Category Archives: Civil Rights

Arizona House recesses rather than debate the Equal Rights Amendment

I posed the question the other day, Illinois Senate takes up the ERA today, whither Arizona?

Now we know the answer.

In the same way that our authoritarian Tea-Publican legislature has sought to shut down the voice of Arizona citizens by rendering their constitutional right to citizens initiatives an impossibility through a byzantine set of new rules, the same authoritarian Tea-Publican legislators shut down the voice of Democratic minority legislators who represent over 40 percent of the voters in Arizona.

Rep. Pamela Powers-Hannley (D-Tucson) complained during legislative floor action on Thursday that her bill to put Arizona on record in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment never even got a committee hearing. So she made a motion that the measure be brought to the full House for an immediate vote. GOP lawmakers stymie bid to vote on Equal Rights Amendment (Arizona Capitol Times):

The maneuver, which is legal under House rules, caught GOP leaders by surprise.

But rather than simply allowing a vote on her motion, Speaker J.D. Mesnard made a procedural motion to instead have the House recess. That was approved along party lines, denying Democrats the vote they sought — and effectively keeping Republicans from having to go on the record on whether they support or oppose the amendment.

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A parade of Democrat lawmakers urged colleagues in the Republican-controlled House to quash the motion to recess and allow a vote.

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Illinois Senate takes up the ERA today, whither Arizona?

Back in March, the state of Nevada became the 36th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment … 35 Years After The Deadline:

[T]he state Senate approved the long-dormant ERA, which among other things guarantees that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” The senators passed a measure sent to them by the state Assembly, which had already approved it earlier this week.

It has been a long, twisty path for the ERA, which was first passed by Congress in 1972 and last approved by a state (Indiana) in 1977. The amendment teetered just three states short of the threshold necessary to see it adopted into law nationwide — a threshold it failed to achieve by the time Congress’ deadline came and went.

But for ERA supporters such as Democratic state Sen. Pat Spearman, that deadline is little more than a paper tiger.

It was in the resolving clause, but it wasn’t a part of the amendment that was proposed by Congress,” she tells KNPR. “That’s why the time limit is irrelevant.”

After all, Spearman and others argue, Congress’ original ratification deadline was 1979, and national lawmakers already bumped that forward to 1982 — so what’s stopping them from bumping it forward again?

“The Equal Rights Amendment is about equality, period,” says Spearman, the Nevada bill’s chief sponsor.

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This afternoon, SJRCA4, the Equal Rights Amendment, is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Executive Committee of the Illinois General Assembly. In 2014, the Illinois Senate voted 39-11 – by more than the necessary three-fifths margin of elected senators, as required by state law – to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, but it was not put to a vote in the House, where there was not sufficient support.

UPDATE: SJRCA4 was approved by the Senate Executive Committee on a a 12-3 vote (2 voting present).

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Texas racial gerrymandering, Wisconsin partisan gerrymandering headed to SCOTUS

Slate has a good summary of the decision of the federal district court for Texas on Thursday that, once again, struck down the district lines drawn by the Texas legislature for intentional racial discrimination. Federal Court: Texas Intentionally Gerrymandered Its Districts to Dilute Minority Votes:

On Thursday, a three-judge federal court ruled that Texas intentionally discriminated against minority voters in drawing its state House district map in 2011. The decision follows a similar ruling by the same court in March holding that Texas also drew its federal congressional districts in an effort to dilute minority votes. Thursday’s ruling marks the third time in recent weeks that the federal judiciary has found Texas to have intentionally burdened its Hispanic voters.

The majority attached a 151-page findings of fact to its already lengthy opinion, reflecting careful analysis of Texas’ gerrymander that will be difficult for the Supreme Court to ignore on appeal. In short, the court found that Texas legislators drew multiple House districts that diluted Hispanics’ votes, a violation of both the Voting Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The court also found that the legislature had engaged in race-based gerrymandering, which similarly runs afoul of equal protection and the VRA. Finally, the court concluded that the House map violated the one person, one vote principle by creating districts within unequal populations, another Equal Protection infringement.

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Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III visits Nogales, controversy ensues

Charles Pierce at Esquire covers this story in the way only he can, so let him tell this story. This Is What America Means to Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III:

We’re going to have to make a semi-regular daily feature on the doings of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, presently the Attorney General and the only man in America who thinks Birth of a Nation was a documentary.

On Tuesday, he visited the Arizona-Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona, with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and, by way of encouraging the law-enforcement types gathered there, according to Tiger Beat On The Potomac, these were his prepared remarks:

“Depravity and violence are their calling cards, including brutal machete attacks and beheadings,” he said. “It is here, on this sliver of land, where we first take our stand against this filth.”

Nobody I know is in favor of depravity and violence—at least outside the studios of Fox News, anyway—nor is anyone I know in favor of machete attacks and/or beheadings, although some of our staunch allies elsewhere are rather high on the latter. But when you’ve got the attorney general of the United States planning to refer to other human beings, no matter how criminal they are, as “filth,” you’ve got the Department of Justice descending into the status of a Breitbart comment thread, and that is never good for anyone. When it came time for the speech, Sessions ultimately did not say “filth” out loud, but the Department of Justice doubled down on the word in a statement:

The Department of Justice declined to comment on the departure from prepared remarks, but said:

“As the Attorney General said in his statement, we must take a stand against filth like MS-13 and the cartels that turn cities and suburbs into warzones, that rape and kill innocent people, and that profit by trafficking in drugs and people. It is unfortunate that there are misinformed people that think that we need to treat such violent criminals as if they deserve anything but the worse kind of condemnation.”

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Federal District Court for Texas again strikes down Texas voter ID law for intentional racial discrimination

Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, on remand from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, has again ruled (.pdf) that the voter identification law the Texas Legislature passed in 2011 was enacted with the intent to discriminate against black and Hispanic voters. Federal Judge Says Texas Voter ID Law Intentionally Discriminates:

In a long-running case over the legality of one of the toughest voter ID laws in the country, the judge found that the law violated the federal Voting Rights Act.

Judge Gonzales Ramos had made a similar ruling in 2014, but after Texas appealed her decision, a federal appellate court instructed her to review the issue once more.

The appeals court — the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans — found that Judge Ramos had relied too heavily on Texas’ history of discriminatory voting measures and other evidence it labeled “infirm” and asked her to reweigh the question of discriminatory intent.

In her ruling on Monday, Judge Ramos wrote that the evidence cited by the Fifth Circuit “did not tip the scales” in favor of the state.

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Whitford v. Gill: Partisan gerrymandering case before SCOTUS

John Oliver on his “Last Week Tonight”show Sunday night did a segment on Gerrymandering (video) that, while informative and funny, barely mentioned towards the end of the segment what may become a landmark case in the next term of the U.S. Supreme Court (unless affirmed) from the state of Wisconsin, Whitford v. Gill (No. 16-1161).

It’s time to get up to speed on this pending case.

Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog explains the posture of this case, The WI Gerrymandering Case and the Costs of Mandatory Jurisdiction:

The 2-1 federal court decision striking down Wisconsin’s redistricting plans for the state legislature as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, Whitford v. Gill, is without doubt the most significant lower federal court decision on partisan gerrymandering the lower courts have ever issued. The case will also come to the Court in the Supreme Court’s mandatory, appellate jurisdiction — which now exists only for a tiny sliver of cases, including challenges to statewide redistricting plans.

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