Welcome to This Week in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. This week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on Arizona’s “ballot harvesting” law, a federal judge in Texas rules the pandemic moratorium on evictions is unconstitutional, the House passes the Equality Act, and the most violence in Myanmar since the military coup at the beginning of February.
Virginia is poised to pass the most comprehensive state-level voting rights act in history. The bill, which arrived on Governor Ralph Northam’s desk on Thursday evening, was inspired by the federal Voting Rights Act. It includes requirements that election officials provide voting materials in foreign languages for districts with substantial populations whose primary language is not English, as well as prohibitions on elections that dilute the voting power of racial minorities. (NPR)
The House passes the Equality Act, a landmark LGBTQ rights bill that prohbits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill, which would apply to employment, housing, education, public accommodations, credit, and jury service, is expected to face a much tougher battle in the Senate, where a 60-vote majority is required to bypass a filibuster. The Act amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (NBC News).
Pro-Democracy protesters in Hong Kong have been detained and charged with subversion. 47 activists were arrested for violating a national security law that Beijing imposed last june to quash dissent following the months of anti-government protests in 2019. International human rights groups, including Amnesty International, condemned the detentions, calling them an “outrageous attack on peaceful expression and association.” (NBC News).
A federal judge in Texas has ruled that the federal moratorium on evictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic is unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge John Barker, a Trump appointee in the Eastern District of Texas, stated that the “federal government cannot say that it has ever before invoked its power over interstate commerce to impose a residential eviction moratorium. It did not do so during the deadly Spanish Flu pandemic. Nor did it invoke such a power during the exigencies of the Great Depression. The federal government has not claimed such a power at any point during our Nation’s history until last year.” (CNN).
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Arizona’s voting rights law this week, with the potential to impact voting access nationally. The Arizona statute at issue bars anyone but a family member or caregiver from returning another person’s early ballot, a process often termed “ballot harvesting.” A federal appeals court ruled last year that the law violated both the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution. Civil rights groups insist the statute disproportionately restricts voting access to minority voters. (AP, NYTimes).
At least 18 protesters were killed in Myanmar on Sunday in a clash between police and protesters, the worst violence since the military coup in the country on February 1st. Police deployed stun grenades, tear gas, and eventually shot into the crowd as demonstrators in the biggest city, Yangon, took to the streets. The protests follow the coup in which the army seized power and arrested government leader Aung San Suu Kyi, alleging fraud in November’s election. (Reuters, Slate).
Hundreds gather in New York for a rally against anti-Asian hate and violence. More than 300 people convened on Saturday afternoon in Manhattan for the Rise Up Against Asian Hate Rally, organized by the Asian American Federation. New York politicians and community leaders were among the attendees, who heard from recent victims of anti-Asian hate crimes, which have risen precipitously since the beginning of the pandemic. (CBS News).