ACLU Says 1995 Supreme Court Term Marked by Historic Victories for Gay Rights and Women's Rights

June 28, 1996 12:00 am

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June 28, 1996

Click to see the ACLU summary or the entire report (54k)

The American Civil Liberties Union today released its annual summary of the 1995 U.S. Supreme Court term, giving high marks to the Court’s historic rulings on gay rights, women’s rights and its protection of free speech.

But the ACLU also expressed grave disappointment over the Court’s continued backslide on racial equality and safeguarding the rights of criminal defendants.

The ACLU, which files in more cases before the Supreme Court than any other organization except the Justice Department, issues a summary at the end of each term to examine the Court’s handling of civil liberties cases.

“In the areas of gay rights and women’s rights, the Court has sent a clear message that neither old practices nor new laws can be justified on the basis of irrational prejudices or outmoded stereotypes,” said Steven Shapiro, the ACLU’s national legal director, referring to decisions striking down Colorado’s anti-gay Amendment 2 and the all-male policy at the Virginia Military Institute.

“The fact that both these cases were won with solid majorities represents one of the most significant developments in equal protection law in many years,” Shapiro added.

The Court also continued its strong defense of free speech. In four separate cases, the Court strengthened First Amendment protections for commercial speech, and struck down government restrictions on campaign contributions, political endorsements, and cable broadcasters.

However, for the third year in a row, the Court further eroded the Voting Rights Act and invalidated four additional minority-majority districts. In addition, criminal justice took a beating in several cases ranging from prisoners’ rights and civil forfeiture, to traffic stop searches and drug sentencing profiles.

To see a summary of the court’s term click here

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