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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


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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August 6, 2014 5

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.”



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.


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