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Attorney General Eric Holder Names Openly Gay Man to Lead DoJ Civil Division

Former Ohio solicitor general Ben Mizer has been promoted to Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Mizer is one of more than a dozen out gay lawyers Holder and the Obama administration have appointed to senior positions at the Department of Justice, according to The Victory Fund.

Mizer“Ben Mizer’s unassailable integrity, sound judgment and steadfast commitment to the mission of this department are just a few of the reasons he’s been chosen to serve as the new Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division – a critical and demanding post, and one in which he will undoubtedly thrive,” said Attorney General Holder in a statement. “Ben’s work here in Washington and as Solicitor General for the state of Ohio has put him in some of the most challenging and demanding positions a lawyer can encounter.  But in every instance, Ben has repeatedly demonstrated that he is both a gifted lawyer and a capable leader."

If confirmed, Ben would be the second most senior openly gay official at the Department of Justice. Stuart F. Delery, the gay senior Justice Department lawyer who successfully argued against the Defense of Marriage Act on behalf of the Obama Administration back in 2012 and previously served as head of the Civil Division, was promoted to Associate Attorney General back in September. Delery is the department's no.3 lawyer and the highest-ranking openly gay official to ever serve in the DoJ.


Eric Holder Calls LGBT Equality 'The Defining Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time' In New Op-Ed on Marriage

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Ahead of the Supreme Court's hearing on the issue later this year, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is speaking out on marriage equality in a USA Today op-ed:

Writes the outgoing AG:

This week, the Justice Department will file a brief setting forth our position that state bans on same-sex marriage violate the fundamental constitutional guarantee of "equal protection of the laws." It is clear that the time has come to recognize that gay and lesbian people deserve robust protection from discrimination.

Nothing justifies excluding same-sex couples from the institution of marriage. Denying them the right to marry serves only to demean them and their children, to degrade the dignity of their families and to deny them the full, free and equal participation in American life to which every citizen is entitled.

Marriage bans inflict concrete harms that touch nearly every aspect of daily life for gay and lesbian couples. The bans intersect with issues as varied as workers' compensation, taxation and inheritance, posing challenges to basic financial security. Same-sex couples living in states with bans too often face obstacles to adopting and raising children together. And restrictions on medical decision-making and hospital visitation impose devastating burdens during the moments when a partner is needed most.

The mental and emotional injuries are just as acute. A marriage ban written into state law broadcasts the state's view that same-sex couples and their children are second-class families, undeserving of the rights and protections offered to opposite-sex couples. It creates a stigma that pervades society, encouraging individuals to harass or belittle even their loved ones because of pressures brought by their community. And it harms relationships between family members by perpetuating a destructive notion that some individuals — and some children — should be shown less love and support simply because of who they are. That is a view the Department of Justice flatly rejects. And with our brief, we will make clear that the United States stands firmly on the side of equality.

Read the full op-ed HERE

Watch President Obama highlight Holder's longstanding support for LGBT equality at a goodbye ceremony last Friday, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Eric Holder Calls LGBT Equality 'The Defining Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time' In New Op-Ed on Marriage" »


Attorney General Eric Holder: Dept. of Justice Will Ask SCOTUS To 'Make Marriage Equality A Reality For All Americans'

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Attorney General Eric Holder, hot on the heels of news from the Supreme Court today that it will hear four challenges to same-sex marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, announced that the Department of Justice will file an amicus brief with the Court asking the justices to recognize marriage equality as the law of the land:

“After the Justice Department's decision not to defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, the Supreme Court sent a powerful message that Americans in same-sex marriages are entitled to equal protection and equal treatment under the law.  This landmark decision marked a historic step toward equality for all American families.

“The Supreme Court has announced that it will soon hear several cases raising core questions concerning the constitutionality of same-sex marriages.  As these cases proceed, the Department of Justice will remain committed to ensuring that the benefits of marriage are available as broadly as possible.  And we will keep striving to secure equal treatment for all members of society—regardless of sexual orientation.

“As such, we expect to file a ‘friend of the court’ brief in these cases that will urge the Supreme Court to make marriage equality a reality for all Americans.  It is time for our nation to take another critical step forward to ensure the fundamental equality of all Americans—no matter who they are, where they come from, or whom they love.”

In case you missed it, check out our legal editor Ari Ezra Waldman's analysis of today's news from the Supreme Court. And in case you're wondering what happens should we lose the cases before the Court, Lambda Legal has spelled out what could happen HERE.


Justice Department Will Now Back Claims Of Anti-Trans Discrimination Under Title VII

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Speaking on behalf of the Department of Justice yesterday, outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder clarified the department’s new official position on anti-trans discrimination being encompassed within Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Previously the department refused to recognize discrimination against transgender individuals as as a form of bias based upon sex, which Title VII forbids. The department’s opinion of what constitutes sex-based discrimination, Holder explained, will now encompass gender identity.

“This important shift will ensure that the protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are extended to those who suffer discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status,” Holder elaborated. “This will help to foster fair and consistent treatment for all claimants. And it reaffirms the Justice Department’s commitment to protecting the civil rights of all Americans.”

The Department of Justice has virtually stopped challenging discrimination claims filed by federal transgender employees under Title VII. Holder, however, made a point of detailing the department’s rather recent history of being uncooperative in its handling of those claims it did receive. Going forward, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division will be able to file claims under Title VII against both state and local employers accused of anti-trans discrimination.

NCLR responds:

“We applaud Attorney General Holder and the Department of Justice for taking this principled stand to ensure that all Americans benefit from the protections of our nation’s anti-discrimination laws,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Legal Director Shannon Minter. “This is a huge step forward for transgender litigants and will have an extremely positive impact in cases involving discrimination against transgender employees. The Department of Justice has placed the full weight of its authority as our nation’s lawyers behind the principled position that transgender people are fully protected under Title VII and other federal laws that prohibit sex discrimination." 

Back in April, the U.S. Department of Education issued a similar guidance clarifying that Title IX law protects transgender students from discrimination. 


Federal Law Enforcement to Adopt Stricter Polices on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Profiling

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U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced today the Department of Justice will begin taking steps to bar profiling by federal law enforcement agencies in regards to national origin, gender, gender identity, religion, and sexual orientation. 

Via DoJ statement:

In announcing the new policy, the Attorney General said that biased law enforcement practices not only perpetuate negative stereotypes and promote mistrust of law enforcement, but also are counterproductive to the goal of good policing.

"As Attorney General, I have repeatedly made clear that profiling by law enforcement is not only wrong, it is profoundly misguided and ineffective,” Attorney General Holder said. “Particularly in light of certain recent incidents we’ve seen at the local level, and the widespread concerns about trust in the criminal justice process, it’s imperative that we take every possible action to institute strong and sound policing practices.”

The Attorney General added: “With this new guidance, we take a major and important step forward to ensure effective policing by federal law enforcement officials and state and local law enforcement participating in federal task forces throughout the nation. This Guidance codifies important new protections for those who come into contact with federal law enforcement agents. And it brings enhanced training, oversight, and accountability to federal law enforcement across the country, so that isolated acts of discrimination do not tarnish the exemplary work that’s performed by the overwhelming majority of America’s hard-working law enforcement officials each and every day."

The new policy, which is spelled out in a memorandum circulated Monday, instructs that, in making routine or spontaneous law enforcement decisions, officers may not use race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity to any degree, unless listed characteristics apply to a suspect description. Under the policy, federal law enforcement officers will be prohibited from acting on the belief that possession of a listed characteristic by itself signals a higher risk of criminality. 

The news joins the DoJ's newly announced limits on racial profiling in response to the continued nationwide protests in the Eric Gardner case. 


Obama, Holder, and De Blasio React to Grand Jury Decision in Eric Garner Case: VIDEOS

Deblasio

Attorney General Eric Holder said this evening that the U.S. Department of Justice will open a federal civil rights investigation into the Eric Garner case after a  Staten Island grand jury voted to bring no criminal charges against a white police officer who placed Garner, a black man, in an illegal chokehold which killed him in July.

Said Holder:

"All lives must be valued. All lives. Mr. Garner's death is one of several recent incidents across our great country that have tested the sense of trust that must exist between law enforcement and the communities they are charged to serve and to protect. This is not a New York issue nor a Ferguson issue alone. Those who have protested peacefully across our great country following the grand jury's decision in Ferguson have made that very clear."

President Obama and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio reacted swiftly to the news of the grand jury's decision.

De Blasio became emotional during the press conference, telling reporters that he had to warn his own son about police officers that may not be out to protect him.

Said De Blasio:

"This is profoundly personal to me. I was at the White House the other day, and the president of the United States turned to me, and he met Dante a few months ago, and he said that Dante reminded him of what he looked like as a teenager. And he said I know you see this crisis through a very personal lens....And I said to him I did. Because Chirlane and I have had to talk to Dante for years about the dangers that he may face. A good young man, law-abiding young man who would never think to do anything wrong. And yet, because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face, we've had to literally train him—as families have all over this city for decades—in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him."

Said Obama in a separate statement:  

"We are not going to let up until we see a strengthening of the trust and a strengthening of the accountability that exists between our communities and our law enforcement."

Watch Holder, Obama, and De Blasio speak, AFTER THE JUMP...

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