White House » ADL Blogs
Posts Tagged ‘White House’
July 3, 2015

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

June 17, 2015

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

August 6, 2014

More Extreme Rhetoric at National Anti-Israel Protest in DC

Approximately 10,000 people took part in a demonstration against Israel in Washington, D.C. on August 2. The demonstration, billed as the “National March on the White House,” was organized by ANSWER and featured several speakers, along with anti-Semitic signs and chants similar to those that we have seen at other recent anti-Israel demonstrations.

Cornel West, Professor of Afro-American Studies and Religion at Harvard University, claimed that Israel is guilty of “not just occupation, not just humiliation, but more and more every day: annihilation.” He alleged that “Benjamin Netanyahu is a war criminal not because he’s Jewish, but because he has chosen to promote occupation and annihilation.” West did not speak favorably of President Barack Obama either who he claimed “is a war criminal, not because he’s black or half African and white, but because his drones have killed 233 innocent children and because he facilitates the killing of innocent Palestinians in Gaza.”

Nihad Awad, the Executive Director and Founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), also spoke to the crowd, insisting that Israel is a “terrorist state” and that AIPAC controls the U.S. Congress. He told the audience “Do not accept Israeli talking points. AIPAC should have its hand off the United States Congress. They have corrupted our foreign policy; they have corrupted our political leaders.”

anti-israel-protest-holocaust

 

Many of the anti-Israel demonstrators shouted insults such as “Baby killers” at a small group of pro-Israel demonstrators. At one point, when a pro-Israel supporter showed up and tried to enter the blocked-off pro-Israel area, one man shouted “We’ve got a Nazi here!” and “more pigs, more pigs!”

Tensions eventually became so high that the pro-Israel demonstrators had to be escorted away by law enforcement, presumably for their own safety. After the pro-Israel supporters were escorted out, the rally participants marched around the White House and through the streets of Washington, D.C.

An Israeli flag was also burned by participants at the rally.

anti-israel-protest-flag

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,