Civil Rights

The meaning and viability of the Thirteenth Amendment

At the heart of Django Unchained and Lincoln -- two critically-acclaimed films that are both up for best drama at Sunday’s Golden Globes -- is slavery.  Django Unchained chronicles the experiences of a freed slave while Lincoln a focuses on the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, which formally abolished slavery. The renewed attention on slavery and the Thirteenth Amendment calls for fuller consideration of the amendment’s specialized meaning and its applicability to contemporary harms.
 
Enacted in 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation and several months following Lee’s surrender to Union forces, the Thirteenth Amendment declared that “[n]either slavery nor involuntary servitude. . . shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

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Reauthorizing VAWA in current form could be grave mistake

The 112th Congress adjourned last week without reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The failure of Congress to pass either the Senate- or House-approved (S. 1925 or H.R. 4970) versions was the by-product both of partisan wrangling, as well as acerbic personal attacks that were later derided by the Huffington Post as “incendiary and extreme.”
 
But the last-ditch negotiations between Vice President Joe Biden and House Leader Eric Cantor side-stepped the most important question of all: Are VAWA-funded programs working?

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New Congress should focus on passing VAWA

In a year where we have seen much progress from the White House and from the Department of Justice in addressing the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) survivors of violence, there is one national body that has failed to act. The 112th Congress has left much undone and has been slow to compromise or propose solutions to a myriad of issues and concerns facing the country – including for LGBTQ survivors of violence.

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Window dressing and the ongoing war on women

Women immigrants are at risk. Changes to two significant bills – the Violence Against Women Act and the STEM Jobs Act – threaten to endanger this vulnerable group in the final days of the lame duck Congress.
 
Last May, the House of Representatives passed a deeply flawed version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) by a vote of 222-205 that would eliminate a number of VAWA’s historical protections for battered immigrant.

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There's only one VAWA for a changing nation

The elections showed that, nationally, the landscape of who is engaging with political representation in this country is changing. By all accounts the votes of women, immigrants, people of color, Native people, LGBT people and youth changed the presidential and some state elections. For the national conservative platform, relying on an agenda that often alienated these communities ('legitimate rape,' anyone?), the 2012 election results revealed a need for a change of rhetoric.

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Still time for House to do the right thing and pass Senate VAWA bill

Activists around the world are engaged in the “16 Days of Activism to End Gender Violence” campaign, calling on governments to take action on crimes from rape in war to domestic abuse by International Human Rights Day on December 10. In the United States, activists have added motivation for pushing policymakers to act within this timeframe. Congress is at an impasse over renewing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the country’s primary national legislation addressing domestic abuse, sexual violence, and stalking. With the remainder of the 112th Congress now a matter of weeks, it is a very real possibility that the act will not be renewed.
 
If that happens, it will constitute an alarming failure of Congress as a whole and in particular of members of the House of Representatives who rallied against a progressive renewal bill.

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Congress stuck in neutral on LGBT equality

Any high school Civics student could tell you that it takes 218 votes to block a piece of legislation in the United States House of Representatives. According to the Human Rights Campaign’s new Congressional Scorecard released last week, there are currently 219 members of the House dead-set against fair treatment of LGBT Americans. That’s why Congress is stuck in neutral on this important civil rights issue — even as President Barack Obama, state governments and the American people have moved forward in their support for LGBT equality.

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Criminal justice reform is a national economic issue - Stop ignoring it

One would think the traditional “values-based” arguments would be sufficient to end mass incarceration. But the facts are plain: the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world - higher than that of Russia, China or Iran. And of those who are behind bars, a disproportionate number are of people of color. Of the 1.6 million people serving sentences of longer than a year, 60 percent are black or Latino. African Americans are 13 percent of the U.S. population, but comprise 37 percent of the prison population. One in three black men can expect to spend time behind bars.

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DADT repeal opponents owe gay troops, veterans an apology

Listening to those who were previously opposed to repealing the U.S. military's now-dead "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy, one would think that the end of the world was imminent. Talk abounded of troops being "distracted" and losing limbs in Afghanistan, of morale and combat readiness plummeting, and of careerists leaving the armed forces in droves should that policy change make it through Congress or be imposed on the military by the courts.

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Time to ensure full and effective enforcement on hate crimes laws

Hate crimes have always been part of life in this country, and so, too, has a tragically slow march of progress toward recognizing, preventing, and stopping them. As a key Senate subcommittee revisits hate crimes today in the wake of a new spate of hate-motivated violence, it’s time for us to check in on our progress and take note of where we can improve. 

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