Voting Rights Act Section 4 Struck Down By Supreme Court

From Huffington Post:


The Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act on Tuesday, the provision of the landmark civil rights law that designates which parts of the country must have changes to their voting laws cleared by the federal government or in federal court.

The 5-4 ruling, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, ruled in Shelby County v. Holder that “things have changed dramatically” in the South in the nearly 50 years since the Voting Rights Act was signed in 1965.

The court’s opinion said it did not strike down the act of Congress “lightly,” and said it “took care to avoid ruling on the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act” in a separate case back in 2009. “Congress could have updated the coverage formula at that time, but did not do so. Its failure to act leaves us today with no choice but to declare [Section 4] unconstitutional. The formula in that section can no longer be used as a basis for subjecting jurisdictions to preclearance.”

The Voting Rights Act has recently been used to block a voter ID law in Texas and delay the implementation of another in South Carolina. Both states are no longer subject to the preclearance requirement because of the court’s ruling on Tuesday.

“Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions,” Roberts wrote.

“There is no doubt that these improvements are in large part because of the Voting Rights Act,” he wrote. “The Act has proved immensely successful at redressing racial discrimination and integrating the voting process.”

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Supreme Court Hammers Voting Rights Act Statement of NOW President Terry O’Neill

NOW Press Release

June 25, 2013

The National Organization for Women is appalled by today’s Supreme Court ruling that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. I have already been asked by grassroots NOW leaders if this decision promotes a political agenda that would revive the racial power relations in existence in the 1940s and 1950s. This question is particularly troubling because the Supreme Court is not supposed to advance or promote any political agenda. With this decision, it is more than appropriate to ask whether, once again (as with Bush v. Gore and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission) the court is further undermining its legitimacy as a neutral arbiter.

Racism and discrimination still exist in this country and in our voting laws — we’ve seen dramatic efforts in many states to limit voting access. Politicians have tried passing restrictive voter ID laws, cutting back early-voting hours, eliminating same-day voter registration, and aggressive purging of voter rolls in recent elections. These laws unquestionably target low-income and minority communities.

In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg called preclearance a “particularly effective” aspect of the Voting Rights Act. Indeed, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, between 1982 and 2006, more than 1,000 discriminatory schemes were blocked by the Department of Justice under Section 5. Without Section 4, the preclearance mandated by Section 5 becomes ineffective. Essentially, without the formula in Section 4 there can be no preclearance.

The survival of the Voting Rights Act — which ensures that jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory voting laws cannot change their laws without preclearance — is now in the hands of Congress, making it all the more crucial for those who believe in the right of every citizen to vote to demand that Congress take action immediately and to replace, in 2014, those who block action with champions of voting rights. NOW’s activists and allies will continue to fight to protect the voting rights of all citizens.

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Coy Mathis Case: Colorado Civil Rights Division Rules In Favor Of Transgender 6-Year-Old In Bathroom Dispute

From Huffington Post:


DENVER — Colorado officials say a suburban Colorado Springs school district discriminated against a 6-year-old transgender girl by preventing her from using the girls’ bathroom, in what advocates described as the first such ruling in the next frontier in civil rights.

Coy Mathis’s family raised the issue after school officials at Eagleside Elementary in Fountain said the first-grader could use restrooms in either the teachers’ lounge or in the nurse’s office, but not the girls’ bathroom. Coy’s parents feared she would be stigmatized and bullied.

On Monday, the Mathis family and its lawyers celebrated the ruling on the steps of the state capitol. Coy, dressed in a glittering tank top, jeans and pink canvas sneakers, ran around a towering blue spruce tree as her mother spoke to reporters.

“Her future will be better if we get to this place where this is nothing to be ashamed of,” Kathryn Mathis said, noting the family hadn’t sought a civil rights battle but was happy for the Colorado Division of Civil Rights’ ruling.

As the gay rights movement has won mounting legal and electoral victories in recent years, advocates hope the latest decision will lend momentum to the struggles of transgendered people.

“This is by far the high-water mark for cases dealing with the rights of transgendered people to access bathrooms,” said the Mathis family’s attorney, Michael Silverman of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund. He and other advocates said the case is one of several potentially ground-breaking transgendered civil-rights cases winding their way through the nation’s courts.

The Maine Supreme Court is considering the case of a 15-year-old transgendered girl who was forbidden from using her school’s girls’ bathroom.

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See Also:

Raw Story: Transgender 6-year-old wins right to use girls’ bathroom at Colorado school

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Allyson Robinson’s Statement to OS-SLDN Members, Families and Supporters

From Out Serve:

On 24, Jun 2013

This weekend’s events were most unfortunate and deeply troubling for many of us, but for my part, as from the beginning of my tenure with this organization, I am fully and firmly committed to our LGBT service members, veterans, and their families and to their fight for equality. For that reason, and to honor those who’ve shared those values with me, it is my intent to continue to lead OutServe-SLDN in the near term as we approach an historic moment for our community and our country. After that, at a date to be determined, I have decided of my own accord to step down, and will work with our members to ensure an orderly transition to the next phase of this organization’s life.

Very few people ever get the opportunity in this life to hear from those whose lives they’ve touched just how much they are loved and respected. I have no words to express my gratitude for the hundreds who have reached out to me privately or stood up for me publicly over these last 24 hours to show their support: from the military community, the LGBT community, and most especially, most dear to me, the troops of OutServe-SLDN and their families. For that, I am blessed beyond measure.

In light of the momentous events the coming days hold for us all, I intend to put this matter behind us and look forward to shifting the focus back to where it belongs: our LGBT service members, veterans, and families, who sacrifice so much every day, and their ongoing fight for full equality.

— Allyson Robinson, Executive Director, OutServe-SLDN

From Out Serve:

On 24, Jun 2013

Washington, DC – The OS-SLDN Board and staff are in the process of transforming the organization from primarily a legal services organization into a membership services and advocacy organization. This not only includes revising our business model to operate effectively under new political and financial realities, but is also part of a larger effort to increase the role of the organization’s 6,500 members in the leadership and direction of the organization.

This past Saturday an email containing the contents of confidential internal discussions of the OS-SLDN Board of Directors was erroneously distributed to an email list containing recipients outside of the Board of Directors. The board would like to clarify that the drafted item was only part of a series of discussions aimed at transitioning the organization in what has been a rapidly changing financial and political landscape facing the LGBT movement, which will soon include a Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. As is the case with many of our partners at this critical time, OS-SLDN is facing real and significant financial obstacles, forcing the Board to look critically at all aspects of its operations and to consider difficult decisions, including cutting costs and staffing reductions.

Board Co-Chair, Josh Seefried, stated, “There is no excuse for the series of events that transpired this past weekend. On behalf of the Board of Directors, I sincerely apologize for this as well as the impact it’s had on our staff’s and members’ trust and confidence in the organization. Allyson Robinson has led OutServe-SLDN as one of the most transformational leaders of this movement, and there is not a member serving on this board who does not respect and admire her work for this organization and the LGBT movement.”

“Allyson has continually put our LGBT service members, veterans, and their families first in the changes the organization has faced since the repeal of DADT,” stated co-chair April Heinze. “As many in our community know, the LGBT movement is evolving quickly, and so will its institutions. Many people thought that after the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ all the military LGBT organizations would or should disappear. As Allyson Robinson and her staff have so powerfully and effectively reminded the nation, the mission for full equality in our Armed Forces is incomplete.”

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See Also:

Bilerico: Robinson to Resign: Is OutServe-SLDN Future in Jeopardy?

Advocate: Allyson Robinson to Continue as OutServe-SLDN Director for ‘Near Term’

Buzz Feed: LGBT Military Group Held Emergency Board Meeting To Discuss Leader’s Ouster

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Transgender People Need Safe Restrooms

From The Huffington Post:


Transgender people go to work, drive our kids to school, go to the movies, and go out to dinner, and yes, like everyone else, we even go to the restroom. Most folks don’t think twice about using the restroom, but for transgender people, accessing the restroom that matches our gender identity too often results in ridicule or violence. Those of us who don’t fit narrow gender stereotypes — including transgender people transitioning from one gender to another — are most likely to be targeted.

At Transgender Law Center, we’ve been explaining this harsh reality to policy makers for years. In fact, our 2005 publication Peeing in Peace is still wildly popular and has inspired the creation of a new mobile app to help trans folks find safe places to use the restroom. Our helpline receives more than 2,500 requests each year. Some of those callers include employees of major corporations who are not allowed to use the appropriate restroom at work, students who aren’t allowed to use the appropriate restroom at school, and people who have been attacked in restrooms at malls and grocery stores.

Jody L. Herman, Williams Institute Manager of Transgender Research, recently released “Gendered Restrooms and Minority Stress: The Public Regulation of Gender and Its Impact on Transgender People’s Lives.” This scientific study found that 70 percent of transgender and gender-nonconforming respondents experienced problems in gender-specific restrooms in Washington, D.C., with people of color and people who have not medically transitioned often faring worse than others.

The data in “Gendered Restrooms and Minority Stress” demonstrate the severity and urgency of this issue. Among the transgender people who responded to Herman’s study about restroom access, 54 percent reported adverse health effects from trying to avoid using public restrooms, such as dehydration, kidney infections, and urinary tract infections; 10 percent of respondents who attended school in D.C. reported a negative impact on their education, including having excessive absences and dropping out of school due to issues related to restroom access; and 58 percent reported that they have avoided going out in public due to a lack of safe public restroom facilities.

For many people, talking about restrooms is uncomfortable. Yet we must begin to address this issue head-on if we hope to prevent the health complications, negative experiences in the education system, and stress that many transgender people — especially transgender people of color — experience when attempting to meet a very basic need. I commend the Williams Institute and organizations like the DC Trans Coalition that are advocating for safe and accessible facilities for all.

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Suspect in Custody in D.C. Trans Stabbing

From The Advocate

Police confirmed that they have someone in custody who is suspected of stabbing a transgender woman as many as 40 times in Washington, D.C. on Friday.

BY Sunnivie Brydum
June 24 2013

Police in Washington, D.C. confirmed today that they have in custody someone who is believed to be responsible for stabbing a transgender woman as many as 40 times in the early hours of Friday morning, reports the Washington Blade.

Bree Wallace, a 29-year-old transgender woman, was stabbed repeatedly by an assailant she knew casually around 1 a.m. Friday in southeastern D.C., according to police reports reviewed by The Blade. After running several blocks back to her apartment building, Wallace reportedly collapsed on the street. Neighbors who saw her immediately called 911.

On Monday, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier confirmed to the Blade that the suspect was in police custody after being arrested on charges unrelated to the alleged assault. A police spokesperson told the Blade on Sunday that the assailant assaulted Wallace with the intent to kill, but noted that the attack was neither random nor a hate crime.

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Who Is to Blame for Rape, Hazing, and Bullying? It’s Simple: Rapists and Bullies, Not Victims

From RH Reality Check:

by Amanda Marcotte
June 24, 2013

What will it take to get ordinary, everyday people to accept that sexual assault is a terrible crime? It almost seems asinine to ask that, because most people, if asked, will agree with the contention that rape and other forms of sexual assault are always wrong and never acceptable. Unfortunately, however, those sentiments often don’t translate into real life action. Instead, over and over, we’re seeing that when someone is sexually assaulted—especially a teenager—communities react by supporting the assailants and castigating the victims.

It’s happened again in Colorado, and this time, the victim is a young man. Despite the gender difference, the pattern is the same as it was in Steubenville, Ohio, or Cleveland, Texas, or Elwood, Indiana, or Halifax, Nova Scotia: A young person is violently assaulted, often by multiple people, and afterward is subject to abuse and taunting while their assailants are lauded by community members as nice guys who don’t deserve this.

The Norwood, Colorado, case involves a 13-year-old who was being “hazed,” which is one of those euphemisms that exists to minimize and excuse bullying and even assault. The three assailants cornered the young man in a school bus, duct-taped his mouth and anally raped him with a pencil. (Once again, it’s worth remembering that rape is not the result of overwhelming, out-of-control sexual desire, but in fact is an outgrowth of this kind of bullying and domineering attitude.) Even though the victim’s father was the school principal, it was hard to get any kind of justice for the victim because so many supporters of the assailants had ties to the school board, and the town seems to have largely turned against the victim. The Denver Post reports:

After the principal reported the incident to police, townspeople forced him to resign. Students protested against the victim at school, put “Go to Hell” stickers on his locker and wore T-shirts that supported the perpetrators. The attackers later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges, according to the Denver district attorney’s office.

Apparently, there’s been a major uptick in the number of sexual assaults of young men under the guise of “hazing” around the country, which is unsurprising considering that even in its milder forms, the concept of “hazing” is nothing but validating some kids bullying others for no other reason than their lower social status or younger age. Since hazing was already treated with a wink and a nod in these communities, is it really a surprise that people defend it even as it gets uglier, more sexually violent, and more sadistic? The way that we define masculinity in our culture as cruel and domineering makes these sorts of things nearly inevitable:

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