On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that “separate but equal” treatment for African-American people was unconstitutional. Exactly 50 years later, lesbian and gay couples in Massachusetts will begin getting married after the state’s high court ruled that it’s unconstitutional to provide anything other than marriage for same-sex couples.
The issues are different — but the attack on the courts from right-wing groups is exactly the same. Extreme right-wing politicians and groups label any judge who disagrees with them — and puts basic fairness above their political agenda — an “activist judge.” See for yourself, below, just how little has changed in the right-wing playbook over the last 50 years. And go to www.LambdaLegal.org/JudgingDiscrimination for more on Lambda Legal’s Judging Discrimination campaign, which takes on these distortions and tells the real story.
|“It [the court] has blatantly ignored all law and precedent and usurped from the Congress and the people the power to amend the Constitution and from the Congress the authority to make the laws of the land.” — Georgia Governor Herman Talmadge New York Times. May 18, 1954||“Beware of activist judges … By its decision, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts circumvented the Legislature and the executive, and assumed to itself the power of legislating. That’s wrong.” — Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney Wall Street Journal. Feb. 2, 2004|
|Georgia Senator Richard R. Russell “… denounced the decision as a ‘flagrant abuse of judicial power’ and declared that it was a clear invasion of the prerogatives of the legislative branch of the government.” — Atlanta Journal Constitution. May 18, 1954.||“Activist judges have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives.” — President George W. Bush, State of the Union Address. January 20, 2004.|
|The ruling in Brown v. Board of Education was “an act of judicial usurpation” that “ran patently counter to the intent of the Constitution” and was “shoddy and illegal in analysis.” National Review. March 1956.||“Consider President Bush’s admonition to the scores of activist judges who habitually manipulate the law to reflect current (and ever-changing) social trends or to meet the demands of leftist political groups.” — Jerry Falwell, A Plan for Counteracting Activist Judges. January 23, 2004.|
|“This unwarranted exercise of power by the Court, contrary to the Constitution, is creating chaos and confusion in the States principally affected.” — Signed by House and Senate Members in The Southern Manifesto. Congressional Record, 84th Congress Second Session. March 12, 1956.||“Why is an amendment necessary? Two words: activist judges.” — U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), on why he is advocating for an unprecedented amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting recognition of same-sex relationships. Dallas Morning News. March 7, 2004|
Thanks to Justice at Stake for research collaboration.