Washington – Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued the following statement in response to the Senate Republican Majority’s decision to remove the words “Civil Rights and Human Rights” from the name of the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. This subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over civil rights oversight:
“The new Senate Republican Majority’s decision to expunge civil rights and human rights from this subcommittee’s name is a discouraging sign given the growing diversity of our nation and the complex civil and human rights challenges we face.
Names matter. This, after all, is a subcommittee with jurisdiction over the implementation and enforcement of many of our most important civil rights laws. And it has used the imprimatur of human rights to examine the human rights record of the United States and consider ratification of essential human rights treaties like the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
We cannot afford to demote the importance of civil and human rights in the 114th Congress. While we have made progress, we still have a long way to go to address issues such as voting discrimination and hate crimes and violence committed against individuals because of their race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. In addition, the recent deaths of unarmed African-American men and boys at the hands of police have spurred a movement across the nation calling for reforms to our nation’s justice system, which would likely fall under this subcommittee’s jurisdiction.
We expect this subcommittee, under new Chair John Cornyn, to act thoughtfully and responsibly on these and other critical civil and human rights issues. Changing the name of this subcommittee is a poor start, but the proof of the panel’s seriousness about addressing these issues will become apparent in its actual work. We only hope that this troubling name change doesn’t foretell a heedless retreat on civil and human rights.”
Nancy Zirkin is executive vice president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its 200-plus member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.