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Sotomayor responds to 6th grader’s letter on marriage

Justice won’t comment on cases, but tells student to ‘dream big’

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Sonia Sotomayor, gay news, Washington Blade
Sonia Sotomayor, gay news, Washington Blade

U.S. Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor responded to a 6th grader’s letter on marriage equality by encouraging her to dream big. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza public domain)

An associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court has responded to a North Carolina middle-school girl’s request for a ruling in favor of marriage equality on behalf of her same-sex parents — and although the letter essentially offers no comment on the issue, it ends with an encouraging message to keep “dreaming big.”

In a letter dated Feb. 9, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was named to the court by President Obama, responded to Cameron, a 6th grader, who wrote to all nine Supreme Court justices. The justice’s letter was made public on Tuesday by the Campaign for Southern Equality, which posted the letter on its website.

Sotomayor says she can’t comment on an issue pending before the Supreme Court — in this case marriage equality, which is at issue in the court challenges to California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. Still, Sotomayor urges Cameron to keep thinking about important issues.

“Unfortunately, I cannot comment on issues that might one day come before the Court, so I am unable to respond to your letter regarding marriage,” Sotomayor said. “I encourage you, however, to continue to think about the many important issues that impact our society.”

Sotomayor, the first Hispanic justice to sit on the high court, ends the letter with an encouraging tone, telling Cameron to dream big because they “can come true when you work hard to achieve them.”

“In the years to come, I wish you the joy of dreaming big, working hard and succeeding in all that you do,” Sotomayor concludes.

Cameron had sent a letter to each of the nine justices, saying the issue of marriage equality is important to her because of her two parents, whom she identifies as Susan and Sheila. The letter was sent sometime after President Obama’s inaugural address, although it wasn’t immediately known when.

“My parents have been together for 26 years,” Cameron writes. “They took me to New York on their 25th anniversary so that they could be legally married. I was so happy for them. They are the best parents a kid could ask for and I love them so much. I would like to see their marriage recognized here in our home state.”

The 6th grader also details several aspects of her life to Sotomayor to allay any concerns about children being raised by gay parents.

“I can tell you that I am doing great,” Cameron says. “I am so loved. Everyone I know tells me I am such a lucky kid. My parents are my life. They quiz me before tests and make sure that I am doing well in school. I  was the top student in my class last year and have made Headmaster’s List every 6 weeks. I play travel soccer and I am currently trying out for the Olympic Development Program which means they dedicate most of their weekends to traveling all over the state so that I can compete against other teams. … I have never been teased. I think things are going very well. Thank you for your time.”

Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director for the Campaign for Southern Equality, said Cameron’s letter speaks for itself on why families like hers should have access to marriage.

“Cameron’s powerful words about being part of an LGBT family in the South get at the heart of the issues before the Supreme Court this month,” Beach-Ferrera said. “Should this loving, supportive family, raising an amazing kid, have the same legal protections as other families? From my viewpoint, Cameron makes the case clearly: the answer is ‘yes.'”

It appears as though Sotomayor was the only one of the nine justices to respond to Cameron, although that wasn’t known with certainty at the time of this posting.

Oral arguments in the Prop 8 case are set for March 26 and in the DOMA case are set for March 27. Justices are expected to render a decision before their term ends in June.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Donald Henderson

    March 6, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    It's nice of associate justice Sonia Sotomayor to encourage youth.

    • Alfonso Cavazos

      March 7, 2013 at 12:37 am

      "Dreaming big"

  2. Eric Jimenez

    March 9, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    I am so Proud to be Puerto Rican –

  3. Steven D. Freedman

    March 18, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    Hooray for Justice Sotomayor……thanks!

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Louisiana lawmakers fail to overturn Edwards veto of Trans sports bill

Edwards further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.”

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Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards (Photo Credit: Official state portrait)

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana lawmakers failed to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ (D) veto last month of a bill that would have barred trans girls and women from participating on athletic teams or in sporting events designated for girls or women at elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools.

The measure, Senate Bill 156 authored by Sen. Beth Mizell titled the ‘the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,’ in the Governor’s eyes, “was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana,” Edwards said in his veto statement;

“As I have said repeatedly when asked about this bill, discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana. Even the author of the bill acknowledged throughout the legislative session that there wasn’t a single case where this was an issue. 

The Republican majority state House chamber failed to override the Governor’s veto after voting 68-30 to override it, according to the state legislature’s website.

The vote narrowly missed the 70-vote threshold needed in the lower chamber to override the veto.

Two-thirds of both the House and Senate must vote to override a governor’s veto, according to the local Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate.

The Governor reacted to the news that his veto withstood Republican efforts to overturn it in a press conference Wednesday.

Edwards noted that in his view he had “rejected a play” that had no place in Louisiana. 

“I would rather the headlines going out from today be that Louisiana did what was right and best. We rejected a play out of a national playbook that just had no place in Louisiana. That bill wasn’t crafted for our state, I mean go read it and look at the arguments that were made. None of that applies here,” Edwards said.

He further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.” 

“We have to be better than that,” Edwards said. “We have to be better than that.” 

 

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Federal court blocks West Virginia Law banning Trans youth sports

“It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

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Becky Pepper-Jackson (Photo credit: ACLU/Raymond Thompson)


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A judge of the United States District Court, Southern District of West Virginia ruled Wednesday that 11-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson must be allowed to try out for the girls’ cross-country and track teams at her school, blocking West Virginia from enforcing a law that bans transgender girls and women from participating in school sports. 

The ruling came in the lawsuit challenging the ban filed by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of West Virginia, and Cooley LLP.

“I am excited to know that I will be able to try out for the girls’ cross-country team and follow in the running shoes of my family,” said Becky Pepper-Jackson, the plaintiff in the lawsuit. “It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed H.B. 3293 into law at the end of April. It was one of hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills pushed in state legislatures across the country in 2021. During legislative debate, it was not endorsed by any mainstream sporting or health organizations. A similar law in Idaho was blocked by a federal court in 2020, and a federal court in Connecticut recently dismissed a challenge to policies that allow all girls, including girls who are transgender, to participate on girls’ sports teams. Legal challenges are underway against similar laws passed in other states.

The Supreme Court recently refused to disturb Gavin Grimm’s victory at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, where he prevailed in challenging his school’s anti-transgender discrimination against him. This decision — which is binding precedent in West Virginia federal court — said that federal law protects transgender students from discrimination in schools.

“This is great news for Becky, and while our work is not done yet, today’s ruling jibes with similar rulings in other courts across the country,” said Avatara Smith-Carrington, Tyron Garner Memorial Law Fellow, Lambda Legal. “It is our hope that courts recognize and address discrimination when they see it, and nowhere is it more visible than in these stark attacks against trans youth.”

“Becky — like all students — should have the opportunity to try out for a sports team and play with her peers,” said Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. “We hope this also sends a message to other states to stop demonizing trans kids to score political points and to let these kids live their lives in peace.” 

“We’ve said all along this cruel legislation would not survive a legal challenge, and we’re encouraged by the court’s decision today,” said ACLU-WV Legal Director Loree Stark. “We hope trans kids throughout West Virginia who felt attacked and wronged by the passage of this legislation are feeling empowered by today’s news.”

“We are extremely gratified — for Becky, and for all trans youth — at the court’s recognition that the law and the facts clearly support treating people who are transgender fairly and equally. Discrimination has no place in schools or anywhere else,” said Kathleen Hartnett of Cooley LLP.

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Conservative groups attack proposed Alabama capital city’s LGBTQ law

Allege law requires Christians to violate their religious beliefs

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Alabama State Capitol, HIV, gay news, Washington Blade
Alabama State Capitol (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama capital’s City Council is being urged to reject a proposed ordinance that would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes under the law.  Matthew Clark, the Executive Director of the conservative Alabama Center for Law and Liberty sent a letter on behalf of his group and six allied organizations asking the Council to abandon a vote implementing the ordnance.

According to the letter, the groups allege that the law would require Christians to violate their religious beliefs or face fines under certain circumstances. Prominent among the other signatures is Mathew D. Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as an extremist anti-LGBTQ hate group.

The SPLC, which has its headquarters in Montgomery, writes; “The Liberty Counsel has also been active in the battle against same-sex marriage and hate crimes legislation, which it claimed in a 2007 news release to be “’thought crimes’ laws that violate the right to freedom of speech and of conscience” and will “have a chilling effect on people who have moral or religious objections to homosexual behavior.” In that same release, the Liberty Counsel falsely claimed that the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyo., had nothing to do with homosexuality, but instead was “a bungled robbery.”

In the letter Clark noted; ““As we read the ordinance, churches could be fined if they refuse to allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice, and they might be fined if they refused to let same-sex couples use their facilities for weddings,” Clark said. “They could also be fined if they declined to hire non-ministerial personnel, such as facility managers or secretaries, whose sexual orientation or gender identity contradicts the tenants of the church’s faith.”

“Christian schools, small business owners, and homeowners are also in the crosshairs. Schools could face liability if they decline to let transgender students use the locker rooms of their choice,” Clark said. “Small business owners like Jack Phillips [referring to Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission] could face liability. And homeowners who list their homes on Airbnb could be fined if they declined to let a same-sex couple engage in sexual activities in their home that violate the tenants of their faith.”

Clark then warned the City Council that if it passes the ordinance, litigation could result and the City would likely lose.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported last month that City Mayor Steven Reed said a council vote in favor of the LGTBQ nondiscrimination ordinance that’s now being drafted in Montgomery would send a message. 

“There are signals that communities can send, and this is an important signal not only to those residents that live here right now but people all over the country that have maybe one idea of Alabama and Montgomery, and we want to show them that there’s a different reality here,” he said. 

Reed and his team have been working with the Human Rights Campaign and other advocacy groups to draft an ordinance that would expand protections for LGBTQ residents in the state’s capital city. The proposed measure, which would specifically target discrimination in government, employment and housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity the Advertiser reported.

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