Why Bathrooms Are a Civil Rights Issue

September 8, 2010

by Carlos A. Ball | Huffington Post

Although it is not frequently acknowledged, bathrooms have been contested civil rights sites for several decades now. The civil rights movement during the 1950s fought to end the prevailing practice in some parts of the country of prohibiting African Americans from using so-called “white” bathrooms.

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Glenn Beck’s Cynical Invasion of D.C.

September 1, 2010

by NCLR Federal Policy Attorney Maya Rupert, Esq.

If the goal of Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally, held in the same place and on the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, was irony, Beck should be proud.

While the rally was billed as nonpolitical, it was clearly the rhetoric of the Tea Party that was being espoused by Beck, Sarah Palin, and King’s niece, Alveda King, whose role, as best I can tell, was to be Black and a relative of King so that the hijacking of his legacy felt less like highway robbery and more like shoplifting. The theme: Government intervention is not the answer but the problem, and identity is irrelevant.

After the rally, Beck went on Fox News Sunday and sounded like a Bizarro King extolling the virtue of a colorblind society where “race should not be a part of politics” and no government action to address discrimination is needed.

But the story of America has always been a story about identity. Religious identity and the right to worship free of persecution. Political identity and the right to fair representation in government. Basic human identity and the right to live as a free person—owned by, and beholden to, no one. And each of those rights had to be etched into the Constitution, perhaps the biggest form of government intervention, in order to be guaranteed.

When King spoke on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial 47 years ago, it was undeniably a rally about racial identity. He invoked images of black children and white children joining hands, because their racial differences were to be celebrated, not ignored. And that speech was a catalyst for passing the Civil Rights Act—yes, more federal legislation, which prohibited racial discrimination in public accommodations. Beck’s attempt to recast it as a movement for colorblind politics and small government is baffling at best and ignominious at worst.

However, in a strange way, it is also fitting because it is simply the latest in a long line of attempts to co-opt the language and narrative of the civil rights movement, scrub it of its focus on minority identity, and claim it for a movement of the majority intent on reinforcing the status quo.

Beck explained that in his mind, civil rights is about giving everyone “equal justice; an equal shot.” But such equality does not happen without laws that prohibit judging people on something besides the content of their character. And that is true for all minority groups fighting for equality.

As we continue to wait on Congress to act on the long overdue Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), crucial legislation that will give lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) employees basic rights to be free from workplace discrimination, it is frightening to hear people question the importance of government action in prohibiting discrimination. As the law currently stands, people in this country run the risk of being fired simply for being who they are. Right now, in 29 states people can be fired because of their sexual orientation, and in 38 states, because of their gender identity. ENDA would provide critical federal protection for LGBT people to be free from discrimination at work.

According to a 2007 Gallup poll, 89% of people believe LGBT employees deserve equal treatment at work. Despite that fact, a survey from the same year reflected that 43% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people had reported harassment at work. And a more recent study from 2010 reflects that 97% of transgender workers have experienced harassment at work. That disparity—the difference between how we feel about discrimination and how often it still happens—is what Beck and his supporters naively ignore when they talk about equality but asks us to ignore identity and the role of government in achieving it. If equality is the goal, the answer has to be an increased understanding of identity politics, and more government action, not less.

King once famously said: “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.” Beck and his followers are free to disagree with this very simple point, but not while claiming entitlement to King’s legacy while they do it.

A Forgotten Fight for Suffrage

August 25, 2010

by Christine Stansell | New York Times

In 1923 Delaware ratified [the 19th Amendment] belatedly to join the rest of the country, but the Southern states waited decades: Maryland in 1941, Virginia in 1952, Alabama in 1953. Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina came along from 1969 to 1971, years after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had passed. Mississippi brought up the rear, not condoning the right of women to vote until 1984.

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Kate Kendell at Netroots Nation: Civil Rights in the Modern Era

July 29, 2010

Netroots Nation panel featuring National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director Kate Kendell, SEIU’s Eliseo Medina, writer and activist Tim Wise, and Hip-Hop Caucus President Rev. Lennox Yearwood. Open Left’s Mike Lux moderated.

Civil Rights in the Modern Era, During this lun…, posted with vodpod

Mugabe: No Gay Voice in New Zimbabwe Constitution

July 19, 2010

from Agence France-Presse

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe said the country will not listen to those who want gay rights to be mentioned in a draft of the new constitution, state media reported on Sunday.

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Spartanburg, SC Mayor: Do We Really Have Civil Rights for All in the City of Spartanburg?

June 3, 2010

by Mayor Junie White | The Herald-Journal

I grew up in Gaffney in the 1940s and ’50s. We shared a lot of simple joys back then, growing up in a small Southern town. But a lot of folks did not enjoy the same privileges and rights as I because they were not white. We accepted things then that are unthinkable today.

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NCLR Mourns the Loss of Civil Rights Leader Dorothy Height

April 20, 2010

Today NCLR mourns the loss of LGBT civil rights leader Dorothy Height. A civil rights pioneer, Height was the president emirita of the National Council of Negro Women and dedicated her life’s work to racial justice and gender equality. President Obama has called Dorothy Height  “the godmother of the civil rights movement.” She was 98.

A statement from Kate Kendell, Esq., Executive Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights

“Our world is an immeasurably better place because of women like Dorothy Height, whose life, work, and dedication to social justice and equal rights serve as inspiration to us all. We mourn her loss and celebrate her life by continuing her fight for justice and equality for all.”

Gay Rights by Law, Not Vote

February 27, 2010

Boston Globe editorial

Regardless of the political controversy surrounding same-sex marriage, federal judges still must address the basic question in two cases now before the courts: Is it constitutional and just to deny people rights because of their sexual orientation? The answer is no. And that principle should guide judges – both in a Massachusetts challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act and in a challenge to an antigay-marriage ballot measure in California.

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Five Tips for Converting Others to the Gay Cause

February 9, 2010

by Abie Kopf | Change.org

We’re all familiar with the more annoying practices of evangelism such as people who bike to our front doors or folks who hand out tracts after a ball game.  But telling others about our beliefs is something that we don’t do enough of in the gay community.

We might assume that people don’t want to hear about gay rights or that they will attack us if we try to bring up who we are and what we’re fighting for. Despite these fears, it’s absolutely essential that we reach out to others. We’re at a critical point in our fight for equality and we need all the soldiers we can get for the war on gay rights.

Gay advocates should take a cue from evangelicals because they’ve gotten the art of presenting their case down to a science, especially when it comes to converting others. The National Organization for Marriage website provides “Marriage Talking Points” that outline the best ways to talk about the dangers of same-sex marriage. These talking points are researched, they’re thorough and they are absolutely frightening … because they work.

At the Creating Change Conference in Dallas this past weekend, I was fortunate to sit in on a session hosted by the Williams Institute that taught activists how to neutralize gay-rights opponents with factual evidence and current statistics. The know-how to confidently and thoughtfully debate gay issues might allow us to win a few over to our side, but there are some things to keep in mind before trying to convert gay non-believers.

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The Beloved Community

February 1, 2010

by Rev. Eric Lee | Huffington Post

As a nation we have recently celebrated the life, work and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by observing what would have been his 81st birthday on January 15, 2010. Across the nation countless observances recounted Dr. King’s spirit-led speeches advocating for justice, his tireless work of non-violent resistance to institutional discrimination and oppression, and his sacrificial life offering for the hope of equality. Yet, forty-two years after the martyrdom of Dr. Martin Luther King, our country continues to struggle with administering justice universally.

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