When he signed into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965, President Lyndon Johnson said:This act flows from a clear and simple wrong. . . . Millions of Americans are denied the right to vote because of their color. This law will ensure them the right to vote. The wrong is one which no American, in his heart, can justify. The right is one which no American, true to our principles, can deny.In the decades since, the Voting Rights Act has become the keystone in the arch of protection for people of color. Yet today some still seek to deny these Americans the right to vote. That can be seen in the many efforts at voter suppression during the 2012 presidential election. During the current term, the Supreme Court will rule on a challenge to a key provision of the Voting Rights Act itself.Today, AFJ debuts a new page on our website devoted to why we still need the Voting Rights Act. We’ll be adding more resources in the weeks ahead.
More than a decade ago, AFJ’s First Monday video, Deadly Business, documented the insidious means used by the gun industry to market its product – including marketing to children:Now The New York Times has updated the story, with a comprehensive account of those efforts – including efforts to market semiautomatic weapons like the Bushmaster AR-15. That’s the civilian version of the army’s M-16. It’s also the one used in the Newtown massacre, among others. It’s also one of the weapons Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has proposed banning.According to the Times,the industry’s marketing efforts have taken on a new urgency, as the percentage of licensed hunters declines. Like the tobacco industry, the gun industry understands that, in the words of one industry publication, “the need for aggressive recruitment is urgent.” So the industry tries to, as one study recommends, “start them young.”According to the Times:
The pages of Junior Shooters, an industry-supported magazine that seeks to get children involved in the recreational use of firearms, once featured a smiling 15-year-old girl clutching a semiautomatic rifle. At the end of an accompanying article that extolled target shooting with a Bushmaster AR-15 — an advertisement elsewhere in the magazine directed readers to a coupon for buying one — the author encouraged youngsters to share the article with a parent.
“Who knows?” it said. “Maybe you’ll find a Bushmaster AR-15 under your tree some frosty Christmas morning!” …Two other items in the Times story were notable:● Apologists for the gun industry want to divert the discussion to possible causes of gun violence other than guns – things like video games. But it turns out the industry is in that business, too:
Military-style firearms are prevalent in a target-shooting video game and mobile app called Point of Impact, which was sponsored by the shooting sports foundation and Guns & Ammo magazine.● The gun industry has done everything it can to prevent the federal government from even conducting research on the harm of gun violence. That’s because, as the Times points out in an editorial, the industry didn’t like the findings:
…[B]y the early 1990s, … gun research had advanced to the point that it contradicted [National Rifle Association] ideology. Some studies found, for example, that people living in a home with a gun were not safer; they faced a significantly elevated risk of homicide and suicide.But research that helps the industry peddle its product is another matter. According to the Times story:
The focus on young people has been accompanied by [National Shooting Sports Founation]- sponsored research examining popular attitudes toward hunting and shooting. … Most [of the studies] were prepared by consultants retained by the foundation, and at least one was financed with a grant from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
During a discussion at Southern Methodist University, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia maintained that “I haven’t expressed my views” on gay marriage or gun control.
In his dissent in a 1996 Supreme Court decision overturning a voter-approved, anti-gay referendum in Colorado, Scalia wrote in support of the voter majority, “I had thought that one could consider certain conduct reprehensible — murder, for example, or polygamy or cruelty to animals — and could exhibit even ‘animus’ toward such conduct.”
And in 2003, after the Supreme Court negated a law in Texas that had criminalized same-sex “sodomy,” Scalia wrote in dissent, “The Texas statute undeniably seeks to further the belief of its citizens that certain forms of sexual behavior are ‘immoral and unacceptable’ — the same interest furthered by criminal laws against fornication, bigamy, adultery, adult incest, bestiality and obscenity.”So, is Antonin Scalia against gay marriage? You might well think that. He couldn’t possibly comment.
Lilly Ledbetter and President Obama at the signing of the
Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act four years ago today.
Four years ago today, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The law undid some of the damage caused by the notorious Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Had Congress not acted, the decision would have made it vastly more difficult for women to sue when they are denied equal pay.Alliance for Justice first told the story of Lilly Ledbetter in our 2007 First Monday video Supreme Injustices. The video describes how the court ruled that Ledbetter could sue only during the 180 days after the discrimination began – which would have been impossible since it was years before she first discovered the discrimination:The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act changed that.But more is needed. Employers still can bar employees from discussing their wages – and retaliate against workers who do. Obviously, you can’t sue for wage discrimination if you don’t know you’re being paid less than another employee for the same work. In addition, an employee who wins can receive back pay, but no compensatory or punitive damages.Alliance for Justice is part of a coalition of organizations working to change that. We supportThe Paycheck Fairness Act. It passed the House of Representatives and had the support of a majority of senators – but not the 60 votes needed to break a Republican filibuster.Still, President Obama can take some action on his own. The Coalition is urging him to issue an executive order banning contractors who do business with the federal government from retaliating against workers who discuss their own pay.
UPDATE: It’s becoming increasingly rare for Congress to do what it did in the Ledbetter case – pass a law effectively overriding a Supreme Court decision. Richard Hasen analyzes the reasons in this post on SCOTUSblog