Congressman Jim Cooper

Representing the 5th District of Tennessee

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 with the student-led sit-ins. 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, Ala., 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. That’s why I’m a co-sponsor of the Equality Act, which would help ensure that everyone has the basic legal protections they deserve.  

Voting Rights

After the first 10 amendments to the Constitution - the Bill of Rights - seven of the 17 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've 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 U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. This section determined which states have a history of voting discrimination and must get federal preapproval before changing their voting laws or practices.


America is a nation of immigrants, and we pride ourselves on welcoming individuals and families from all over the world. Nashville is lucky to have one of the greatest immigrant communities in the nation. And I believe that we need comprehensive immigration reform. We can find the right balance to fix our broken system and protect our nation.

The Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan agreement in 2013. 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. Support ranges from the Chamber of Commerce to Nashville’s colleges and universities to church groups like the Southern Baptists and the Catholic Church. I believe this legislation would have solved many of the issues in our current system, but the House was never even allowed to vote on it.

In 2010, I voted for the DREAM Act, also a part of the Senate proposal, because I believe that those young people who are willing to get an education or serve in our military 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.

More on Civil Rights and Equality

Dec 18, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Jim Cooper (TN-05) issued the following statement on his decision to vote to charge President Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress:

Dec 10, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Jim Cooper (TN-05) issued the following statement in response to the two Articles of Impeachment brought forth against President Trump, 

Sep 24, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON – U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper (TN-05) issued the following statement in support of impeachment proceedings against President Trump:

“It’s time for the House of Representatives to begin the impeachment process against President Trump. The President’s invitation to yet another foreign power—this time Ukraine—to undermine U.S. elections requires that Congress begin the process in our Constitution to levy formal charges against him.

Jun 27, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) made the following statement on the Supreme Court’s ruling that partisan gerrymandering cannot be decided by federal courts.

Jun 27, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) issued the following response to the Supreme Court’s decision on the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 decennial census.

Jun 4, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) made the following statement following the passage of H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, in the House of Representatives. 

“Many of these residents are students and have lived in the U.S. for years. They have become vital members of our community. For a lot of them, especially the DREAMers who were brought to the U.S. as children, it is the only home they know. They are going to school, working and serving in our military. They also make significant contributions to our economy. 

May 13, 2019 Webform
Apr 9, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) issued a statement on a bill that passed through a second legislative committee in the Tennessee General Assembly today.  The bill, HB1079/SB0971, backed by Secretary of State Tre Hargett, would require individuals and organizations registering 100 or more people to vote to follow new guidelines or face prosecution.  Tennessee would become the first state to subject citizens to civil or criminal penalties resulting from deficiencies – even minor deficiencies – on voter registration forms.

Mar 28, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) blasted a bill that advanced in the Tennessee General Assembly yesterday, which would restrict the ability of civic, religious, and campus groups to help Tennesseans register to vote. 

HB1079/SB0971, sponsored by State Representative Tim Rudd and State Senator Ed Jackson, would require individuals and organizations that are attempting to register 100 or more people to vote to adhere to new guidelines.

Mar 8, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) issued the following statement on the House’s passage of H.R.1, the For the People Act of 2019.

“Big money in politics, voter suppression, and gerrymandering have put our country at risk. Our job is to protect our democracy and secure our elections. We do that by ensuring that all eligible voters have the opportunity to voice their opinions. Passing H.R. 1 is a reflection of those basic values and should not be a partisan issue. This bill isn’t perfect, but the good far outweighs the bad.”