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.
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
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) issued the following statement on Trump’s address about his proposed border wall.
NASHVILLE – A day before Tennesseans must register to vote in order to participate in the Aug. 2 elections, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) and Tennessee State Sen. Steve Dickerson announced a big milestone for Project Register, a nonpartisan community initiative they created to raise awareness about online voter registration in Middle Tennessee.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) issued the following statement on the Supreme Court's ruling on Janus v. AFSCME:
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) today voted against another partisan immigration bill, helping defeat more legislation that did nothing to reunite separated families.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) today issued the following statement after Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his upcoming retirement.
“Justice Kennedy’s retirement once again proves a cold, hard fact: ELECTIONS MATTER,” Rep. Cooper said. “Trump will single-handedly change the direction of the Supreme Court and American life for decades. Our most fundamental rights – speech, choice, religion, marriage, health care, voting, you name it – are at risk now more than ever. Vote like your life depends on it.”
WASHINGTON – In the wake of several recent Supreme Court decisions that have dodged the question of gerrymandering, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) today reiterated his belief that Congress should pass legislation that would help eliminate the partisan redrawing of voting districts.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) welcomed Rabbi Mark Schiftan of Nashville as today’s guest chaplain on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Congressman Cosponsors the Keep Families Together Act
NASHVILLE – Continuing to fight for immigrant families, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) today condemned President Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy, which has resulted in separating children from their families at the border.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) today responded to a Supreme Court ruling that allows states to purge some citizens from voter registration rolls after they miss elections.
“Because of today’s Supreme Court decision, voting is now ‘use it or lose it’ for some Americans. I’m glad the Tennessee legislature changed our state law last year to protect our citizens. I hope it doesn’t reverse that law,” Rep. Cooper said. “It’s more important than ever to vote in EVERY election. Sitting out could be used against you in some states.”
KINGSTON SPRINGS, Tenn. – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05), Cheatham County Mayor Kerry McCarver and the Cheatham County Election Commission launched an effort today in Cheatham County as part of a vigorous bid to raise youth voter registration rates across Middle Tennessee.
Mayor McCarver, Cheatham County Elections Administrator Pam Frejowsky and a representative from Rep. Cooper’s office today spoke with students at Sycamore High School, Pleasant View Christian School and Harpeth High School.