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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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March 12, 2015 2

ADL Urges Supreme Court to Protect Religious Freedom by Supporting Marriage Equality

ADL brought together a broad coali­tion of reli­gious, cul­tural and civil rights orga­ni­za­tions, rep­re­sent­ing diverse faiths, tra­di­tions and cul­tures, to urge the U.S. Supreme Court to reject efforts to impose one par­tic­u­lar reli­gious under­stand­ing of mar­riage into law.

Photo credit Victoria Pickering

Photo credit Vic­to­ria Pickering

ADL filed a friend– of-the-court brief in the four cases pend­ing before the Court: Oberge­fell v. Hodges, Tanco v. Haslam, DeBoer v. Sny­der, and Bourke v. Beshear. These cases chal­lenge Mar­riage Bans in Ohio, Ten­nessee, Michi­gan, and Ken­tucky, state con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments that define mar­riage as exclu­sively between one man and one woman. The brief, filed on behalf of a coali­tion of 25 orga­ni­za­tions, recounts how dis­crim­i­na­tion tar­get­ing dis­ad­van­taged groups – odi­ous arti­facts such as slav­ery, seg­re­ga­tion, bans on inter­ra­cial mar­riage, and laws sub­ju­gat­ing women – all now con­sid­ered anachro­nis­tic blem­ishes – were jus­ti­fied by reli­gious and moral dis­ap­proval, an argu­ment that has been rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief also argues that over­turn­ing the mar­riage bans would not only ensure that reli­gious con­sid­er­a­tions do not improp­erly influ­ence which mar­riages the state can rec­og­nize, but would also allow reli­gious groups to decide the def­i­n­i­tion of mar­riage for them­selves. Reli­gions are, and absolutely should remain, free to sol­em­nize and rec­og­nize mar­riages as they see fit, as they do when it comes to inter­faith mar­riages or mar­riages post-divorce. This brief is just the lat­est effort by ADL to advance Les­bian, Gay, Bisex­ual, and Trans­gen­der (LGBT) rights around the coun­try and across the globe. ADL was joined on the briefs by The Amer­i­can Jew­ish Com­mit­tee; Bend the Arc – A Jew­ish Part­ner­ship for Jus­ticeThe Cen­tral Con­fer­ence of Amer­i­can Rab­bis and the Women of Reform Judaism; Global Jus­tice Insti­tute; Hadas­sah – The Women’s Zion­ist Orga­ni­za­tion of Amer­ica, Inc.; The Hindu Amer­i­can Foun­da­tion; The Inter­faith Alliance Foun­da­tion; The Japan­ese Amer­i­can Cit­i­zens League; Jew­ish Social Pol­icy Action Net­work (JSPAN); Keshet; Luther­ans Concerned/North Amer­ica; Met­ro­pol­i­tan Com­mu­nity Church; More Light Pres­by­te­ri­ans; The National Coun­cil of Jew­ish Women; Nehirim; Peo­ple for the Amer­i­can Way Foun­da­tion; Pres­by­ter­ian Wel­come; Rec­on­cil­ing­Works: Luther­ans for Full Par­tic­i­pa­tion; Recon­struc­tion­ist Rab­bini­cal Col­lege and Jew­ish Recon­struc­tion­ist Com­mu­ni­ties; Reli­gious Insti­tute, Inc.; The Sikh Amer­i­can Legal Defense and Edu­ca­tion Fund; Soci­ety for Human­is­tic Judaism; South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Together; T’ruah: Rab­bis for Human Rights-North Amer­ica; and Women’s League for Con­ser­v­a­tive Judaism. The law firm Green­berg Trau­rig LLP pre­pared the friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of ADL.

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June 28, 2013 5

One Giant Step Forward Towards Full Equality for the LGBT Community — What’s Next?

There is much to cel­e­brate in the Supreme Court mar­riage equal­ity deci­sions. The Anti-Defamation League filed ami­cus briefs in both U.S. v. Wind­sor and Hollingsworth v. Perry on behalf of a broad, diverse group of reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions, empha­siz­ing that there are many dif­fer­ent reli­gious views on mar­riage and that no one reli­gious under­stand­ing should be used to define mar­riage recog­ni­tion and rights under civil law.

Your rights should not depend on your ZIP code.

Your rights should not depend on your ZIP code.

ADL’s brief in the Wind­sor case began with the asser­tion that reli­gious def­i­n­i­tions of mar­riage vary, includ­ing per­spec­tives over whether or not gay and les­bian cou­ples may marry. Our brief then set out two argu­ments: (1) the Defense of Mar­riage Act (DOMA) vio­lated the estab­lish­ment clause because it was enacted with a reli­gious pur­pose, based on a par­tic­u­lar reli­gious under­stand­ing of mar­riage; and (2) DOMA vio­lated equal pro­tec­tion under the Fifth Amend­ment because it was moti­vated by moral dis­ap­proval of gay and les­bian peo­ple with­out any legit­i­mate gov­ern­ment purpose.

Our Perry brief urged the Court to reject the reli­gious and moral jus­ti­fi­ca­tions expressed by Propo­si­tion 8 pro­po­nents.  It demon­strated how, over the past quar­ter cen­tury, the Supreme Court has rejected laws dis­fa­vor­ing minor­ity groups based on moral or reli­gious dis­ap­proval alone – with one, now dis­cred­ited, excep­tion, Bow­ers v. Hard­wick. The brief looked back over time and showed how laws like slav­ery, seg­re­ga­tion, pro­hi­bi­tions on inter­ra­cial mar­riage, and laws dis­crim­i­nat­ing against women – laws that were jus­ti­fied on moral and reli­gious grounds – had ulti­mately been rejected by the Court.

ADL hailed the Court’s two deci­sions, while rec­og­niz­ing that much work remains to be done to pro­mote LGBT equal­ity.  Now that DOMA has been ruled uncon­sti­tu­tional, legal ana­lysts – and gov­ern­ment offi­cials – will be sort­ing out the range of fed­eral ben­e­fits that can now be accorded to legally-married same-sex cou­ples.  Same-sex cou­ples in Cal­i­for­nia can pre­pare for full recog­ni­tion and rights in their state. It is clear, how­ever, that, for now, the full range of ben­e­fits, priv­i­leges, and respon­si­bil­i­ties of mar­riage will con­tinue to be denied cou­ples in 37 other states.

More­over, at a time when it is still legal to fire employ­ees solely because they are les­bian, gay, or bisex­ual in 29 states – and in 33 states it is legal to fire some­one solely for being trans­gen­der — it is nec­es­sary to com­ple­ment this week’s for­ward progress with work­place dis­crim­i­na­tion pro­tec­tions, ini­tia­tives to pre­vent bias-motivated vio­lence, and pro­grams to pro­mote safe learn­ing envi­ron­ments for LGBT students.

To these ends, ADL sup­ports the Employ­ment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would expand exist­ing fed­eral employ­ment dis­crim­i­na­tion cov­er­age to include pro­tec­tion for those who are dis­crim­i­nated against based on their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and/or gen­der iden­tity.  ADL is a national leader in con­fronting hate vio­lence, hav­ing played a lead role in coali­tion work to enact and imple­ment the Matthew Shep­ard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Pre­ven­tion Act (HCPA). And the League has also been in the fore­front of efforts to ensure safe school envi­ron­ments for all stu­dents, regard­less of their reli­gion, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, or gen­der iden­tity, through the devel­op­ment of edu­ca­tion and train­ing pro­grams  and bul­ly­ing pre­ven­tion initiatives.

While we cel­e­brate the great step for­ward in mar­riage equal­ity, we must not lose sight of the fact that   our nation has suf­fered a major set­back to civil rights when the Supreme Court struck down a crit­i­cal part of the 1965 Vot­ing Rights Act, In this, ADL’s  100th anniver­sary year, we reded­i­cate our­selves to secur­ing, in the words of our found­ing Char­ter, “jus­tice and fair treat­ment for all.”

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