John Lewis made one final appeal to the American people on Thursday in the form of an op-ed written before he passed away. The column was published on the day of his funeral.
When Donald Trump appointed Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavannaugh to the Supreme Court bench, hopes certainly dimmed substantially for a court majority that would vigorously protect, much less expand, basic civil liberties, especially for women, LGBTQIA people, people of color, and immigrants.
Amidst the recent mass nationwide uprisings, dominated by the sentiments of the Black Lives Matter movement, an effective reincarnation of the Civil Rights Movement, the Trump administration has continued its efforts to deny transgender people civil rights, denying them equal protections under the law.
The Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case that corporations merited certain rights of personhood. The decision in this case became crystallized in the notorious phrase, “Corporations are people.”
This year’s events insistently raise the question of which Americans enjoy the basic rights of personhood in America.
How are we doing when it comes to achieving our nation’s putative hallmark ideal of equality?
A reading of U.S. history we often hear tells the story of a nation that has thus far imperfectly realized its founding premise that “all men are created equal” but that has nonetheless been on an ongoing quest to achieve a fully egalitarian culture for all people, even and perhaps especially those that the initial formulation did not include in its reference to “all men.”
The cherished founding principle that “all men are created equal” animating the American experiment has obviously been vexed by realities of our national life and history, which stand undeniably in stark contradiction to that principle. The racism informing the practices of slavery and genocide present in U.S. history since the nation’s inception highlight the unrealized status of this value of equality.
But “we” the people still believe in it, right? We’re still just trying to figure it out, right?
It’s just that it is so hard to figure out, right?
While we could ask many constituencies, particularly people of color, how they are faring when it comes to equal rights, let’s take a quick look at women and transgender people might assess the national terrain in this regard.
In last November’s election, Democrats in Virginia flipped the state Senate and House of Delegates to gain full control of the state government for the first time since 1993. These election results have inspired hope that the state government will now become the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which passed the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in 1972 and was quickly ratified by 22 states. Any constitutional amendment requires ratification by 38 states. The crawl toward reaching this number has been a slow one, with Nevada becoming the 36th state to ratify in 2017, followed shortly thereafter by Illinois. Last February, efforts in Virginia fell short by one vote in the House of Delegates. The votes now seem to be there.
But let’s also step back and get a little perspective. Here we are in 2019 still asking whether or not women—some half of our population—should enjoy equal rights or continue to be relegated to the status of second-class citizen.
Isn’t it strange, for a nation pretending to value equality, that we still ask this question, deferring equal rights to women?
Here’s the statement in the ERA this nation trembles to validate:
“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.”
While we don’t yet know how the Supreme Court will decide the major civil rights question before it regarding whether or not gay and transgender people are protected under federal legislation that outlaws employment discrimination “on the basis of sex,” the nature of the debates and the questions raised from the bench last week when attorneys for both sides presented arguments do not reflect well on this nation’s supposed commitment to civil rights.
At a minimum, it’s fair to say it’s no slam dunk that the Supreme Court will arrive at ruling that endows LGBTQ Americans with the basic civil rights that American ideals, especially those ideals people, particularly African Americans, took to the streets for in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, pose as fundamental liberties for all.
At worst, the court may very well be poised to ratify—and likely further unleash through its endorsement—rampant and hostile discrimination against people simply for how they choose to love and define their sexual and gender identity. While this case centers on employment discrimination, thus entailing grave consequences for LGBTQ people’s abilities to earn a living, a ruling that denied their civil rights would surely have ramifications well beyond the workplace and economy, serious as those elements are. Just as Trump’s virulent and loudly expressed racism has resulted in exponential increases in white nationalist and other racist violence against people of color and Jewish people, it seems to fair to expect that if the highest court in our land endorses discrimination against LGBTQ people, that a similar uptick in violence against them will likely occur.
What was most underlined in the back and forth between the justices and the attorneys is that extension of civil rights to all Americans is still in question.
Let’s underline that: Civil Rights have not been embraced by the United States for all members of society.
And that the Supreme Court is pondering and scratching its collective head about whether civil rights should be extended to all members of society is absolutely troubling.
The justices are actually wondering if it is just to have a group of second-class citizens.
We need to continue to point out this fact. And we should explore and make clear the warped reasoning coming from these supposedly prized intellects and dazzling legal minds, as I’ve done elsewhere.
For the court, the crux of the matter seemed to be whether the word “sex” in the 1964 Civil Rights Act could be construed as incorporating sexual orientation and gender identity—did it just refer to distinctions between “male” and “female,” or does it include distinctions between “gay” and “straight”?
Justice Samuel Alito at one point responded to attorney Pamela Karlan, representing two of the plaintiffs,
“You’re trying to change the meaning of what Congress understood sex to mean in 1964.”
We need to know, and the nation’s knowing depends on Congress taking the lead, not waiting for the people's will to catch up.History shows that’s not how we realize our ideals and uphold the Constitution.
Dan Gilroy’s 2017 film Roman J. Israel, Esquire, starring Denzel Washington and still lingering in theaters, has either been critically panned or just plain overlooked.
The DHS is ready to put digital Star of David armbands on every immigrant, and every naturalized American, according to Buzzfeed.
The problem is, again, that those constituents you and I might call people, the GOP, federally and at the state level, have decided are “not even people.”
On Thursday, Attorney-General Jeff Sessions told Federal Prosecutors he is committed to prosecuting hate crimes. Why don’t I believe him?
During Sessions’ speech he pledged “to protect the civil rights of all Americans — and we will not tolerate the targeting of any community in our country” I feel so much better about the rise in hate crimes since the election. No, I don’t. It’s because the evidence contradicts his words. The context is in reference to a successful prosecution of a hate crime in Mississippi where a transgender woman was murdered.
And according to Josh Gerstein, Sessions “reached out to make sure the Justice Department is making every effort to assist in the investigations into a string of transgender killings in recent months.”
Certainly one can acknowledge the importance and value of recognizing that crimes against transgender people because they are transgender qualify as hate crimes and should be prosecuted as such.
Yet, I can’t bring myself to take Sessions at his word, perhaps in part because of the Republican obsession with bathroom policy and conversion therapy. But it doesn’t end there.
Seriously, when an Attorney-General says they will protect the civil rights of all Americans, one should be able to take them at their word. Yet, that’s a tall order when it comes to Jeff Sessions – the man who was cool with the KKK until he found out members smoked pot.
This is the same Jeff Sessions whose bid for a seat on the Federal bench failed largely, if not exclusively, because he not only tolerated the targeting of some communities, he led the targeting.
In 1986, Coretta Scott King wrote a letter explaining why she believed Sessions lacked the temperament, judgement and fairness to be a judge. The man she talked about targeted certain communities for doing nothing more than registering to vote.
Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters. For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship.
As Buzzfeed reported at the time, Scott-King’s letter wasn’t entered into the record by Strom Thurmond, the committee chair at the time.
Since becoming Attorney-General, Sessions’ actions directly contradict a statement that few would quarrel with. “No person should have to fear being violently attacked because of who they are, what they believe, or how they worship.”
Yet, Sessions joins Trump in an effort to erase the very existence of the Obama Administration. One of his first acts was to issue a memo vowing to review everything – including consent decrees.
In a powerfully written article he wrote in April,
In a sign of votes to come Justice Neil Gorsuch set aside his regard for human life and cast his vote to deny the stay of execution for death-row inmates in Arkansas.
No one should be fired for being lesbian, gay, or transgender like happened to me and it’s incredibly powerful to know that the law now protects me and other LGBT workers.”
“This ‘deal’ does NOT repeal HB2. It’s HB2 dressed up in a way desperate lawmakers hope will save the state’s economy. There will be consequences for Dem and Rep alike.
By following evangelical preachers’ edict to legalize discrimination against school-age children, Trump unleashed his theocrats and set a dangerous precedent.
After only three weeks of this new administration, the fears of the LGBTQ community are becoming a reality.
Through his questioning, Senator Al Franken exposed Jeff Sessions’ lies about his civil rights record in his questionnaire to the committee.
"I told you the shit show would become so intense that the Bannon fiasco would soon seem like distant memory."
"I wouldn’t vote for anybody that does something like that. The logic, I just can’t figure it out at all. It’s not comprehensible for me. It’s just too stupid.”
The approach, the disrespect, and bullying to use the museum was inappropriate and reflective of the insensitivity [to] civil and human rights reflective of Trump over the years.
Despite the Civil Rights Movement, racism is as rampant in America as it was when Dr. King marched and revealed his dream.