Blog of Rights

Matt
Coles
Equality in the Culture and Equality in the Courts

Equality in the Culture and Equality in the Courts

By Matt Coles, Director, ACLU Center for Equality at 3:22pm
In the last 25 years or so, the attitude of Courts toward people making rights claims about sexual orientation has undergone a stark reversal. The Supreme Court of 1986 in Bowers v. Hardwick thought it "at best facetious" to claim that the constitution prevented states from making the intimate relationships of gay people a crime. By 2003, the Court said gay people had the right not to have their relationships "demeaned" by laws that did just that. Lawrence v. Texas.
Let People Vote

Let People Vote

By Matt Coles, Director, ACLU Center for Equality at 3:19pm

The right to vote is what makes a country a true democracy. Limit the right to only some of the people and you don't really have self-government anymore.

Supreme Court Strikes a Blow Against LGBT Discrimination

By Matt Coles, Director, ACLU Center for Equality at 4:18pm

(Originally posted on Huffington Post.)

As you probably know, a couple of days ago the Supreme Court decided Christian Legal Society of Hastings College of the Law v. Martinez. The court ruled 5-4 that the Christian Legal Society (CLS)…

Why Getting Rid of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Is So Important

Why Getting Rid of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Is So Important

By Matt Coles, Director, ACLU Center for Equality at 12:58pm

Last night, by 234 – 194, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill that paves the way to end the ban on gay and lesbian servicemembers. The Senate Armed Services Committee also passed a similar amendment…

The President and Hospital Visitation

By Matt Coles, Director, ACLU Center for Equality at 2:14pm

(Originally posted on Huffington Post.)

Early in 1978, I hung out a shingle and began practicing law with three friends on Castro Street in San Francisco. It was before HIV turned all our lives upside down, but we soon realized that hospital…

The San Francisco Marriage Case, Part Two: The Supreme Court

By Matt Coles, Director, ACLU Center for Equality at 4:53pm

(Originally posted on Huffington Post.)

This is my second post on the Olson/Boies marriage case in federal court in San Francisco. This part covers the Supreme Court and what might happen if the case gets there. (My last post outlined the…

The San Francisco Marriage Case, Part One: The Possible Outcomes and the Process

By Matt Coles, Director, ACLU Center for Equality at 2:26pm

(Originally posted on Huffington Post.)

Several people have asked me questions recently about the marriage case in federal court in San Francisco (the case brought by Ted Olson and David Boies). In this first post, I'll cover possible outcomes,…

Supreme Court Bans Videotaping to Protect Prop. 8 Supporters

By Matt Coles, Director, ACLU Center for Equality at 3:16pm

The Supreme Court just issued one of its most disturbing decisions since Bush v. Gore in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the federal challenge to California’s Prop. 8. Ironically, the plaintiffs' lawyers in Perry, Ted Olson and David Boies, represented…

The Value of a Little History: The Myth of a Big Federal Fix

By Matt Coles, Director, ACLU Center for Equality at 4:55pm

(Originally posted at Pam's House Blend)

It's all over the blogs, the LGBT press, at LGBT gatherings: the way to get equality for LGBT people is with one sweeping federal law. There are two main arguments: 1) history — this is the way most minorities in America got equality; and 2) political — this is quickest way to get full protection for LGBT people. The problem is that the history is dead wrong and the political prediction ignores some fundamental truths about politics in America today, and how change gets made.

As I explain in an essay in this year’s ACLU report on LGBT rights, there are eight great federal civil rights laws on race, not one. The five modern laws came not all at once, but over 15 years (you can read the whole essay here).

The movement for legal equality didn’t start at the federal level, and didn’t end there either. Twenty-four states had laws banning race discrimination on the job before the 1964 civil rights act. On some issues — like discrimination in public accommodations and housing — states have stronger laws.

Change has typically started in progressive states, and while continuing to more moderate states, moved forward in pieces at the federal level. That doesn’t mean this is the only way to do it. But the political climate in America today, the nature of the issues and our ultimate goal all tell us that a tandem state/federal strategy is the way to go.

While strong majorities of Americans support some civil rights for LGBT people, that doesn’t translate into support in Congress or the federal courts. That’s partly a reflection of conservative dominance of federal politics for 20 of the last 28 years and partly an illustration of a political truth: a motivated minority will beat an apathetic majority every time. We may have more supporters than our opponents, but they have far more who are willing to vote and give money on the issue.

Getting Rid of Prop. 8

By Matt Coles, Director, ACLU Center for Equality at 3:38pm

The LGBT Project and the ACLU’s three California affiliates (Northern, Southern and San Diego-Imperial) wrote to our allies on Monday suggesting that we ought to reframe the conversation about getting rid of Prop. 8.

Our letter says…

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