The end of February delivered a flurry of civil rights and civil liberties news. Here are a few stories to kick off your week:
1. Arizona Did Us All a Favor – NY Times
On Wednesday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, in response to a storm of protests from economic powerhouses and an “avalance of sanity,” vetoed Senate Bill 1062, also known as the “Religious Freedom Act.” The bill would have allowed business owners to justify their refusal to serve gay and lesbian individuals under the guise of “sincerely held religious beliefs.” The Times’ Timothy Egan called the bill “a green light for bigotry.” Moreover, three Republicans who voted for the measure, including one of its co-sponsors, called for the governor to veto the bill.
On Thursday, President Obama announced the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, a “collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach to build ladders of opportunity and unlock the full potential of boys and young men of color.” The initiative relies on the support of leading foundations and businesses to connect young men with mentoring, support networks, and skills for the workforce and higher education. Many lauded the approach as acknowledging the “inter-related and complex factors which disadvantage young men of color” (ACLU). But the ACLU also urges the administration not to ignore the external structural barriers that young people of color often face: “it is not enough to lead young people to the gateways of opportunities when the gates are locked by unfair and discriminatory practices.” Hopefully, President Obama’s initiative will encourage not only building up “ladders of opportunity” but also breaking down structural barriers impeding equality.
The Twittersphere latched onto a Freudian slip by Texas GOP State Senator Dan Patrick, who wrote on Wednesday (and soon retracted): “MARRIAGE= ONE MAN & ONE MAN. Enough of these activist judges. FAVORITE if you agree. I know the silent majority out there is with us!” (Favorite!)
His response comes on the heels of U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia’s decision striking down as unconstitutional a Texas law barring same-sex marriage. Judge Garcia’s opinion states: “Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution.” However, his decision voiding the ban on same-sex marriages has been stayed, pending an appeal to the Fifth Circuit. (Opinion from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas)