Civil Rights for this Decade

31 Mar

Fifty years ago this month the Selma to Montgomery marches happened.  That march resulted in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 being passed.  Unfortunately, parts of the law (specifically preclearance) were struck down several years ago.  The Supreme Court left open the possibility of updating the Civil Rights law including preclearance.  There has also been unrest in this country from police shootings of African-Americans and lack of police punishment for the shootings.  In addition, we have seen many states legalizing gay marriage.

Much progress has been made since Dr. King and other Civil Rights leaders helped change this country for the better, but there is still much to be done.  The Justice Department released a report detailing racism and police abuse in Ferguson, Missouri.  What was uncovered was horrific.  African-Americans are being singled out in police stops as well as criminal convictions.  I doubt this is limited to Ferguson.  Some people in the U.S. want to deny that there is still racism here.  Denying that it is happening not only won’t solve the problem, but it will make it worse.  Coretta Scott King became a strong supporter of LGBT rights later in her life and stated that her husband would have been a supporter as well.

In the past three years we have seen progress in gay rights. This has been a very slow development in my lifetime.  As recent as 2008, gay marriage was used as a wedge issue to get people to vote for Republican candidates.  Public  Opinion has changed significantly in recent years.  A majority of people in the U.S. live in a state where gay marriage is now legal.  Despite progress, gay rights have not come without opposition.

Although federal courts have made same-sex marriage legal in Alabama, the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy Moore, has told people to ignore the court ruling.  The U.S. Supreme Court has since stated that the federal court’s decision should go into effect.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that Alabama is standing in the way of progress. Alabama isn’t the only state trying to put road blocks up for gay rights.  The U.S. Supreme Court will make a decision on same-sex marriage once and for all later this year.

Mike Pence, the governor of Indiana has recently signed into law a so-called “religious freedom  law.”  This law has already been met with boycotts across the country because of the way the law can be interpreted.  The law that passed would make it legal for businesses to discriminate against gay people as it is currently worded.  A business or a person could say that they won’t serve gay people because it’s against their religion. What makes this law different from most other states, is that Indiana has no law protecting gay people from being discriminated against.

Mike Pence continually cites a religious freedom law President Obama supported, when he was a state senator in the Illinois legislature and one President Bill Clinton signed into law.  He is making a false comparison.  President Obama then supported a different law and is a strong supporter of non-discrimination laws.  What Mike Pence also left out was that President Clinton signed a non-discrimination law while he was president.  Governor Pence either didn’t know this or chose to ignore these facts.  Businesses are already threatening to move out of state which would hurt Indiana fiscally.  The governor said today that he is calling on the state legislature to pass a law so that people aren’t discriminated.  I hope these changes are significant and address the concerns of critics of the law.  Arkansas has passed a similar law that is waiting for their governor’s signature.  I hope the governor in Arkansas vetoes the bill.

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