SCOTUS, It’s Time for Marriage Equality

Love is a (human) right, not a wrong and protecting the rights of same-sex couples in the U.S. is a step towards recognizing that fact (Photo Credit: Mustafa Ozer/AFP/Getty Images).

Love is a (human) right, not a wrong and protecting the rights of same-sex couples in the U.S. is a step towards recognizing that fact (Photo Credit: Mustafa Ozer/AFP/Getty Images).

By Emily McGranachan, Member of Amnesty International USA’s LGBT Human Rights Coordinating Group

Today the Supreme Court of the United States began hearing arguments on two pivotal cases involving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights. The focus of today’s hearing was on California’s Proposition 8, which wrote discrimination into the California Constitution by defining marriage in the state as between one man and one woman. The state constitutional amendment has been found unconstitutional by a federal appeals courts and supporters of marriage equality hope it will be struck down entirely.

Tomorrow the court hears arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which limits federal recognition of marriage to heterosexual couples. There is a great deal in the news about both cases and what they could mean for LGBT rights. The decisions made by the Supreme Court will have real impacts on individuals, children, and families, regardless of their sexual orientation.


Arizona’s Immigration Law: 3 Sections Down, 1 to Go

Immigrant rights activists participate in the annual May Day rally. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck/Getty Images

This week, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) delivered its ruling on four sections of SB 1070, more than two years after Arizona’s discriminatory immigration bill was signed into law.

In a 5-3 decision, the Court struck down provisions criminalizing the acts of failing to carry immigration papers, seeking or performing work as an undocumented migrant, and provisions allowing police to arrest without warrant anyone suspected of committing a crime that could lead to deportation.

The fact that these provisions will not be able to take effect is a victory for immigrants’ rights activists and those fighting the draconian immigration laws that have been popping up in various parts of the country. Unfortunately, the good news is somewhat overshadowed by the fact that for Latinos and visible migrant communities in Arizona, the chances of being racially profiled have been both increased and de facto legitimized by this decision. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

SCOTUS to Arar: the USA Can Send You to Be Tortured

Maher Arar is reunited with his family after being released from Syria where he was held for almost a year without charge.

Maher Arar is a 34-year-old engineer and Canadian citizen born in Syria. According to Arar, in 2002, while he was in transit in New York City’s JFK Airport, after coming back from a vacation with his family, he was interrogated and detained by U.S. Officials alleging presumed links to al-Qaeda. Days later, he was secretly rendered to Syria, where he was held for almost one year under no formal charges, constant torture –including severe beating and the constant threat to be tortured harder— and was forced to falsely confess his links to the organization.

Most of the time he was held on a three feet wide, six feet deep and seven feet high cell, with no windows and with rats and cats everywhere.  After his release to Canada, the Government created a Commission of Inquiry that cleared Arar from all terrorist allegations and entitled him to compensation.

In 2004, in order to determine the responsibility of the U.S. Officials involved in his rendition to torture, Maher Arar filed a suit in the District Court for the Eastern District of New York against former Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, as well as numerous Immigration Officials. However, the District Court of Brooklyn dismissed the suit, based on national security grounds. It held that the reasons why Arar was considered a member of al-Qaeda and transferred to Syria, were state secrets and that their disclosure would reveal intelligence methods, affecting national security and U.S. foreign relations.

In 2006, he appealed the decision before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the dismissal, and for those reasons, in 2010, he petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review his case.

On June 14, 2010, the Supreme Court rejected his writ of certiorari, eliminating Maher Arar’s last hope to find an answer in the U.S. judicial system for the “egregious wrong done” to him, as one of his lawyers said.