students, hard workers and brave soldiers. America needs their talent.

Although the path forward in the House in unclear, comprehensive reform is supported by most Americans and a unique coalition of faith, business and education leaders including the Evangelical Immigration Table and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce.

Links & Additional Resources

More on Civil Rights and Equality

Apr 4, 2017 Press Release

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) today recognized Equal Pay Day, cosponsoring the Paycheck Fairness Act and renewing his call to close the pay gap between women and men.

“It's sad that in 2017 we are still having to fight to give our mothers, wives and daughters an equal chance to make a living,” Rep. Cooper said. “They should never have been discriminated against, but the fact that it continues is tragic. We need equal pay for equal work!”

Jan 27, 2017 Press Release

NASHVILLE – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) today announced his IssueWatch project, a twice-weekly online newsletter dedicated to Middle Tennesseans interested in important congressional updates and other major happenings in Washington.

Jan 25, 2017 Page

Knowledge is power, but it’s never been more important to stay informed. Sign-up for IssueWatch, a twice-weekly online newsletter dedicated to Middle Tennesseans interested in following important congressional news and other major happenings in Washington.

Jun 12, 2016 Press Release

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) today released the following statement after the mass shooting in Orlando:

Jun 26, 2015 Press Release

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-5) today made the following statement regarding the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling:

“Love and equality win,” Cooper said. “I’m glad the Supreme Court ruled on the right side of history.”

Dec 9, 2014 Press Release

NASHVILLE – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-5) today issued the following statement:

Dec 4, 2014 Press Release

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-5) today praised President Obama’s upcoming visit to Nashville on December 9.

“It’s always an honor and a thrill when a sitting president visits Nashville,” Cooper said. “I welcome President Obama to our vibrant, thriving and diverse city. Nashville is the perfect setting for his remarks.”

The White House has announced President Obama will deliver remarks at Casa Azafran on the executive actions he is taking to fix America’s broken immigration system.

Oct 23, 2014 Press Release

NASHVILLE—U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) and several community leaders on Wednesday, October 15, discussed a new government report that focuses attention on voter ID laws in Tennessee.

The report, newly issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), concluded that voter ID laws caused Tennessee turnout to drop 2.2 percentage points from 2008 to 2012.

That translates to 88,000 lost votes, according to an estimate by The Washington Post.

Jun 16, 2014 Press Release

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper on Monday praised the White House’s announcement that it will prohibit federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The announcement is a pivotal step toward ending discrimination against LGBT employees and ensuring that they are judged based on the quality of their work.

“Fairness on the job should never be an issue in America,” Cooper said. “Let’s eliminate bigotry and ensure equality for all.”

May 16, 2014 Press Release

WASHINGTON -U.S. Representative Jim Cooper (TN-5) joined 172 of his colleagues in sending a letter commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision that marked the end of segregation in schools.