Civil rights

  • February 22, 2018
    Guest Post

    by Gregg Ivers, Professor of Government, American University

    Battered, bruised and demoralized – literally and figuratively – by an unsuccessful two-year campaign to desegregate Albany, Georgia, a small southwestern town near the Alabama border, the leadership of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) convened in January 1963 to assess its mistakes and plan a way forward. Frustrated by Albany Police Chief Leslie Pritchett’s clever response to the Albany campaign – he never publicly used violent tactics to arrest demonstrators – Martin Luther King, Jr. needed a success to recover the momentum in the civil rights movement that had stalled by December 1962. The prominent African American journalist Louis Lomax observed that King’s public image as a flawless strategist had taken a serious hit. “The next town he visits,” Lomax wrote, “to inspire those who are ready to suffer for their rights, he will find people saying, ‘Remember Albany.’”

  • February 19, 2018
    Guest Post

    by Julie A. Werner-Simon 

    *Abbreviated version of published article with permission of the Los Angeles Daily Journal 2-13-18

    In the case which pundits are calling “the Kern County Cake Case,” a California superior court judge held a two-hour hearing on Friday, February 2, during which a California state agency which enforces California’s anti-discrimination laws was pitted against chief counsel of a religious freedom advocacy group, the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund. Department of Fair Employment and Housing v. Cathy’s Creations, Inc. dba Tastries, BCV-17-102855. The issue? Should a Bakersfield baker who operates a commercial business open to the public be required to make cakes for gay weddings? The Kern County judge, a home-grown jurist and “man of faith,” found for the baker. The court ruled that cake-making is artistic expression and that when used for a wedding, “there could not be a greater form of expressive conduct.”

  • February 15, 2018
    Guest Post

    by Eric Lesh, Executive Director, LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York and Art Leonard, Robert F. Wagner Professor of Labor and Employment Law, New York Law School. He is also the Editor of LGBT Law Notes

    As the Supreme Court’s 2017-18 Term began, it looked like a banner term for LGBT-related cases at the nation’s highest court. The Court had already granted review in a “gay wedding cake” case from Colorado, Masterpiece Cakeshop. But the hopes for a blockbuster term have rapidly faded.

    Here are some of the LGBT-related controversies that dropped off the Supreme Court docket this Term.

  • January 22, 2018
    Guest Post

    by Julie A. Werner-Simon, is a former federal prosecutor  

    *Reprinted with permission of LA Daily Journal, 1-10-18

    When a new pope is selected by the assemblage of cardinals at the Vatican, the papal conclave releases white smoke into the sky. There are no smoke signals at the U.S. Supreme Court, but if one had a good sense of smell on Monday, the scent of cake appeared to be wafting from the neoclassical edifice at 1 First Street. The Supreme Court rejected two petitions challenging the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ upholding of a Mississippi law that permits businesses, religious organizations and government employees (as well as other organizations and individuals) to refuse service to gay people, to people who identify with a gender other than that with which they were born, as well as people of any gender who have sexual relations outside of marriage. Barber v. Bryant, 17-547 and Campaign for Southern Equality v.  Bryant, 17-642. 

  • January 14, 2018
    Guest Post

    by Gregg Ivers, professor of government, American University. He is currently working on a book, Swingin’ at Jim Crow: How Jazz Became a Civil Rights Movement.

    In 1976, when I was in tenth grade, the dreaded “back-to-school” assignment for my American history class was to write an essay about the three most important Americans in our nation’s two hundred-year history. This was, I suppose, our school’s nod to the celebration of the Bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence. I chose Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, Jr. It turned out that I was one of two people in my class to include King, the other being the class hippie, whose other two choices were Alan Ginsburg and Jimi Hendrix. My teacher returned the assignment to me the next day and said that I needed to write about someone “serious,” like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson or, and I kid you not, the Rev. Billy Graham. I told my teacher that I would rather write about Rev. King than Rev. Graham, and refused to change my mind. My teacher refused to change her mind as well. I received a D on the assignment because, as my teacher told me, Lincoln and Roosevelt were “genuine” Americans. I suppose it’s important to note here that I grew up and attended public schools in Atlanta, where, at the time, more than a few people still referred to the Civil War as the “War Between the States.” My teacher offered wise counsel: “Lincoln is still not all that popular around here, you know. Let’s not push things in the future.”