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September 16, 2014 0

From The Archives: Violence Against Women Act 20 Years Later

Twenty years ago, on Sep­tem­ber 13, 1994, Pres­i­dent Clin­ton signed the Vio­lence Against Women Act (VAWA), a law which reflects a core part of ADL’s mis­sion: the pre­ven­tion of bias-motivated crim­i­nal behav­ior. VAWA autho­rized gov­ern­ment action to improve crim­i­nal jus­tice and com­mu­nity responses to domes­tic and sex­ual vio­lence and pro­vided fund­ing for the estab­lish­ment of the National Domes­tic Vio­lence Hot­line. ADL’s sup­port for the law, which aimed to pro­tect women from vio­lence directed against them because of their gen­der, was a nat­ural exten­sion of its work on hate crimes. pres-clinton-bill-signing-1994-09-13

In 1996, two years after VAWA’s enact­ment, ADL added gen­der to its model hate crimes leg­is­la­tion, cit­ing the fact that gender-based hate crimes could not be eas­ily dis­tin­guished from other forms of hate-motivated vio­lence. In response to legal chal­lenges to VAWA fol­low­ing its enact­ment, ADL joined sev­eral ami­cus (friend of the court) briefs in sup­port of the Act. In 2000, in U.S. v. Mor­ri­son, ADL, along with a num­ber of other civil rights orga­ni­za­tions includ­ing Peo­ple for the Amer­i­can Way, the Amer­i­can Jew­ish Con­gress, and Hadas­sah, filed an ami­cus brief sup­port­ing the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of VAWA’s civil rem­edy pro­vi­sion, which allowed sur­vivors of gender-motivated vio­lence to sue their attack­ers in fed­eral court.

Fol­low­ing the Court’s deci­sion to strike down the civil rem­edy pro­vi­sion, ADL con­tin­ued its sup­port for leg­is­la­tion that coun­ters dis­crim­i­na­tion and bias crimes—including on the basis of gen­der or gen­der iden­tity. In 2009, Con­gress enacted the Matthew Shep­ard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Pre­ven­tion Act crim­i­nal­iz­ing hate crimes tar­get­ing vic­tims because of race, color, reli­gion, national ori­gin, gen­der, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, gen­der iden­tity or dis­abil­ity.  ADL spear­headed coali­tion efforts to pass the bill for more than a decade.

After fail­ing to reau­tho­rize an update to VAWA in 2012, Con­gress enacted new leg­is­la­tion in 2013, which included addi­tional pro­grams specif­i­cally designed to address domes­tic vio­lence against women of color, Native Amer­i­cans, new cam­pus hate crime require­ments, and inti­mate part­ner vio­lence involv­ing mem­bers of the LGBT community.

On this impor­tant anniver­sary, ADL reaf­firms its long-standing com­mit­ment to advo­cat­ing for legally-sound statutes at the fed­eral and state level that counter dis­crim­i­na­tion, bias crimes, and vio­lence against women.

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August 28, 2014 0

Moving Forward From Ferguson

“His­tory sim­mers beneath the sur­face in more com­mu­ni­ties than just Fer­gu­son,” Attor­ney Gen­eral Eric Holder aptly rec­og­nized dur­ing his visit there. The con­ver­sa­tion about Fer­gu­son can­not start with the death of Michael Brown, a young unarmed black man shot to death by a white police offi­cer.  Though tragic in and of itself, the story goes back much further.ferguson-civil-rights

It is a sad tru­ism that America’s laws—and the peo­ple charged with enforc­ing them—have not always pro­tected com­mu­ni­ties of color.  In the infa­mous Dred Scott case, which orig­i­nated just miles from Fer­gu­son, the Supreme Court shame­fully ruled in 1857 that African Amer­i­cans had “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”  Though the case served as a cat­a­lyst for the Civil War and the 13th, 14th and 15th Amend­ments rat­i­fied shortly there­after to super­sede the rul­ing, deep-seated racism continued.

Jim Crow laws seg­re­gated soci­ety and rel­e­gated African Amer­i­cans to second-class cit­i­zens. Lynch­ings ter­ror­ized com­mu­ni­ties.  All too often not only did law enforce­ment fail to pro­tect African Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties, but police offi­cers par­tic­i­pated in the lynch mobs.  Dur­ing the Civil Rights Move­ment, now-infamous images cap­tured police offi­cers using dogs, fire hoses and billy clubs against peace­ful protestors.

Since the Civil Rights Move­ment half a cen­tury ago we have worked hard as a nation to move towards a more just and equal soci­ety. We have come a long way, but Fer­gu­son stands as a stark reminder that we still have a long way to go.

In address­ing the cri­sis in Fer­gu­son, the first step must be open and respect­ful dia­logue.  We can­not move for­ward unless and until we face the past.  Part of that dis­cus­sion must be about the role of law enforce­ment and their rela­tion­ship with the com­mu­ni­ties they have sworn to serve and protect.

Since 1999 the Anti-Defamation League, in part­ner­ship with the United States Holo­caust Museum, has con­ducted train­ings for law enforce­ment—from police chiefs and the head of fed­eral agen­cies to recruits and new FBI agents—exploring what hap­pens when police lose sight of the val­ues they swore to uphold and their role as pro­tec­tors of the  peo­ple they serve. By con­trast­ing the con­duct of police in Nazi Ger­many, and the role that law enforce­ment is expected to play in our democ­racy, the pro­gram under­scores the impor­tance of safe­guard­ing con­sti­tu­tional rights, build­ing trust with the peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties they serve, and the tragic con­se­quences when there is a gap between how law enforce­ment behaves and the core val­ues of the profession.

We know from our work that the vast major­ity of offi­cers care deeply about the com­mu­ni­ties they serve.  But that is not to say police are infal­li­ble.  None of us is.  And there are cer­tainly some within law enforce­ment who engage in mis­con­duct, as is the case in every pro­fes­sion.  But the bad acts of some can­not and do not define law enforcement.

Amer­ica is strongest and safest when there is mutual under­stand­ing and trust between law enforce­ment and com­mu­ni­ties.  We must seek to build those bridges by rec­og­niz­ing our trou­ble­some past, acknowl­edg­ing the prob­lems per­sist­ing today, and com­mit­ting to changes that move us for­ward to a more per­fect union.

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July 14, 2014 0

Hobby Lobby Elicits Varied Editorial Responses

On June 30, the Supreme Court in Bur­well v. Hobby Lobby affirmed the right of family-owned com­pa­nies to deny employ­ees, based on the reli­gious beliefs of the employer, health insur­ance cov­er­age for con­tra­cep­tives. As Pro­fes­sor Erwin Chemerin­sky warned at the ADL’s 2014 Supreme Court Review, the deci­sion could have far-reaching impli­ca­tions for work­ers’ civil and reli­gious rights.newspapers-hobby-lobby

Edi­to­r­ial boards for the nations’ top news­pa­pers opposed the land­mark deci­sion by a 2–1 ratio. Of the fifty news­pa­pers with the high­est cir­cu­la­tion, twenty-five dis­agreed with the Supreme Court’s posi­tion in Hobby Lobby. Thir­teen sup­ported the deci­sion. Twelve offered no opin­ion on the topic.

Of those peri­od­i­cals that opposed the deci­sion, some objected to the Supreme Court’s increas­ing will­ing­ness to grant legal pro­tec­tions to cor­po­ra­tions that tra­di­tion­ally have been reserved for human beings. The Cleve­land Plain Dealer insisted that “cor­po­ra­tions are not ‘per­sons’ who think, breathe and exer­cise first-amendment rights or prac­tice reli­gious beliefs,” and warned that “[t]reating them as if they are will inevitably nar­row free­doms for oth­ers.” The Detroit Free Press called the deci­sion an expan­sion of “the majority’s already inflated notion of cor­po­rate personhood.”

Other oppo­nents view the deci­sion as a set­back for repro­duc­tive rights. The San Jose Mer­cury News crit­i­cized the Court for fail­ing to rec­og­nize the impor­tance of access to con­tra­cep­tives for women’s rights: “World­wide, the sin­gle great­est fac­tor in lift­ing soci­eties out of poverty is women gain­ing the abil­ity to con­trol when they become preg­nant.” The Min­neapo­lis Star Tri­bunesaid that “allow­ing an employer to choose which type of con­tra­cep­tion mer­its cov­er­age reverts to an ear­lier, darker age in atti­tudes about women’s role in reproduction.”

Still oth­ers fear that the deci­sion opens the door to fur­ther ero­sion indi­vid­u­als’ rights and gov­ern­ment entan­gle­ment in the exer­cise of reli­gion. The New York Times called the deci­sion “a rad­i­cal depar­ture from the court’s his­tory of resist­ing claims for reli­gious exemp­tions from neu­tral laws of gen­eral applic­a­bil­ity when the exemp­tions would hurt other peo­ple.” USA Today warned of the “deeply dis­turb­ing propo­si­tion” that the deci­sion could force the gov­ern­ment to judge “whether a business’s reli­gious prin­ci­ples merit spe­cial treat­ment that its more sec­u­lar com­peti­tors don’t get.” The Wash­ing­ton Post urged Con­gress to limit the dam­age of the deci­sion by leg­isla­tively over­turn­ing it.

Sup­port­ers, how­ever, hail Hobby Lobby as a bold recog­ni­tion of reli­gious lib­erty. The Wall Street Jour­nal called the deci­sion “an impor­tant vin­di­ca­tion of reli­gious lib­erty in this (still, bless­edly) con­sti­tu­tional repub­lic.” The New York Daily News cel­e­brated that Court’s con­clu­sion that “own­ers of closely held com­pa­nies should not be forced to sac­ri­fice their reli­gious lib­erty sim­ply because they incor­po­rated to do business.”

How­ever one views the Court’s deci­sion, Hobby Lobby clearly touches on many polit­i­cal and legal fault lines. The ADL believes that the deci­sion threat­ens many anti-discrimination laws and will work to limit its impact.

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