Yesterday was Human Rights Day, and although our remembrance is a little late, it did serve as a reminder to how far human rights have come in the past 70 years, and how much of the progress has been made in the courtroom.
While the work is far from done and we still have far to go to ensure equal rights for all human beings, here are five cases decided or laws passed in recent years that advance that goal:
In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that states could not deny same-sex couples the same marriage rights afforded to heterosexual couples. The decision had been a long time coming, since many states had already legalized same-sex marriage. But again, there is still progress to be made. While same-sex couples can marry in every state now, some states have dragged their feet when it comes to providing the same rights and responsibilities to same-sex spouses, and discrimination against same-sex couples when it comes to goods and services remains prevalent.
To that end, some courts have ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans sex discrimination, applies to gender identity and sexual orientation as well. Not all courts have followed suit, but workplace protections for LGBT people have improved overall.
It's a simple act of kindness, but one that was prohibited under many state statutes and local ordinances. Fortunately, at least one circuit court is protecting access to food.
It may be disheartening to see hate crime statistics skyrocketing in the past two years. But take comfort in knowing that tracking these crimes is the first step, that legislation regarding hate crimes is expanding, and that the penalties for committing a hate crime have never been more severe.
Sure, it could be too little too late, but the ERA has languished just a few states short of the necessary 38 needed to fully become part of the U.S. Constitution. And now it's just one state away.
Human rights have come a long way, and we have a long way to go. If you think your rights have been violated, contact a local attorney today.