(CNN) — Outrage today from civil rights groups and the Obama Administration after the Supreme Court limited a key part of the voting rights act.
The landmark piece of legislation dates back to the peak of the civil rights movement in 19-65.
Veteran civil rights leader Congressman John Lewis calls it a dagger in the heart of that law.
The court's bitterly divided 5-4 opinion guts the part of the voting rights act that singles out 15 mostly southern states and other jurisdictions with a history of discrimination. Federal courts and the justice department are no longer allowed special oversight on changes to their voting laws.
“This decision restores an important constitutional order to our system of government and that requires that all 50 states and every jurisdiction have the laws applied equally to them,” said Edward Blum, Project on fair representation.
Chief Justice John Roberts said discrimination still exists, but in the south things have changed dramatically since 1965 when the law was enacted. Yet "...the act has not eased the restrictions...”
As Roberts read the decision, the court's conservative majority read along with him, but the liberal justices on the losing side stared stone-faced into the audience. Justice Ruth Ginsberg read a fiery dissent quoting from Martin Luther King. The court had erred egregiously she wrote in overriding congress and said there was sad irony in the court's utter failure to grasp why the law has proven effective and civil rights advocates angry and disappointed.
“We've come a long way. We're not there yet. We're not there where we need to be yet,” Albert Jones Pastor, Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Wilton, Alabama.
In a statement president Obama said he was deeply disappointed and said the “decision upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent."
The Attorney General warned against new attempts to infringe on voting rights.
“We will not hesitate to take swift enforcement action using every legal tool that remains to us,” Eric Holder, Attorney General.