What does it mean for algorithms to be fair? Our lives are increasingly influenced by opaque algorithms. Thoughts on how our existing laws are handling this new environment.
Jim Obergefell and John Arthur had been together nearly two decades when John was stricken by terminal ALS. With their union unconstitutional in Ohio, the couple turned to friends and family to fund a medical flight to Maryland, where they wed, tearfully, on the tarmac [prev.]. After John's death, however, Jim found himself embroiled in an ugly legal battle with his native state over the right to survivor status on John's death certificate -- a fight he eventually took all the way to the Supreme Court. And that's how this morning -- two years after U.S. v. Windsor, a dozen after Lawrence v. Texas, and at the crest of an unprecedented wave of social change -- the heartbreaking case of Obergefell v. Hodges has at long last rendered same-sex marriage legal nationwide in a 5-4 decision lead by Justice Anthony Kennedy. [more inside]
Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, along with six other Indiana tech CEOs, co-signed a letter opposing the a bill which would allow business to refuse to serve LGBT customers. When asked about his participation in the effort, Benioff said in an email to IBJ: "We will be forced to dramatically reduce our investment in Indiana based on our employees' and customers' outrage over the Indiana religious freedom bill." [more inside]
Bias in the Box. "This is where Bryan Stevenson’s 'undeveloped understanding' comes into focus. A prosecutor may say with the utmost sincerity that he doesn’t exclude blacks [from a jury] because of their race, but because they or someone in their family has been a victim of discrimination, which leads them to distrust the system. Because of their experiences, they are believed to be less motivated to sentence someone to die and are therefore less desirable on a jury." (slVQR) [more inside]
Brazil's supreme court recognises same sex unions. The Brazilian Supreme Court voted 10-0 (one abstention) yesterday to recognise same-sex civil unions as of equal legal validity to marriage/ with "stable" same-sex couples now able to gain certificates that allow access to equal legal rights. "Discrimination generates hatred," said Justice Carlos Ayres Britto, who wrote the ruling. [more inside]
UK respite and foster parents may no longer be homophobic, even when it is due to religious belief. An English Christian couple acting as foster parents have been banned from further placements due to their statement that they could not tell children that homosexual relationships were of equal value, with judges stating that their claims that adoption should still be allowed as a "a travesty of reality". Reaction from the UK religious right (such as it is) is venomous. [more inside]
Judge Rules "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Is Unconstitutional - Judge Virginia A. Phillips of Federal District Court struck down President Clinton's Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy in an opinion (Scribd) issued late Thursday, ruling on the constitutionality of a complaint brought by the Log Cabin Republicans (PDF). President Obama's Justice Department has until a September 23 deadline to submit objections to the court regarding Judge Phillips's permanent injunction, which is uncertain given Obama's previous support of his Department of Justice defending the legality of DADT, despite his opposition to DADT in principle.
In its January 13, 2010 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the public broadcast of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, a U.S. District Court case challenging the constitutional validity of California's Proposition 8, despite the ruling of Judge Vaughn Walker. Working directly from court transcripts and first-hand accounts from bloggers who have been present at the trial, marriagetrial.com is re-enacting the trial, to provide a "non-biased, objective presentation" of the case for public benefit.
Medical Marijuana Apartheid -- as the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy misrepresents (PDF source) the new policy of the American Medical Association (PDF source) in regard to medical marijuana, and the U.S. Congress lifts the ban on Washington D.C.'s Initiative 59 ("the first time Congress has given its assent to a state or local law that permits medical use of marijuana") -- one writer questions whether the "back-door" decriminalization of cannabis has institutionalized class- and race-based discrimination.
"My answer is, I don't know. I don't know." US District Court Judge Vaughn Walker asked Prop 8 supporters to define the nature and extent of damage done by same-sex couples to the institution of marriage, and being unable to get any definitive answer, denied the request from supporters of Prop 8 to throw out Perry v. Schwarzenegger and ordered the case to trial in January 2010.
Being a same-sex, taxpaying couple is more expensive, overall, than being a straight, taxpaying couple, for the same services and benefits, when available.
Today, on the last day of this year's term, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its opinion in Ricci v. DeStefano, the latest in the Court's line of decisions on Title VII and the role of race in employment decisions. The famous case centers on white firefighters' claims of race discrimination following the town of New Haven's decision to scuttle a promotion exam after white test takers performed disproportionately better than black firefighters. [more inside]
workplace protection--not as hotbutton as Marriage Equality or Don't Ask Don't Tell, but far more essential
ENDA House hearings start tomorrow --a record 94% of Fortune 500 companies now provide Sexual Orientation Discrimination Protection, and 89% of Americans polled believe Homosexuals should have equal rights in terms of job opportunities. Repeatedly introduced and then killed since 1994, the 2007 version--H.R. 2015--Employment Non-Discrimination Act (text of bill)--includes transgender protection for the very first time. The TVC is just one of many organizations fighting it. (there is a religious exemption, but groups like the TVC would be covered by it)
The First Freedom Project --new from the Dept of Justice, announced at the Southern Baptist Convention along with a call for their help---specifically and only to protect the religious from discrimination against them. Many are not impressed: The administration has often ignored the importance of the no establishment principle by supporting attempts of governments to endorse a religious message, using tax dollars to fund pervasively religious organizations, allowing religious discrimination in hiring for federally funded projects, ... Legal strategies and actions from groups like the Alliance Defense Fund and ACLJ are now official DOJ policy, it appears. ...In his statement, Gonzales mentioned several cases litigated by ADF and its allies ...
"What if a person felt their religious view was that African Americans shouldn't mingle with Caucasians, or that women shouldn't work?"
...a growing campaign to force public schools, state colleges and private workplaces to eliminate policies protecting gays and lesbians from harassment....Christian activist Gregory S. Baylor responds to such criticism angrily. He says he supports policies that protect people from discrimination based on race and gender. But he draws a distinction that infuriates gay rights activists when he argues that sexual orientation is different — a lifestyle choice, not an inborn trait. By equating homosexuality with race, Baylor said, tolerance policies put conservative evangelicals in the same category as racists. ... "Think how marginalized racists are," said Baylor, who directs the Christian Legal Society's Center for Law and Religious Freedom. "If we don't address this now, it will only get worse." Should Christians be able to sue for the right to not tolerate or abide by anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies meant to apply to all? Should they still be able to get school activity funding?
Laurel Hester, RIP --because she and her partner fought, New Jersey police and fire department employees can now name anyone--not just a spouse--as a beneficiary for pension rights, helping to protect those they love after they're gone. Just one person who made a difference.
Meet Deborah Hobbs. Having lived in direct disregard for North Carolina general statute 14-184 for years, she is only now beginning to feel the heat. The law prohibits unmarried couples from lewdly and lasciviously associating, bedding and cohabiting together. The law is catching up with her thanks to her former boss, Sheriff Carson Smith, who told her to get married, move out or find another job. In Sherriff Smith's defence though, he does try to avoid hiring people who openly live together, but says he doesn't send out deputies to enforce the law. Of course, this archaic law rarely gets inforced; between 1997 and 2004 only three dozen charges were filed in the state.
Only in 1967 did Loving v. Virginia overturn vigorously-enforced laws against interracial marriage in these 15 states--Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. Only in 1964 did the Civil Rights Act overturn laws against equal access to voting, public accommodation, and public education. Only in 1963 did the Equal Pay Act mandate that men and women be paid the same wage for the same work at the same job. History isn't a superhighway, leading us in straight lines toward utopia. We fall back and we move forward, but over the past fifty years, the United States has become considerably more inclusive and equality of access to opportunity has widened. Take a look at this article from the Atlantic Monthly in 1956--1956!--if you don't believe me.
Every gay and lesbian federal employee has just lost their protection from discrimination. Gay and lesbians in the entire federal workforce have had their job protections officially removed by the office of Special Counsel. The new Special Counsel, Scott Bloch, says his interpretation of a 1978 law intended to protect employees and job applicants from adverse personnel actions is that gay and lesbian workers are not covered. Bloch said that the while a gay employee would have no recourse for being fired or demoted for being gay, that same worker could not be fired for attending a gay Pride event.