Civil Rights

Contempt for the Constitution Shows in Opposition to Adegbile

Today's shameful demagoguery against Debo Adegbile slights the constitutional protections that keep us free.
PFAW

PFAW Members Join Largest Civil Rights March in the South Since Selma

People from all walks of life marched together - from students and activists to lawyers, healthcare professionals, and teachers.
PFAW

PFAW Foundation Remembers Civil Rights Hero Julius Chambers

We here at People For the American Way Foundation are deeply saddened by the passing of Julius Chambers, a trailblazing civil rights lawyer and former People For the American Way Foundation board member.  In the 1960s, Chambers opened what became the first integrated law firm in North Carolina and later went on to lead the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund.  Throughout his life, he fought and won cases on school desegregation and discrimination, including a case on public school integration – Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education– that went all the way to the Supreme Court and paved the way for the use of busing to counter segregation. 

But as the New York Times noted yesterday:

Mr. Chambers’s victories came with a cost. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Swann, his offices were firebombed. After his successes in 1965, his car was firebombed and two bombs exploded in his home.

His response was defiant; he said he would “keep fighting.”

More than forty years later, during a 2008 PFAW Foundation panel on the future of the Supreme Court, Chambers made it clear that he was still fighting.  He underscored his commitment to “us[ing] the courts to correct the injustices that we see still perpetuated today,” including discrimination against low-income people.

It is not difficult to see why the North Carolina NAACP chapter described Chambers as “a man of tremendous courage.” 
 

PFAW Foundation

Sen. Inouye’s Civil Rights Legacy

Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, President Pro Tempore of the Senate, passed away yesterday at the age of 88, having represented the people of Hawaii in either the House or Senate as long as it has been a state. Inouye was elected to the Senate nine times, serving nearly 50 years. Taking office the year before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Inouye was a leader in half a century of civil rights battles in the Senate. John Nichols of The Nation details Inouye’s role in some of those battles:

The last sitting senator who joined the epic struggles to pass the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, he led the fight for the Americans with Disabilities Act and was a key sponsor of the constitutional amendment to extend voting rights to 18-to-20-year-olds.

Inouye battled for reparations for Japanese-Americans who were interned in government compounds during World War II. And he was a passionate defender of the right to dissent. Indeed, the ACLU recalls, “Senator Inouye fought every iteration of proposed constitutional amendments to ban flag desecration—support that was particularly meaningful to the defense of free speech because of his military service.”

Inouye was one of the handful of senators who rejected the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act in the 1990s and he emerged as one of the earliest and most determined backers of marriage equality in the Senate, asking: “How can we call ourselves the land of the free, if we do not permit people who love one another to get married?”

When the debate over whether gays and lesbians serving in the military arose, Inouye declared as a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient: “In every war we have had men and women of different sexual orientation who have stood in harm’s way and given their lives for their country. I fought alongside gay men during World War II, many of them were killed in combat. Are we to suggest that because of their sexual orientation they are not heroes?”

Sen. Inouye represented the best of American values. This country will miss him.

 

PFAW

African American Ministers Leadership Council Applauds DOJ Investigation of Trayvon Martin Shooting

Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, Director of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council, issued the following statement in response to the Justice Department’s announcement that it would open a civil rights investigation into the fatal shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin:

“It is shocking that nearly 60 years after the murder of Emmett Till, a black teenager can be killed simply for walking down the street, and his killer not even tried. Trayvon Martin’s life was not expendable. Unfortunately, for many weeks local law enforcement acted as if it were.

“The Justice Department was right to open an investigation into Trayvon’s murder. All his family is asking for is their constitutional right to equal justice under the law, for our justice system to recognize the value of their son’s life. In 2012, that shouldn’t be too much to ask.”

African American Ministers Leadership Council, a program of People For the American Way Foundation, is an alliance of over 700 progressive African American clergy supporting social justice, civil rights, and reproductive health and justice.


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African American Ministers Leadership Council Statement on the Passing of Rep. Donald Payne

Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, Director of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council, issued the following statement on the passing of New Jersey congressman Donald Payne:

“We are all saddened to hear of the loss of Congressman Payne, who has been a leader and an inspiration to a generation of civil rights advocates. Congressman Payne, through his work in Congress and at the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus foundation, has done so much to make the voices and needs of African Americans heard in Washington.

“Congressman Payne, while an important voice for African Americans, was also an outspoken advocate for human and civil rights for all Americans and for people around the world. He will be missed, and his life and the values he stood for will continue to inspire.”

 

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Barbour Apologizes, but the Troubling Impact of His Words Remains

In an interview with the Weekly Standard this week, Mississippi Governor and possible presidential hopeful Haley Barbour downplayed the impact of segregation during the civil rights era and praised the Citizens Councils, groups that opposed desegregation and civil rights

Appeals Court Strikes Down Arizona Proof of Citizenship Law

In a victory for voting rights advocates yesterday, a federal appeals court in Phoenix struck down a key part of an Arizona law requiring voters to produce proof of citizenship before registering to vote

People For the American Way Congratulates Dolores Huerta on Attacks from Glenn Beck

PFAW today offered its warmest congratulations to civil rights leader and PFAW Board Member Dolores Huerta after she was attacked by television host Glenn Beck. Huerta was singled out for her work protecting undocumented workers from exploitation by employers.

Glenn Beck and Dr. King

Glenn Beck is trying to appropriate Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy in order to push his agenda of intolerance, fear, and division. Beck says he’s ‘reclaiming civil rights.’ In fact, he’s insulting exactly what Dr. King and his movement stood for.

Radio Ad Highlights Grassley’s Criticism of Civil Rights Leader

People For the American Way today released a new radio ad calling out Sen. Charles Grassley for his criticism of civil rights hero Thurgood Marshall during Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan's recent confirmation hearings. The ad will air in Iowa starting tomorrow.

Senator Sessions Equates Citizens United with Brown v. Board

Talking Points Memo has reported an exchange in which Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, defended the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC by comparing it to the decision to desegregate American schools in Brown v. Board of Education.

Supreme Court Rules Against Government-Aided Discrimination

The Supreme Court ruled today in a 5-4 decision that a publicly funded law school need not provide funding and recognition to a campus group with policies that discriminate based on religion and sexual orientation.

Remembering Dorothy Height

Dorothy Height, a leading civil rights activist who spent 41 years at the head of the National Council of Negro Women, died today at the age of 98.

Indiana Court Declares State's Voter ID Law Unconstitutional

Following the Indiana Court of Appeals unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel that the state’s voter ID law is unconstitutional, People For the American Way Director of Public Policy Tanya Clay House said, "It’s been a long time coming, but this is exciting news for Indiana voters and all of us concerned with protecting the right to vote of all Americans. Indiana's voter identification law was the most stringent in the country, and the Indiana Court of Appeals' decision to strike it down is correct. The court rightfully recognized the need to ensure voter security for all Indiana voters by reexamining the voter identification law, which would disproportionately harm minorities, the poor and the elderly."

Wendy Gonaver's Fight for Free Speech and Religious Liberty

When Wendy Gonaver was fired for standing up for her religious beliefs, she took action.

More Rights At Stake: A Preview of the Supreme Court's 2008-09 Term

A report from People For the American Way Foundation on a selection of cases the Supreme Court will consider in the term beginning October 6, 2008. In the 2008-09 term, the Court is set to consider a number of important cases involving voting rights, employment discrimination, free speech, and access to justice.

McCain Courts the Right, Attacks Families

This weekend, The New York Times reported that Senator McCain said flatly that he opposed allowing gay couples to adopt. "I think that we’ve proven that both parents are important in the success of a family so, no, I don’t believe in gay adoption."

Republicans Block Emergency Ballot Bill in the House

In response to the failed vote on Rep. Zoe Lofgren's Emergency Ballot Bill, People For the American Way Director of Public Policy Tanya Clay House released the following statement:

McCain, Ignoring Own Record, Claims Commitment to Equal Pay

Earlier today, Senator John McCain told voters assembled at a Wisconsin town hall meeting that he is a committed supporter of equal pay: "We have not done enough. And I’m committed to making sure that there’s equal pay for equal work. That there is equal opportunity in every aspect of our society. And that is my record and you can count on it."

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