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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Press Release - The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Statement by Wade Henderson, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, on the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act

For Immediate Release
Contact: Scott Simpson, 202.466.2061, simpson@civilrights.org
April 15, 2010

"The ability to vote, and to have that vote mean something, is the most important right that any citizen can have in a democracy.   True political empowerment is what makes every other goal in our society attainable, and it has long stood as the most important goal of the movement in our nation to secure civil and human rights for all Americans.

Yet for more than 200 years, District of Columbia residents have been denied this right, making them largely spectators to our democracy rather than active participants.  Even though we pay federal taxes, fight courageously in wars, and fulfill all of the other obligations of citizenship, we still have no say when Congress makes decisions for the entire nation on matters like war and peace, taxes and spending, health care, education, immigration policy, or the environment.  For this reason, The Leadership Conference strongly supports the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act (DC VRA), and we are profoundly grateful to Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and our other allies in Congress for their efforts to ensure that it becomes law.

It is ironic at best, and tragic at worst, that this bill to expand a fundamental civil right has been hijacked by a completely unrelated issue.  Opponents of the legislation have been using the ongoing Congressional debate as an opportunity to undermine the very democracy that the DC VRA is meant to foster.  Without even a single vote on behalf of D.C. residents, they seek to amend the legislation to overturn a purely local ordinance that regulates the possession of firearms in the District of Columbia – a move which, if it were attempted with respect to any other locality in the country, would spark incalculable outrage.

We will strongly oppose this effort to further interfere in local D.C. affairs.  But as it has done throughout its history, the civil rights community recognizes that it must be prepared to accept some setbacks in the name of long-term progress.  Virtually every major piece of civil rights legislation, from 1957 onwards, has involved difficult and often painful tradeoffs.  In this case, given the fundamental importance of gaining a vote in Congress, we are prepared to move forward with the voting rights bill."

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