Civil Rights Leaders Call on President to Demonstrate Support for Civil Rights

Media 12.20,02

In a letter to President Bush released today, Wade Henderson, Executive Director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil rights coalition, and Dr. Dorothy I. Height, Chair of the Board of LCCR, identified three important areas where the Administration can distance itself from Senator Trent Lott’s views and demonstrate support for civil rights.

“Supporting affirmative action in the University of Michigan cases, nominating judges who are not hostile to our nation’s core civil rights principles, and strengthening federal hate crime law are just three ways the Administration can show where it stands on civil rights,” said Henderson.

“While the vast majority of Americans are rightfully appalled about what Senator Lott said, they are also deeply concerned about the civil rights policies this Administration and congressional leaders are pursuing,” Henderson continued.

“How can the White House be so critical of Senator Lott while at the same time nominate judges like Charles Pickering, Miguel Estrada, Carolyn Kuhl, Terrence Boyle, and Jeffrey Sutton whose decisions or views have been so unsympathetic to civil and human rights?” Henderson asked.

LCCR’s letter pointed out that federal judges wield enormous power to shape the legal framework that supports our nation’s civil rights laws. The letter urged President Bush to nominate “moderate judges to the federal bench who are committed to core constitutional values and to upholding federal civil rights laws.”

“If the Administration is really committed to expanding educational opportunities for minorities, then it will not hesitate to file a brief in the Supreme Court supporting the University of Michigan’s affirmative action programs,” continued Henderson. LCCR’s letter urged the President “to file a brief with the Supreme Court defending the Michigan affirmative action schemes and supporting the notion that ‘diversity’ can be a compelling interest that justifies the narrowly tailored use of race in university admissions.”

“We are also asking the White House to put its power and influence behind congressional efforts to pass the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act. This legislation would remove unnecessary obstacles to federal prosecution of hate crimes and expand the groups protected against hate crime violence to include those targeted because of their sexual orientation, gender, or disability,” said Henderson.

“We are also concerned about how the Administration and congressional leaders intend to address other civil rights and justice issues, including racial profiling, proposed changes in Title IX, immigration policy, and funding for election reform,” Henderson stated.

“We must not allow one member of Congress to be singled out for not supporting equal opportunity and civil rights, and then allow everyone else to get back to business as usual,” concluded Henderson. “It is precisely that business ? the nomination of racially insensitive judges, the reluctance to support affirmative action, and the unwillingness to support strengthening federal enforcement of hate crimes ? which the White House and Congress must address.”