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July 3, 2015 2

Yes, Justice Thomas, the Government Can Deprive People of Dignity

The word “dig­nity” appears 30 times in last week’s Supreme Court mar­riage equal­ity case, Oberge­fell v. Hodges. Describ­ing the same-sex cou­ples who aspired to marry, Jus­tice Anthony Kennedy, writ­ing for the 5–4 major­ity, stated:

Their hope is not to be con­demned to live in lone­li­ness, excluded from one of civilization’s old­est insti­tu­tions. They ask for equal dig­nity in the eyes of the law. The Con­sti­tu­tion grants them that right. supreme-court-civil-rights

 

 

 

In a bit­ter dis­sent, Jus­tice Clarence Thomas demurred, stat­ing that “the Con­sti­tu­tion con­tains no ‘dig­nity’ Clause.” He argued that the gov­ern­ment is “inca­pable of bestow­ing dig­nity,” stat­ing flatly that” human dig­nity can­not be taken away by the government.”

Aston­ish­ingly, Jus­tice Thomas then attempted to prove his dubi­ous propo­si­tion by cit­ing two extreme and rep­re­hen­si­ble gov­ern­ment actions that were actu­ally designed to deprive vic­tims of “equal dig­nity under the law” – slav­ery and the incar­cer­a­tion of Amer­i­cans of Japan­ese descent dur­ing World War II:

Slaves did not lose their dig­nity … because the gov­ern­ment allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in intern­ment camps did not lose their dig­nity because the gov­ern­ment con­fined them.

But the gov­ern­ment did not “allow” blacks to be enslaved – the laws of the time facil­i­tated and empow­ered slave own­ers and enforced slavery.

And the Japan­ese Amer­i­can Cit­i­zens League was rightly “appalled” by Jus­tice Thomas’ blind­ness to the impact of the government’s shame­ful and unwar­ranted forcible relo­ca­tion and incar­cer­a­tion of 120,000 Amer­i­cans of Japan­ese descent, the vast major­ity of whom were citizens.

In 1942, just 10 weeks after the sur­prise attack on Pearl Har­bor, Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt issued his Exe­cu­tion Order 9066, pro­vid­ing the legal author­ity for this depri­va­tion of lib­erty and dig­nity. Roosevelt’s exec­u­tive action was issued against the back­drop of wide­spread, base­less fears that Amer­i­cans of Japan­ese ances­try might pose a threat to the U.S – anx­i­ety that was cer­tainly fed by a long his­tory of prej­u­dice and xeno­pho­bia direct against Japan­ese Americans.

Those incar­cer­ated in the camps were uprooted from their com­mu­ni­ties, sep­a­rated from their fam­i­lies, their homes, and their pos­ses­sions, and lost their per­sonal lib­er­ties and free­doms until the end of the war.

Trag­i­cally, the president’s exec­u­tive order was bol­stered by addi­tional con­gres­sional enact­ments. And when the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of these actions was chal­lenged in two main cases before the U.S. Supreme Court – Hirabayashi v. U.S. andKore­matsu v. United States – the Court held that these clearly dis­crim­i­na­tory actions by the gov­ern­ment were, in fact, jus­ti­fied and constitutional.

Now, 73 years later, the Anti-Defamation League uses the cruel and unwar­ranted wartime treat­ment of Amer­i­cans of Japan­ese descent as a teach­able moment for our nation on the dan­gers of stereo­typ­ing, prej­u­dice, and racial pro­fil­ing. While we can honor and admire indi­vid­u­als that can retain their per­sonal dig­nity under the most adverse con­di­tions, there should be no doubt, Jus­tice Thomas, that the gov­ern­ment can deprive peo­ple of their “equal dignity.”

For­tu­nately, a Supreme Court major­ity has now held that the Con­sti­tu­tion man­dates that same-sex cou­ples are enti­tled to equal treat­ment – and mar­riage equality.

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June 17, 2015 0

White House Hosts Conference on Combating International LGBT Hate Crimes

whitehouse

On June 12, the White House hosted a “Con­ver­sa­tion on Com­bat­ing Bias-Motivated Vio­lence against LGBT Per­sons Around the World.”  Bias-motivated vio­lence against LGBT indi­vid­u­als remains dis­turbingly preva­lent, as doc­u­mented by a May 2015 report by the United Nations High Com­mis­sioner for Human Rights and the FBI’s annual Hate Crime Sta­tis­tics Act report.  The prob­lem is com­pounded by incon­sis­tent def­i­n­i­tions of hate crime and inad­e­quate hate crime data col­lec­tion efforts, accord­ing to a 2013 ADL/Human Rights First report on hate crimes in the Orga­ni­za­tion for Secu­rity and Coop­er­a­tion in Europe (OSCE) region.

Randy Berry, the State Department’s Spe­cial Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons,announced a num­ber of new Admin­is­tra­tion ini­tia­tives at the con­fer­ence, which fell dur­ing LGBT Pride Month.  He high­lighted exist­ing part­ner­ships and pledged to expand inter­na­tional law enforce­ment train­ing and tech­ni­cal assis­tance, as well as efforts to empower civil soci­ety and LGBT edu­ca­tion and advo­cacy orga­ni­za­tions. The Admin­is­tra­tion will con­tinue to draw on exist­ing exper­tise across the US Gov­ern­ment to enable orga­ni­za­tions and agen­cies abroad to request assis­tance to launch new local and national initiatives.

The White House pro­gram included pan­els focused on the impact of community-based orga­ni­za­tions, the role of law enforce­ment and the judi­ciary, and gov­ern­ment actions and best prac­tices – which was mod­er­ated by ADL Wash­ing­ton Coun­sel Michael Lieber­man.  The meet­ing built on a Decem­ber 2011 Pres­i­den­tial Mem­o­ran­dum on “Inter­na­tional Ini­tia­tives to Advance the Human Rights of Les­bian, Gay, Bisex­ual, and Trans­gen­der Per­sons.” Fed­eral agen­cies – espe­cially USAID, the Jus­tice Depart­ment, and the State Depart­ment – have done a lot of work on the issue.  The State Depart­ment released a report in May 2014 detail­ing its progress on car­ry­ing out the President’s Memorandum.

ADL works to address dis­crim­i­na­tion and vio­lence against LGBT indi­vid­u­als in the United States and abroad, fil­ing ami­cus briefs in Supreme Court cases, con­duct­ing work­shops and train­ing for edu­ca­tors and law enforce­ment offi­cials, and encour­ag­ing the col­lec­tion of hate crime sta­tis­tics that help local and fed­eral law enforce­ment track and address this issue. ADL rep­re­sen­ta­tives also helped craft the sem­i­nal OSCE pub­li­ca­tion, Hate Crime Laws: A Prac­ti­cal Guide, and main­tain rela­tion­ships with many human rights groups to track anti-Semitism, hate crimes, and vio­lence and dis­crim­i­na­tion against LGBT per­sons at home and abroad.  ADL Wash­ing­ton Office Direc­tor Stacy Bur­dett, who also attended the con­fer­ence, leads that work.

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April 9, 2014 0

Iran Weekly: Selected News & Developments

The fol­low­ing is a selec­tion of news reports and com­men­tary from Iran­ian media and main­stream pub­li­ca­tions on devel­op­ments per­tain­ing to Iran. This weekly update includes a sam­pling of pub­lished reports from Iran’s Farsi-language media* as well as rel­e­vant arti­cles from the inter­na­tional press.

Iran­ian Media

FM: Iran’s nego­ti­a­tions with Pow­ers not related to eco­nomic pressures

(Fars News Agency – April 9, 2014)

While address­ing expa­tri­ate Iran­ian researchers and uni­ver­sity pro­fes­sors in Vienna before the resump­tion of talks with the P5+1, Iran­ian For­eign Min­is­ter Moham­mad Javad Zarif said, “The Iran­ian nation has opted for nego­ti­a­tions based on its mod­er­ate spirit and its ten­dency for mod­er­a­tion and inter­ac­tions. He also added, “If any­one thinks that the Iran­ian nation has cho­sen nego­ti­a­tions due to the eco­nomic pres­sures, he/she is def­i­nitely wrong in his/her analysis.”

Iran’s over­hauled war­ship proves suc­cess­ful in joint drills with Oman

(Fars News Agency – April 9, 2014)

Fol­low­ing the com­ple­tion of joint naval drills with Oman on Mon­day, Deputy Com­man­der of the Navy for Oper­a­tions Rear Admi­ral Shahram Irani said, “[The] Shamshir missile-launcher war­ship is capa­ble of fir­ing dif­fer­ent mid-range and long-range surface-to-surface mis­siles, includ­ing Nour and Qader, or any other type of mis­sile after its recent overhaul.”

Com­man­der raps West for double-standards towards human rights issues

(Fars News Agency – April 9, 2014)ali-fadavi-irgc-iran

In response to last week’s Euro­pean Union res­o­lu­tion crit­i­ciz­ing Iran’s human rights vio­la­tions, Brigadier Gen­eral and Com­man­der of the IRGC Ali Fadavi said, “The ene­mies of the Islamic Rev­o­lu­tion con­sider jus­tice and Human Rights to be in their right places when they serve the inter­est of company-owners, dom­i­neer­ing power and inter­na­tional Zionism.”

Zarif ques­tions EP’s legit­i­macy to preach on human rights

(Tas­nim News Agency – April 6, 2014)

Fol­low­ing the Euro­pean Union’s res­o­lu­tion against Iran on human rights, For­eign Min­is­ter Moham­mad Javad Zarif responded with: “Given the polit­i­cal weight, laws and the recent his­tory in Europe…, it is obvi­ous that the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment lacks legit­i­macy and pop­u­lar­ity to preach to the oth­ers on observ­ing the human rights.”

Aya­tol­lah Ker­mani: The peo­ple of Iran will not per­mit the Euro­peans to estab­lish a new den of spies*

(Basij News Agency – April 4, 2014)

Aya­tol­lah Moham­mad Ali Mova­hedi Ker­mani, one of Tehran’s Fri­day prayer lead­ers, responded to the EU’s human rights res­o­lu­tion against Iran by telling the faith­ful that “The peo­ple of Iran will not allow the Euro­pean Union to open a new spy den in the country.”

IRGC Com­man­der: Iran to give ‘stun­ning’ response to ene­mies’ threats

(Fars News Agency – April 3, 2014)

Com­man­der of the IRGC’s elite Qods Force Qassem Suleimani boasted of Iran’s prowess over its ene­mies. “The ene­mies do not real­ize that the Iran­ian peo­ple are able to astound them. Rely­ing on its devoted nation, our coun­try will strongly con­front any threat posed by the ene­mies,” Suleimani said in South­ern Ker­man province.

Inter­na­tional Media

 

Iran’s supreme leader: Nuclear talks should con­tinue, but with­out concessions

(Ynet – April 9, 2014)

Supreme Leader Aya­tol­lah Khamenei con­firmed that nego­ti­a­tions will con­tinue; how­ever, he empha­sized that “all should know that nego­ti­a­tions will not stop or slow down any of Iran’s activ­i­ties in nuclear research and development.”

Spain arrests four accused of attempt­ing to export equip­ment to Iran

(CNN – April 8, 2014)

One Iran­ian and three Spaniards were arrested by Span­ish author­i­ties for secretly try­ing to export indus­trial equip­ment to Iran that could be used to make mis­sile parts or enrich uranium.

Iran’s choice for U.N. post denied entry into the U.S.

(The New York Times – April 7, 2014)

The U.S. Sen­ate voted against issu­ing a visa to Iran’s new ambas­sador to the United Nations due to charges that he was involved in the 1979 United States Embassy hostage-taking cri­sis in Tehran.

Chi­nese man, Iran firms charged in nuclear export case

(Bloomberg – April 4, 2014)

A Chi­nese national and two Iran­ian firms were charged with con­spir­ing to export devises that can be used to enrich uranium.

Iran must see ram­i­fi­ca­tions if nuclear talks fail, for­mer advi­sors say

(The Wall Street Jour­nal – April 4, 2014)

Two for­mer advis­ers to the Obama Admin­is­tra­tion call for the White House and Con­gress to increase the threat of using mil­i­tary force against Iran if talks fail.

Boe­ing, GE say get U.S. license to sell spare parts to Iran

(Reuters – April 4, 2014)

Boe­ing and Gen­eral Elec­tric Co. announced that they had received licenses from the U.S. Trea­sury Depart­ment to export some spare parts for Iran’s aging com­mer­cial aircrafts.

Ira­ni­ans avoid bad luck with out­door festival

(The Sun Her­ald – April 2, 2014)

A report on the Iran­ian fes­ti­val of “Sizdeh Bedar,” the last day of the long Per­sian New Year celebration.

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