Civil Rights and Equality

Overview

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.

Immigration

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

Sep 29, 2020 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Of the three bills that Rep. Jim Cooper has been pushing to help the Nashville tourist economy recover, two are included in the $2.2 trillion relief package that Speaker Nancy Pelosi is offering the White House and the U.S. Senate.

Sep 15, 2020 Page

Wednesday, October 14 – Pride at the Polls Day
BPROUD – A Bridgestone Americas Employee Resource Group, HRC Nashville, Mac Huffington Productions, Nashville CARES, Nashville In Harmony, Nashville LGBT Chamber, Nashville Pride, Remarkable Studios, Tennessee AIDS Advocacy Network, WXNA

Sep 15, 2020 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today the House passed an amendment introduced by Rep. Jim Cooper to the Strength in Diversity Act, which reinstates an Obama-era grant program that was cut by the Trump administration, to reduce racial and socioeconomic isolation in public schools. The amendment would give the nearly 30 school districts, including Metro Nashville Public Schools, that previously applied priority consideration under the newly created program.

Jul 23, 2020 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Last night Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) joined many of his colleagues honoring the late Congressman John Lewis on the floor of the House of Representatives. In his spoken remarks, which were required to be shortened to one minute of floor time allotted to each Member, Cooper urged the public to support the HBCU institutions that trained Congressman Lewis. The following statement was submitted into the Congressional Record by Rep. Cooper:

Jul 22, 2020 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) sent a letter to Committee Chair Sen. Roy Blunt and Ranking Member Sen. Amy Klobuchar today requesting answers to voter suppression tactics enforced by the Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office.

Cooper sent the letter in advance of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s scheduled appearance before the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration today at 10:30AM ET/9:30AM CT.

Jul 20, 2020 Press Release

NASHVILLE – At a press conference this morning, Rep. Jim Cooper announced how CARES Act funds were allocated in Davidson, Dickson, and Cheatham Counties. The $2.5 trillion CARES Act is the largest relief bill in U.S. history. It was signed into law in March but there has been little transparency on how funds were distributed within congressional districts despite congressional efforts to monitor the funds.

Jul 18, 2020 Press Release

NASHVILLE – Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) issued the following statement on the passing of his colleague and friend, Congressman John Lewis: 

May 15, 2020 Press Release

NASHVILLE U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) released the following statement about the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, H.R. 6800, which is expected to pass the House tonight:

Apr 23, 2020 Press Release

NASHVILLE U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) released the following statement after he voted for the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, H.R. 266, which passed the House today:

Apr 10, 2020 Press Release

NASHVILLE U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) today announced new resources related to the COVID-19 pandemic are now available on his website here.