Obama’s Civil Rights Agenda

Hey everybody, this is Geoff.  I work at the ACLU’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief and I’m a former student of Laura Beth’s.  I have not been writing for the blog lately because law school applications have consumed me.  With all of that thankfully behind me, I am excited to get back to blogging.

I am sure that you know about Change.gov, the website for the office of President-elect Obama.   What you may not know is that this page is already in its second iteration.  Obama’s team wiped the site of its substantive content — i.e. specific policy changes — five days ago and replaced it with a simple statement of change.  Bloggers have done a great job of cataloging the pre-wipe content.  For example, here is what the “Civil Rights” section of Change.gov looked like on November 7th.

Notice the text, “Strengthen Civil Rights Enforcement: Obama and Biden will reverse the politicization that has occurred in the Bush Administration’s Department of Justice. They will put an end to the ideological litmus tests used to fill positions within the Civil Rights Division.”  That language has been removed from the re-launched website, here.  There is also a new, much larger explanation of Obama’s GLBT-related policies.

This change is not very surprising, but it does raise a few questions.  First, why remove the old content entirely before changing it?  The act of taking down all of the issue-pages certainly raised flags here at the ACLU where we were wondering what sort of pushback could have caused Obama to do so.  Now that the page has been restored to a similar state, I am confident that this civil rights agenda will be stable going forward.

Second, what do you think about this language regarding employment discrimination?  “Combat Employment Discrimination: Obama and Biden will work to overturn the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that curtails racial minorities’ and women’s ability to challenge pay discrimination. They will also pass the Fair Pay Act, to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.” Laura Beth, what role can the executive branch play in helping to bolster plaintiffs’ standing to bring these types of lawsuits?  I don’t think the Department of Justice will be brining any cases of this sort, but I hope that I’m wrong.

In any event, there mere existence of this website is a positive development for the future of the executive branch.  Could anyone imagine Bush/Cheney launching a similar page in ’04?  Yikes.  I am just glad to see that transparency will rule the day over secrecy in the new administration.

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2 Responses to Obama’s Civil Rights Agenda

  1. ellenhere says:

    I must say, seeing that content on a goverment web site just gives me chills of happiness. I still can’t believe it!

    I am so glad that groups like the ACLU are reminding us to stay critical and are putting on the political pressure to make sure some of these promises get implemented.

    I have nothing substantive or analytical or incisive to say. Just thanks for another moment of glee.

  2. laurabethnielsen says:

    well, no — not the department of justice, but he will issue mandates to the EEOC. Still, if the court compisition has not changed then why?

    So then you are looking at congressional override. in other words, a new bill that explicitly overturns Ledbetter. He could do that and that is the normal pattern of employment civil rights in general — congress broadens the scope and courts dial it back. this cycle has been happening for 40 years.

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