warren court


May 17th 1954: Brown v. Board of Education

On this day in 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its unanimous decision in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. The decision declared racial segregation in schools unconstitutional, striking down the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ segregation which had been enshrined in the 1896 decision Plessy v. Ferguson. The Brown case had been bought by African-American parents, including Oliver L. Brown, against Topeka’s educational segregation. It was argued before the Court by the chief legal counsel of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Thurgood Marshall, who went on to become the first African-American Supreme Court justice in 1967. The Court, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, declared that segregation violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The landmark decision is often considered the start of the Civil Rights Movement, which fought for racial integration and full equality for African-Americans. The movement transformed American society, leading to the end of legal segregation and landmark legislation such as the Civil Rights Act (1964) and Voting Rights Act (1965). However, the mission of the movement, so eloquently expressed by Dr. King, to achieve full equality, is far from over.

“We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal
- Warren’s opinion for the Court

The culmination of all this came in 1990, when as part of a generally controversial immigration bill, both houses accepted without a formal vote an amendment that completely repealed one of the most explicitly anti-gay provisions in American law: the amendment adopted in 1952, and strengthened in 1965, that prohibited any gay men or lesbians from coming to America as either permanent residents or even as tourists.

In fact, the history of the gay and lesbian immigration exclusion is a good example both of how far we have come in the fight against prejudice and how far we have yet to go. An anti-gay provision was put into the immigration law in 1952, but unwilling to use indecorous language, the authors of that provision used the phrase “psychopathic personality” to designate homosexuals for exclusionary purposes. In 1965, fearful that the liberal Warren Court might find that language constitutionally inaccurate as a basis for excluding lesbians and gay men, the Johnson administration and the very liberal Congress, elected in 1964, collaborated to tighten the language, lest any lesbians or gay people slipped through the net. They added the phrase “sexual deviation.”

The 1965 immigration law was generally regarded as a liberal one, and it was supported by all of the liberal organizations in America. The fact that this liberalization of immigration law included a tightening of the anti-gay and lesbian provision did not appear to make much difference to its supporters. A search of the appropriate records shows that at no point in the process was there any articulated opposition to including that effort to further strengthen the homophobic content of the immigration law.

Twenty-five years later, when Congress next revised the illegal immigration law, an amendment that I offered at the House Judiciary Committee — to strike this anti-gay and lesbian language entirely from the law — was accepted with equally little controversy and was included in the House/Senate compromise version enacted at the end of that session. Obviously there were people in Congress at the time who vigorously opposed this repeal, but just as in 1965 when those who supported gay and lesbian rights felt that they lacked the political context in which to raise the issue, it was the bigots in 1990 who apparently felt there would be no point in trying to start a fight. Consequently, the section of the 1990 law repealing this enactment of prejudice passed as easily as the original enactment had twenty-five years earlier.

At the same time, the 1990 bill repealed the provision of the law that had been successfully inserted by Senator Jesse Helms in 1986, which required that all people with HIV infections be excluded from immigrating to this country. The effect of replacing this provision was to give the president the authority to make regulations regarding people with HIV in exactly the same manner as with any other disease. In 1991, when this had taken effect, the public health officials in the Bush administration recommended to the president that he use his authority to drop the restriction from the law. But he refused to do so. The recommendation of his public health officials was not enough to counter the political pressure from the right wing, which proved itself to be the greater power in setting public health policy within this administration.

And so, the fight goes on.


Barney Frank, foreword to the 1992 edition of Positively Gay: New Approaches to Gay and Lesbian Life, as reprinted in the 3rd edition (2001).

i have issues with barney frank too, but some of this history was new to me.



Amid all the focus on the presidential race it’s also important to keep in mind Democrats have a fighting chance to take back the Senate in November. There are at least 12 races in play. Win five, and Democrats are in control regardless of the outcome of the presidential election.

Many of of the Democrats on the ballot this year are progressives who have been fighting to raise the minimum wage, expand Social Security, provide paid sick leave and paid parental leave. Many are women and people of color who will make the Senate look more like the rest of America.

Win five of these races and we’d have a chance for a Supreme Court that would prioritize the rights and needs of average Americans rather than big corporations and overturn Citizens United!

Win five of these races and we’d put Senate oversight of the government back into the hands of people who care that government actually works.

We’d strengthen the ranks of progressives like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley, Sherrod Brown, and others – who we are counting on in the fight to get big money out of politics, reduce income and wealth inequality, confront devastating climate change, and push a progressive foreign policy.

A Democratic Senate would also give us a line of defense, a countervailing power in budget showdowns, foreign policy lock downs, and threatened government shutdowns.

If Hillary Clinton becomes president, a Democratic Senate will help push her positive agenda, and hold her accountable if she veers away from it. If Donald Trump becomes president – well, let’s just say we’ll need a Democratic Senate more than ever.

So please remember what’s at stake. And Vote on November 8th!


Elizabeth Warren fires back at Mitch McConnell’s Scalia statement

Sen. Mitch McConnell has vehemently expressed that he opposes President Obama from appointing a new Supreme Court justice. Elizabeth Warren took some time in return to remind McConnell of the laws. Republicans are sure to wage a lengthy nomination fight, but historically, President Obama has plenty of time.

The Supreme Court saved the Fair Housing Act of 1968
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in allowing disparate impact claims, an important part of the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
By Tez Clark

Lord, I should have been paying more attention to the SCOTUS news.


Okay, so here’s the thing.  This ruling means that even if the discrimination is not intentional, if they can prove that the end result is discriminatory, it’s still illegal.

Which means it does not matter why a landlord does a thing – if it segregates housing it is illegal.

This isn’t new – the FHA was written with disparate impact in place – but it does mean that the law will continue to have real teeth and not become next to impossible to prosecute or enforce.

So, YAY.

Honestly, Roberts is turning out to be the same flavor of surprise as Warren was – and if you know anything about the Warren court?  This is a GOOD thing.