ACSBlog

  • July 17, 2014

    by Paul Guequierre

    In another victory for equality, Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage was invalidated this afternoon. Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia overturned Florida’s 2008 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and ordered that two Key West residents be allowed to wed, but not before Tuesday.

    According to the Miami Herald, Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, who met at a gay pride celebration and have been a couple for 11 years, sued Monroe County Clerk Amy Heavilin in April for a marriage license. There is a similar suit pending in Miami-Dade County, in which six same-sex couples and LGBT advocacy group Equality Florida Institute sued County Clerk Harvey Ruvin for the right to marry.

    In both cases, Florida Assistant Attorney General Adam Tanenbaum argued that Garcia and Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel should not dismiss Florida’s constitutional gay marriage ban, which passed in 2008 with the support of 62 percent of voters.

    LGBT rights advocates continue to ride a wave of success since last year’s landmark Supreme Court decisions striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and putting an end to California’s Prop. 8. Just last week a judge struck down Kentucky’s marriage ban. Earlier this month, Justice Samuel Alito, Jr. rejected a county official's bid to suspend a ruling that overturned Pennsylvania's same-sex marriage ban. In Colorado, a District Court judge declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional and the Utah attorney general announced he would appeal a court decision in favor of marriage equality in the state to the U.S. Supreme Court. In Wisconsin, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen appealed a federal judge's ruling from June striking down the state's ban on same-sex marriages. The case now heads to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

    According to the Human Rights Campaign, there are over 70 court cases challenging discriminatory marriage bans across the country in 30 of the 31 states where such a ban exists, plus Puerto Rico. Cases from twelve states are currently pending before six federal appeals courts. The Sixth Circuit holds the distinction of being the only federal appeals court to date that will consider marriage cases from all states within its jurisdiction.  In total, 33 states either have marriage equality or have seen state marriage bans struck down as unconstitutional in court.  Since the Supreme Court’s historic marriage rulings last year, there have been 16 consecutive federal court decisions that bans on marriage equality are unconstitutional.  These rulings have come from judges appointed by both Democrat and Republican presidents.

  • July 17, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Jin Hee Lee, LDF Senior Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund

    *This piece was originally published in The Courier-Journal

    *Noting the 50th anniversaries of Freedom Summer and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ACSblog is hosting a symposium including posts and interviews from some of the nation’s leading scholars and civil rights activists.

    Jin Hee Lee wrote a special introduction for ACSBlog:

    The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a remarkable legislative achievement during a period of time in our Nation’s history when brave men and women literally risked their lives in pursuit of justice.  In the face of violence from white supremacists and segregationist mobs, civil rights heroes like Medger Evers and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., demanded that the United States fulfill its constitutional promise of equality for all Americans.  Yet, despite tremendous progress over the past 50 years, we still have a long road ahead in order to achieve the Civil Rights Act’s vision of equality.  Racially segregated schools continue to plague our public school system, and mass incarceration has wreaked havoc in the lives of too many African American families.  The catastrophic effects of the Great Recession have been felt all across the country, but have been particularly devastating to African Americans, who encounter even more barriers to gainful employment.  And, just last year, a deeply divided Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that had been instrumental in protecting minorities’ right to vote.  As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, we must also honor its legacy by continuing the struggle for freedom and equality so that, one day, racial justice can truly be achieved.  

    The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 years ago was a monumental feat of bipartisan legislation during a crucial phase of American history. Only 10 years earlier, the United States Supreme Court denounced state-sanctioned racial segregation in the landmark decision Brown v. Board of Education. In the following years, untold numbers of American heroes risked their lives to end Jim Crow laws, with the moral conviction that "equality" is not a mere abstract term, but must necessarily be a lived experience. The Freedom Riders, the bus boycotters, the sitters in lunch counters — black and white, young and old — all were bonded by a common vision of an America that could, despite its flawed origins, embrace the equality and humanity of all its citizens.

    The implementation of this vision came at a heavy cost, especially in the years leading up to the Civil Rights Act.

  • July 17, 2014

    by Paul Guequierre

    Fifty-four law professors from across the country, including several ACS members and contributors penned a letter to President Obama this week urging him not to cave under pressure from anti-equality conservatives by including religious exemption language in any executive order providing nondiscrimination guarantees for LGBT employees of federal contractors.

    The letter comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby, which gave closely held corporations the freedom to discriminate by invoking religious beliefs and not offering contraceptive care to female employees, despite the fact that such coverage is mandated under the Affordable Care Act. The law professors emphasize that the Supreme Court’s opinion in Hobby Lobby and order in Wheaton College do not compel in any way the inclusion of religious exemptions language in an executive order, and that both actions were predicated on the Court’s belief that the government could fully realize its compelling goals of furthering women’s health and equality through other means.

    The signatories also note the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in no way affects the promulgation of an executive order that establishes the conditions under with taxpayer dollars can be expended to subsidize the work of a private organization and that the federal government is free to require that government contractors adhere to government standards.   

    Read the full letter here.

  • July 17, 2014

    by Ellery Weil

    The New York Times reports on a federal judge’s ruling that California’s death penalty system is arbitrary to the point that it is unconstitutional.

    Salon examines the government’s justification of reading private e-mails to combat drug trafficking, and whether this is an overreach of surveillance powers.

    Norm Ornstein, in a piece for the Atlantic, looks at an “obscure set of four lawsuits filed by ideologically conservative activists and their lawyers,” which could further threaten the Affordable Care Act.

    The ACLU reports on the potential for privacy violations now that location apps, such as Waze, are sharing their data with the government.

    From SCOTUSblog, a look at Utah’s challenge of same-sex marriages performed during a brief window of legal opportunity in the state last winter.

    Tags:
    LegalEyes
  • July 16, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Estelle H. Rogers, Legislative Director, Project Vote

    *Noting the 50th anniversaries of Freedom Summer and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ACSblog is hosting a symposium including posts and interviews from some of the nation’s leading scholars and civil rights activists.

    I turned 16 in the early summer of 1964. I was anxious to drive, and I did. But what I really wanted to do was go to Mississippi. An older friend who was already in college—I had only finished my junior year of high school—planted the idea in my head. My parents quickly put the kibosh on it. It was Freedom Summer, and I would not be there.

    My parents’ disapproval was not ideological. I was raised by progressive, Jewish intellectuals who had a keen sense of justice. But they also feared for the safety of their elder child, who was trying to carve out a freedom of her own. The arguments we had in those days were reminiscent of the summer before, when I wanted to go on a bus to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  There was too much risk of violence, they said. Their fear would prove to be unfounded. Not so in Mississippi in the summer of 1964.

    The recent anniversaries of the civil rights movement have left me awash in memories, some of adolescent disappointment and impatience to make my own decisions, some more poignant. When the four little girls died in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in September 1963, civil rights leaders in Baltimore called for a silent march through the streets of the city. I wanted to go—feeling vindicated that I had tried so hard the month before to go to Washington to express my beliefs about racial equality—and asked my parents. My father, a state court judge at the time, said he’d go with me. On my first civil rights demonstration, I was accompanied by my father.