Today is Loving Day – Celebrate by calling your senators to stop seating racist judges.
Justice and judges are not blind in America. Good judges remove barriers to equality. Bad ones make them. Good overview of history and laws leading up to Loving v. Virginia.
“Loving Day” commemorates Loving v. Virginia, the landmark 1967 Supreme Court case, which struck down Virgina’s laws prohibiting interracial marriage, an ugly relic of America’s racist history. Mildred Loving, a black woman, and her husband Richard Loving, a white man, were arrested after moving to Virginia, under its anti-miscegenation laws, which criminalized sex and marriage between races. They pled guilty to charges of “cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth” but avoided jail time by agreeing not to return to the state for 25 years. They began legal action against Virgina with the help of U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and the ACLU, and the Warren Court unanimously ruled in their favor.
Though most states had abandoned similar laws before the ruling, Alabama’s probate judges reportedly refused to grant marriage licenses to interracial couples up until 1999. It was finally repealed through an election in 2000, but an astonishing 41% of voters voted to keep it.
We always have to pay attention to who is getting that power. It’s worth a phone call to your senators asking them to vote “NO” to placing more racist judges in lifetime positions in powerful courts.
Minimal script: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Sen. [___] to vote “NO” to Justin Walker and Cory Wilson and all other Federalist Society members. They are proven enemies of civil rights, women’s rights, unions, public education, the environment and health care, all essential for attaining racial equality.
(Read more about these nominees here)
Senator Feinstein: email, DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
and Senator Harris: email, DC (202) 224-3553, LA (213) 894-5000, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 355-9041, SD (619) 239-3884
Who is my representative/senator?: hq-salsa.wiredforchange.com
Deeper Dive – Justice has never been blind here – Why good judges are so important.
The Warren Court was responsible for rulings in favor of civil rights that we take for granted now, like the Miranda warning. But their legacy is under attack by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Shelby County v. Holder (2013), for example, unleased former Confederate states to immediately implement repressive voting rules. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell is pushing through Federalist Society members, deliberately chosen for their youth, to lifetime seats in federal courts to protect the interests of the wealthy, corporations and entrenched racist power structures for a generation to come, while throwing ideological bones to the religious evangelicals who keep the GOP in power.
Why are good judges so important? In an alternate America, if we had embarked on a path that split off in 1969, we might now have had top-notch, racially integrated schools, a criminal justice system that hadn’t ballooned to the world’s largest by locking up generations of black and brown people, a political system that wasn’t suffocating in money and a legal system that valued individuals over big business. The Equal Protection Clause would have safeguarded every American’s right to access “the very means to subsist—food, shelter, and other necessities of life.” All that potential disappeared in 1969, when Nixon appointed four conservative judges to the Supreme Court.
Before the split: From 1953 to 1969, the Supreme Court, under Chief Justice Earl Warren, undertook a “rights revolution,” a sustained dismantling of America’s Jim Crow laws through cases like Brown v. Board of Education. Their ruling on Loving v. Virginia (1967), which invalidated bans on interracial unions, became the basis of Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which declared marriage a fundamental right. Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) established women’s right to contraception, and was the precurser to 1973’s Roe v. Wade. Baker v. Carr (1962) allowed federal courts to hear redistricting cases. The rights of accused persons were increased with both Miranda v. Arizona) and Mapp v. Ohio. In April 1969, in Shapiro v. Thompson, a ruling which prohibited states from denying welfare to new residents, Justice William Brennan’s majority opinion suggested that the Equal Protection Clause also safeguarded individuals’ right to access “the very means to subsist—food, shelter, and other necessities of life.”
After 1969: Richard Nixon became president and through a series of machinations, Chief Justice Earl Warren, along with three more justices, stepped down from the Supreme Court. Before that, Justice Brennan might have had a five-justice majority to declare that states should provide impoverished residents with adequate food, housing, and cash. Instead, Nixon reshaped the Court into a body that not only tolerated oppression but actively thwarted democracy. “His appointees upheld vicious assaults on low-income communities, allowing states to starve needy families by denying them meaningful assistance. These justices also blessed state schemes that denied destitute individuals access to the justice system by coercing them to pay court fees they could not afford. And they stripped these people of procedural rights, making it easier for states to arbitrarily kick them off welfare.”
Back to the future: Five Republican-appointed justices (Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas) opened the floodgates for unlimited spending in elections with Citizens United in (2010), allowing corporations to throw money at elections as if they were individuals. All the majority judges but Kennedy were Federalist Society members. The unlimited spending then devolved into anonymous unlimited spending, and triggered what one newspaper called the “tsunami of slime” seen in recent elections. In 2019, “dark money” spending reported to the FEC exceeded $1 billion. In practice, Citizens United gives powerful influencers triple power: to spend in unlimited fashion; to hide their spending in dark money channels; and to wield that power to quietly threaten and cajole.
Spearheaded by the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo, this network of dark money played a big role in the confirmations of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, also both Federalist Society members. to the Supreme Court. One anonymous donor gave $17 million to the Leo-affiliated Judicial Crisis Network for political campaigns against Judge Merrick Garland and in favor of Gorsuch; then came another $17 million for the political campaign to prop up Kavanaugh, perhaps from the same donor. In all, $35 million was spent by one or two people to influence the composition of the Supreme Court. Presumably, whoever it was expects results. A sampling of cases, all bought and paid for, since Citizens United:
- Supressing voters: Shelby County v. Holder (2013) was a huge loss to voter rights.
- Removing aid from poor and minorities – The 2012 ruling that that the Medicaid expansion (“NFIB” v. Sebelius ) was unconstitutional despite Congress’s broad spending power and charge to “to provide for the . . . general welfare of the United States” actively increased health disparities amongst minorities in states that refused the expansion.
- Dissolving the wall between church and state: The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed in 2012 that corporations have religious rights equal to living, breathing humans in Hobby Lobby v. Sebilious. In 2014, SCOTUS’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision, Hobby Lobby and other “closely held” stock corporations can now choose to be exempt from the law based on religious preferences, based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act but not on the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
- Weakening civil rights protections for minorities: In the case between the National Association of African American Owned Media (NAAAOM) and Comcast, SCOTUS instructed a lower court to reconsider its ruling in a discrimination case, their decision weakening the reach of Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 . This core provision of a historic statute prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color and ethnicity when making and enforcing contracts – imposing a burdensome pleading standard on victims of discrimination. “Today’s Supreme Court decision is a huge step backward in our march toward achieving equal opportunity for all,” said Derrick Johnson, NAACP President and CEO. “It will significantly restrict the ability of discrimination victims to prove their claims under one of our nation’s premier civil rights laws. We will do everything within our power to urge Congress to correct this travesty of justice.”