5 of the Most Regressive Laws in Practice in the South

NEWS & POLITICS
In some states, progress is clearly not the most important priority.

Photo Credit: James Scott/Flickr

There are a lot of dumb laws in states throughout the U.S. State constitutions can be centuries old, so silly and archaic laws like those forbidding horses and donkeys from sleeping in bathtubs tend to be disregarded or overwritten by federal laws. But there are plenty of outrageous policies being implemented today, in the name of religious protection, or common decency, or whatever else proponents come up with to justify revoking civil and human rights. Silly laws certainly aren’t limited to the Southern states alone, but the supremacy of Christianity and fear of people of color are culturally pervasive in this region, despite blue cities and liberal pockets that have become havens for more progressive Southerners and out-of-towners.

Today we may view laws like one in Kentucky that forbids attorneys and government workers from dueling, as backwards. But they were taken quite seriously when they were first written. Here’s hoping these five are seen as equally insane one day.

1. Sex toy purchases are illegal in Alabama.

This rule has been embarrassing Alabamians ever since the Anti-Obscenity Enforcement Act passed in 1998. You can receive a $10,000 fine and a year in jail if you’re caught buying or selling a vibrator the first time, and up to 10 years for a second offense. The ACLU tried to take the case up with the Supreme Court in 2005, but the court declined to hear the case.

2. Sharia law is officially condemned.

In Texas and Arkansas, where the Muslim population is 1% and 2% respectively, common sense suggests that Christian Southerners are not much in danger of being overtaken by hyper-conservative Islamic law. But both states recently approved legislation against it, and momentum seems to be building in other Southern states for similar policies. The declarations against Sharia law are based solely on fearmongering, meant to bully Muslims living in those states.

As the Southern Poverty Law Center explains, “the mass hysteria surrounding a so-called threat of Sharia law in the United States is largely the work of anti-Muslim groups such as the American Freedom Law Center and ACT for America, an SPLC-designated hate group.”

3. Voter ID laws across the region punish the poor for being poor.

States that require citizens to show ID at the poll station are rolling back the progress made on voting access since the end of Jim Crow. Obtaining an ID card can involve time, money, access, and mobility that many poor people of color lack, especially the elderly. “It’s all about the political will,” Anita Earls of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice told NBC. “If you look at a map where African-American populations are the largest, it’s basically all of the Southern states, and that’s where most of these new voting restrictions have been enacted.”

4. New anti-LGBT laws revoke the rights of gay, bi, trans citizens.

A breathtaking wave of over 100 bills slashing civil rights for gay, bi and trans people have been introduced to state legislatures since 2010 alone, as the Huffington Post rounds up, and many have passed. Here’s a small sample: “Mississippi lets any person or business deny services to same-sex couples because of religious objections. In North Carolina, the governor signed a law banning cities from passing LGBT anti-discrimination ordinances and barring transgender people from using bathrooms that match their gender identity. Tennessee also has a ‘bathroom bill,’ plus a bill that lets mental health professionals refuse to treat LGBT patients.”

There have been many more attempts at these kinds of laws throughout the region, catalogued by the ACLU.

5. Alabama tried to chase out undocumented immigrants.

HB-56, set into motion in September 2011, cracked down on illegal immigration in what many believed at the time was the harshest measure of its kind in any state. It required Alabama schools to track and report the legal status of children enrolled there. As a result, Alabama schools saw a mass exodus of Hispanic students, whose parents in many cases fled to other states in fear that their immigration status would be shared with ICE. And that was largely the point: the law’s chief sponsor, State Rep. Micky Hammon, promised undocumented immigrants in Alabama that he would “make it difficult for them to live here, so they will deport themselves.” Challenges from Eric Holder’s Justice Department thankfully nullified much of the law by 2013, but if another state tried to pass a similar bill in Trump’s America, Jeff Sessions might not be inclined to fight it.

Liz Posner is an associate editor at AlterNet. Her work has appeared on Forbes.com, Bust, Bustle, Refinery29, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter at @elizpos.

https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/5-most-regressive-and-weird-laws-still-practice-south?akid=16181.265072.U7_1YY&rd=1&src=newsletter1083558&t=6

Trump’s Most Shameful Act So Far

Posted on Feb 19, 2017

By Robert Reich / RobertReich.org

Last week, White House Senior Advisor Stephen Miller claimed 14 percent of non-citizens are registered to vote. “We know for a fact, you have massive numbers of non-citizens registered to vote in this country,” he said, appearing on ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos. “The White House has provided enormous evidence with respect to voter fraud.”

Miller is repeating an assertion Trump continues to make.

It is absolutely false.

What do we do when we have a president and White House surrogates, along with enablers in the right-wing media, who continuously lie about something as fundamental to our democracy as whether we’ve got massive voter fraud?

The answer is we find the truth. We spread the truth. We continue to speak the truth. And we use every chance we have – in opeds, in letters to editors, in local media, on national media – to state the truth.

And we demand that big lies like this be corrected.

A new report on voter fraud from the Brennan Center confirms that multiple nationwide studies have uncovered only a handful of incidents of non-citizens voting.

Based on state prosecution records, votes by non-citizens account for between 0.0003 percent and 0.001 percent of all votes cast.

Election officials agree that non-citizen voting in our elections is not a problem. The National Association of Secretaries of State, whose Republican-majority membership includes the chief elections officers of 40 states, said they “are not aware of any evidence that supports the voter fraud claims made by President Trump.”

Federal law and the laws of every state bar non-citizens from registering to vote or voting in elections. Experts believe that the severity of the penalties for violating these laws serve as a significant deterrent. Also, it is relatively easy for a non-citizen to get caught.

Trump’s false assertion of massive voting fraud is intended for one purpose: to legitimate more voter identification laws around the country.

Voter identification laws are already spreading rapidly. Before 2006, no state required photo identification to vote on Election Day. Now, 10 states have this requirement. All told, a total of 33 states — representing more than half the nation’s population — have some version of voter identification rules on the books.

The purpose of these laws is to further entrench Republican officials.

New research shows a significant drop in minority participation when and where these laws are implemented – which is what you would expect given that members of racial and ethnic minorities have less access to photo IDs.

The research also shows that because minority voters tend to be Democrats, strict voter ID laws tilt the primary electorate dramatically. The turnout gap between Republicans and Democrats in primary contests more than doubles from 4.3 points to 9.8 points.

The truth: There’s no voter fraud. State ID laws intended to stop voter fraud are really intended to stop Democrats from voting – and that’s been their effect.

One of the most important common goods in our society is the truth about our democracy. Trump is pulverizing that truth – laying the groundwork for more state restrictions on access to the ballot by American citizens.

This is beyond shameful.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/trumps_most_shameful_act_so_far_20170219