The state’s attorney general wants the Supreme Court to reverse a lower court ruling that found Indiana laws limiting who can be called a parent were unconstitutional.
Indiana’s attorney general submitted a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that it should reverse a federal appeals court’s ruling that allowed both members of same-sex couples in Indiana to be listed as parents on the birth certificates of their children.
The petition from Attorney General Curtis Hill follows a January decision by the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that affirmed a decision by judges in Indiana’s federal southern district court who found that Indiana laws limiting who can be called the parent of a child were unconstitutional.
Hill filed also filed a request in June asking the court to review the appellate court’s decision.
The original case involved Ashlee and Ruby Henderson, a gay married couple from Lafayette who filed a federal lawsuit in 2015 challenging Indiana’s birth records law. They sued the state health commissioner and Tippecanoe County officials because county officials would not list both of them as parents on the birth certificate of their son, who Ruby conceived through artificial insemination.
Karen Celestino-Horseman, the Hendersons’ Indianapolis-based attorney, said Wednesday that she expects Hill’s brief will be discussed during a Dec. 11 conference the high court has set on the matter.
“We are hopeful the court will follow the precedent in ‘Pavan,’” Celestino-Horseman said, referring to the high court’s 2017 ruling in the Pavan v. Smith case, which involved Arkansas married couples who conceive through artificial insemination. In that case, the court ruled that the “constellation of benefits that the states have linked to marriage” extended to having the names of same-sex parents on a birth certificate.
In their federal suit, the Hendersons contended that leaving one mother’s name off the birth certificate presented legal issues when it came to health insurance coverage, who could speak for a child at a doctor’s appointment and enrolling in school. They argued that it was unfair to force one mother from a same-sex marriage to spend $4,000 to $5,000 to legally adopt the couple’s child.
The Hendersons won their initial case in 2016. Seven additional couples joined the suit as plaintiffs after Indiana appealed up to the Chicago-based 7th Circuit, which ruled in January that under Indiana law, “a husband is presumed to be a child’s biological father, so that both spouses are listed as parents on the birth certiﬁcate and the child is deemed to be born in wedlock.”
“There’s no similar presumption with respect to an all-female married couple — or for that matter an all-male married couple,” the judges wrote, adding that requiring both women in a same-sex marriage to be listed as parents would prevent any discrimination.
In his petition to the court, Hill argues that upholding that decision would violate common sense and throw into jeopardy parental rights based on biology.
“A birth mother’s wife will never be the biological father of the child, meaning that, whenever a birth-mother’s wife gains presumptive ‘parentage’ status, a biological father’s rights and obligations to the child have necessarily been undermined without proper adjudication,” Hill wrote.
Again bigotry on display. Why does this man so desperately want to take a parent from a child? He clearly has a ax to grind, as this affects him personally in no way. Could he be someone with deeply held religious beliefs that to people of the same gender on a child’s birth certificate makes his god sad. Makes his god cry? Is he on a religious crusade to earn his place in his gods afterlife by making the icky gays lives harder? Please read the next story on this he has an issue with consent also. Hugs
Read the full article. Curtis Hill last appeared on JMG earlier this year when he temporarily lost his law license over allegations that he had drunkenly groped several women at a party. Since then Hill has fought against COVID-related restrictions in his state.
The Washington Post reports:
Raffensperger said Republicans were only harming themselves by questioning the integrity of the Dominion machines. He warned that these kinds of baseless allegations could discourage Republicans from voting in the Senate runoffs. “People need to get a grip on reality,” he said.
More troubling to Raffensperger were the many threats he and his wife, Tricia, have received over the past few weeks — and a break-in at another family member’s home. All of it has prompted him to accept a state security detail.
“If Republicans don’t start condemning this stuff, then I think they’re really complicit in it,” he said. “It’s time to stand up and be counted. Are you going to stand for righteousness? Are you going to stand for integrity? Or are you going to stand for the wild mob? You wanted to condemn the wild mob when it’s on the left side. What are you going to do when it’s on our side?”
Read the full article.
I was unable to read the full article. Hope you have better luck. Hugs
As vice president in 2012, Joe Biden endeared himself to many LGBTQ Americans by endorsing same-sex marriage even before his boss, President Barack Obama.
Now, as president-elect, Biden is making sweeping promises to LGBTQ activists, proposing to carry out virtually every major proposal on their wish lists. Among them: Lifting the Trump administration’s near-total ban on military service for transgender people, barring federal contractors from anti-LGBTQ job discrimination, and creating high-level LGBTQ-rights positions at the State Department, the National Security Council and other federal agencies.
In many cases the measures would reverse executive actions by President Donald Trump, whose administration took numerous steps to weaken protections for transgender people and create more leeway for discrimination against LGBTQ people, ostensibly based on religious grounds.
In a policy document, the Biden campaign said Trump and Vice President Mike Pence “have given hate against LGBTQ+ individuals safe harbor and rolled back critical protections.”
Beyond executive actions he can take unilaterally, Biden says his top legislative priority for LGBTQ issues is the Equality Act, passed by the House of Representatives last year but stalled in the Senate. It would extend to all 50 states the comprehensive anti-bias protections already afforded to LGBTQ people in 21 mostly Democratic-governed states, covering such sectors as housing, public accommodations and public services.
Biden says he wants the act to become law within 100 days of taking office, but its future remains uncertain. Assuming the bill passes again in the House, it would need support from several Republicans in the Senate, even if the Democrats gain control by winning two runoff races in Georgia. For now, Susan Collins of Maine is the only GOP co-sponsor in the Senate.
Critics, including prominent religious conservatives, say the bill raises religious freedom concerns and could require some faith-based organizations to operate against their beliefs.
The Equality Act “is a dangerous game changer” in its potential federal threat to religious liberty, said the Rev. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
Rep. Chris Stewart, a Utah Republican, tried to strike a compromise last year that would have expanded LGBTQ rights nationwide while allowing exemptions for religious groups to act on beliefs that could exclude LGBTQ people. His proposal won support from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Seventh-day Adventist Church but was panned by liberal and civil rights groups.
“Anti-equality forces are trying to use the framework of religious liberty to strip away individual rights,” said Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ-rights organization.
Among the actions that Biden pledges to take unilaterally, scrapping Trump’s transgender military ban would be among the most notable.
Jennifer Levi, a Massachusetts-based transgender-rights lawyer, said it’s clear Biden has the authority to do so after taking office.
Nicolas Talbott, a transgender man whom Levi has represented in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the ban, called that “a huge relief.”
“I look forward to being allowed to re-enroll in ROTC so I can continue to train, keep up my fitness to serve, and become the best Army officer I can possibly be,” Talbott said via email.
Some of Biden’s other promises:
— Appoint an array of LGBTQ people to federal government positions. There’s wide expectation that Biden will nominate an LGBTQ person to a Cabinet post, with former presidential contender Pete Buttigieg among the possibilities.
— Reverse Trump administration policies carving out religious exemptions allowing discrimination against LGBTQ people by social service agencies, health care providers, adoption and foster care agencies and other entities.
— Reinstate Obama administration guidance directing public schools to allow transgender students to access bathrooms, locker rooms and sports teams in accordance with their gender identity. The Trump administration revoked this guidance.
— Allocate federal resources to help curtail violence against transgender people, particularly transgender women of color. Rights groups say at least 38 transgender or gender-nonconforming people have been killed in the U.S. this year.
— Support legislative efforts to ban so-called conversion therapy for LGBTQ minors.
— Bolster federal efforts to collect comprehensive data about LGBTQ people in the U.S. by adding questions about sexual orientation and gender identity to national surveys.
— Ensure that LGBTQ rights are a priority for U.S. foreign policy and be prepared to use pressure tactics, including sanctions, against foreign governments violating those rights.
Whatever happens in Washington, some activists worry that Republican-controlled state legislatures may push anti-LGBTQ bills, such as curtailing the ability of transgender youth to access certain medical treatments or participate in school sports. They are also concerned that an influx of conservative federal judges appointed by Trump might lead to rulings allowing religious exemptions.
Earlier this month the Supreme Court — now with a solid conservative majority — heard arguments on whether a Catholic social services agency in Philadelphia should be able to turn away same-sex couples who want to be foster parents, while still receiving local government funding.
Tim Schultz, a religious freedom advocate, outlined two potential paths for the debate over the Equality Act: “ongoing legislative gridlock, regulatory trench warfare and judicial decisions, which will happen independently of what the president does,” or active engagement by Biden for a new strategy that can win bipartisan support in the Senate.
The first path would provide only “temporary satisfaction,” given that regulatory moves can be undone by future presidents, said Schultz, president of the nonprofit 1st Amendment Partnership.
Nathan Diament, executive director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, cited Biden’s campaign-trail appeals for unity — and his commitment to faith outreach — as positive signs for more engagement on the issue next year.
“He and his team will be very well-positioned to broker compromise if they want to, to get this done,” said Diament, who has advised both the Trump and Obama administrations.
Elizabeth Leiba, a co-host for The EdUp Experience Podcast, is a published writer who wrote for the Sun-Sentinel newspaper and served as the editor of The Seminole Tribune newspaper. She is an English professor at Broward College. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion on CNN.
“Innocent until proven guilty” is a phrase we can all recite without even thinking about. It’s as synonymous with America as “Liberty and justice for all” or “Land of the free and home of the brave.”But scrolling through social media recently, I felt a pang of sadness at just how hollow those statements ring for Black people in America.Posts heralded as a “triumph” Kyle Rittenhouse’s release on bail. Rittenhouse is the teenager accused of shooting dead two men and injuring another at a Black Lives Matter protest march in Kenosha, Wisconsin, held after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in August. The 17-year-old faces two felony charges of homicide and one misdemeanor charge for possessing a dangerous weapon while under 18. He is free after posting his $2 million bail with the help of donations, according to his lawyer in a tweet, including from celebrities like former “Silver Spoons” child star Ricky Schroder and Mike Lindell, CEO of My Pillow, Inc. and vocal Donald Trump supporter. Rittenhouse’s attorney said that there is evidence that the teen acted in self-defense.The thought that enough people — after hearing details of the shooting — could see Rittenhouse, who is White, as innocent or justified enough in his actions to supply $2 million to get him released, made me think back to an experience I had in 1993: the moments that led up to my arrest as a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Florida, where I was on a full academic scholarship.I had entered an Eckerd drug store in Gainesville early on a Sunday morning to drop off film to develop pictures from my camera. My roommate was still sleeping, so I quietly slipped into a hoodie, jean shorts and sneakers, and left the dorm room, carrying my JanSport book bag with my rolls of film inside.That book bag would be at the center of my arrest and ultimately why I felt compelled to post about my encounter on LinkedIn recently. Seeing Bernice King, the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., tweet her disbelief over the supportive treatment Rittenhouse was getting and comparing it to Kalief Browder’s three years in Riker’s Island — two years of which were spent in solitary confinement — for allegedly stealing a book bag, triggered memories of my own encounter.Batteries inside my book bag had caused the theft detector to beep as I exited Eckerd’s that Sunday morning. The clerk called me back to ask if I’d purchased anything. I rifled through my book bag and found a four-pack of AA batteries I had purchased days earlier. I frantically attempted to resolve the misunderstanding. He asked if I had a receipt for them. I knew I did somewhere among my folder, papers and other receipts. I continued to rifle. I was even more frantic. My heart pounded as I scanned the contents of my bag. I knew the receipt was there.Minutes later, I was in a brightly lit office in the back of the store. The manager, an older White woman, slid an immaculate sheet of white paper, with tiny black text printed on it across her brown desk. I would need to sign it, she said. The small font blurred together, as I held it in shaking hands. I asked her to explain. I didn’t understand.What was it? An admission of guilt and a trespass warning. If I couldn’t produce the receipt for the batteries immediately, I would need to sign it right then and there, she said. But I wasn’t guilty, and I didn’t steal the batteries. So that would be a lie. I couldn’t do that. No.
As a journalism major with hopes of attending law school, my next line of defense to her became logic and reasoning: I attended the university. I was a student on scholarship. I came into this store all the time to shop. I had the receipt, if they could just give me a moment to look. I just needed to think for a minute. I know I kept it. I keep all receipts. I had been taught at a young age to never leave a store without ensuring I had a receipt for the items I had purchased — one of the many lessons Black children grow up having to learn. Just in case you were approached by a security guard, you always wanted to have proof of purchase. Could they look at the security footage? I had walked straight to the photo department without stopping to even browse. I wasn’t a thief.None of those arguments swayed her. She dialed 911 and two police officers arrived within minutes.Sitting in the back seat of a police car, the strangest thoughts went through my head: Handcuffs are heavier than they look on TV. If someone isn’t deemed a threat, their hands are cuffed in the front. There are no door handles on the inside of the back seat of a police car and the windows are tinted so you can see out, but no one can see your shame as you sit inside.I stared down at my cuffed wrists, hands in my lap, as the officers stood outside filling out the arrest report and chatting casually. They laughed at some inside joke. I was numb. This seemed like a dream.And I would carry that shame and disbelief for a while: The shame that people would think I was a thief. The shame that I had been arrested. The reality that I was seen as guilty before proven innocent.My mother picked me up from jail, making the five-hour drive from South Florida after posting my bond there. I was booked and placed in a holding cell for four hours and then I was allowed to wait in the lobby until she came to get me. When I got into her car in the jail parking lot, I rifled through the book bag again. Where was that receipt? I had to find it! I found it there neatly folded inside a bright red folder. I cried hysterically. It was there. It was there all along.We decided to talk to a lawyer about what could be done to get some semblance of justice. He was baffled. He had never seen a case where police were even called for a $2.49 item and suggested I pursue a lawsuit to ensure the store would never do it again. I wouldn’t get much, he cautioned. But it wasn’t about the money. It was about getting them to admit what they had done was wrong. It was about getting them to admit that the trauma I had experienced and the effect on the rest of my life was wrong. And the jury in the civil case ultimately agreed.But it would take three years for the case to go to trial and finally reach that settlement. Eckerd’s refused to accept responsibility for what they did and fought it every step of the way. Eckerd’s attorney at trial argued that the pharmacy had probable cause for their actions because the manager had checked the anti-theft equipment that day and the employees had no reason to believe it was malfunctioning.My lawyer produced a copy of the receipt for the state attorney’s office and the criminal charges had been dropped immediately.Get our free weekly newsletterAs these memories flood my mind, I can’t help but ask: How is it that the employees in that pharmacy couldn’t give me the benefit of the doubt over a $2.49 package of batteries, but Rittenhouse, who has been charged with killing two people, can be extended this courtesy?To be clear, I understand that this campaign to raise money for Rittenhouse was orchestrated specifically by people on the political right, and yes, the incidents happened in different times and places. I also know that people are free to donate to whatever cause they want.But we live in a country where Black people routinely see themselves being treated unfairly compared to their White counterparts. It’s a problem that we can’t and shouldn’t ignore. And it’s a problem that instantly causes Black people to collectively ask any time the Kyle Rittenhouses of the world come across our screens: “I wonder how this situation would have played out if he were Black?”
Byron and Keira Hordyk, an Australian evangelical Christian couple who applied to be foster parents, are suing for “religious discrimination” after they were denied. They say the foster agency’s decision wasn’t based on whether or not they can provide a loving home to a child but instead on their anti-LGBTQ religious beliefs.
The couple told an employee from the Wanslea Family Services that they would not accept an LGBTQ kid and would subject the child to traumatizing “conversion therapy” meant to turn them straight or cisgender. The Hordyks were denied because their home wouldn’t be a safe environment for the child.
The American Psychiatric Association has long opposed conversion therapy and has called on lawmakers to ban what they call a “harmful and discriminatory practice.”
Even conversion therapy that doesn’t use abusive or violent techniques can harm a child’s mental health by teaching them that they are fundamentally broken because of their identity. According to HRC, the practice has been linked to an increased risk of “depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide.”
Garden State Equality, an LGBTQ organization, says simply, “Conversion therapy is child abuse.”
So it is not surprising that the Hordyks got rejected. The couple said they got a letter from the foster agency saying that they did not meet the requirement of “providing a safe living environment.”
“We do feel we have been discriminated against and also we felt that if we were quiet about this and didn’t say anything about it, it could potentially harm or limit any people with the same Christian values as ours from fostering,” the couple told The West Australian. “We hold traditional Christian views on how the Bible teaches us on sexuality and marriage.”
“We stated it from the beginning. We are not here to hide behind it. Everyone — particularly with a divisive issue — is afraid of being put into the realm of public opinion in a negative light. And my beliefs are strong enough that this might be my cross to bear.”
In the United States, foster agencies run by religious organizations have sued to demand their “right” to deny LGBTQ people as potential foster parents. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case brought by a Catholic adoption agency seeking the right to discriminate against potential LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents, shortly after the election.
Catholic Social Services sued after the city of Philadelphia ended a contract with the service after finding out the agency wouldn’t serve gay couples. Lower court rulings have sided with the city, pointing out that religious beliefs are not grounds for violating general civil rights laws.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1990 that religious groups are not exempt from general local, state, and federal laws, but the current makeup of the court has caused concern among civil rights advocates.
This was the first major case that new Justice Amy Coney Barrett heard. The far-right anti-LGBTQ Justice’s confirmation tilted the court with a 6-3 conservative bias.
I really hope this is true. I have not investigated it yet, but hope springs eternal. Hugs
Dig into the history and you’ll see plenty of early American colonizers were super gay—and their compatriots had views of it that were complicated, to say the least.
As you sit down for turkey, corn, and arguments with relatives at Thanksgiving this year, take a moment to give thanks to Thomas Morton, who founded what could be considered America’s first queer hippie colony in 1625.
Today, Merrymount is a quiet neighborhood of Quincy, Massachusetts; residents explain that the name is an English translation of its original name, Passonagessit. But, bless their hearts, the truth may be more exciting. According to historians and original records, the pilgrims founded an unusually queer society—one that wasn’t straight-up accepting of all that queerness, per se, but had a more complicated relationship with it than you might think. In fact, as historians note, the name “Merrymount” can also refer to a Latin phrase meaning “erect phallus”—quite a coincidence, given the men erected an 80-foot pole in the center of town.
Though our modern understanding of sexuality would have been completely foreign to them, early European immigrants experienced same-sex attraction just as we do today, and they had queer sex, entered queer relationships, and formed queer households in ways that are surprisingly familiar.
And though early laws called for the death penalty for “sodomy” and “buggery,” the Pilgrims had a more complicated attitude about homosexuality than you might think. Despite the prohibition on same-sex encounters, there were circumstances where they were tolerated—or at least ignored—and penalties gradually weakened over the course of the 1600s, in part out of necessity because such encounters were so common, according to Michael Bronski, a Professor of Practice in Media and Activism in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard. In other words, yes, many of the pilgrims in whose honor we celebrate Thanksgiving were queer.
When they arrived in what they called the Americas, colonizers sought a “city upon a hill”—that is, an example of religious purity. But the inhabitants of that land certainly didn’t meet their Biblical expectations, particularly when it came to gender roles.
“[Indigenous] gender roles—not all the time, but a considerable amount—were completely foreign to the Europeans,” said Bronski. “Every tribe had their own word for it, but there was a considerable amount of gender fluidity.”
Among the Mamitaree tribe, the journals of Lewis and Clark recorded men allowed to wear women’s clothes and marry other men. Among the Crow, men were honored for expressing feminine roles.
“The Europeans [were] totally scandalized,” said Bronski.
Despite their heterosexual aspirations, the Pilgrims found that sodomy just refused to stop happening among their ilk. Though they passed laws to encourage heterosexual marriage and reproduction, Bronski said, “clearly, they were fucking before they were married.”
In a 1978 paper entitled “Things Fearful to Name,” historian Robert F. Oaks described colonists who were what we would today call queer. For example, there was the 1629 arrival of the ship Talbot, carrying “5 beastly Sodomitical boys [who] confessed their wickedness not to be named.” They were sent back to England for trial.
In 1637, John Allexander and Thomas Roberts were accused of “lude behavior and uncleane carriage one w[ith] another, by often spendinge their seede one vpon another.” Alexander was beaten, branded, and exiled; Roberts was whipped and returned to indentured servitude. In 1649, Mary Hammon and Sara Norman were accused of “lewd behavior each with other upon a bed” and “divers Lasivious speeches.” Norman was sentenced “to make a publick acknowlidgment, so fare as conveniently may bee, of her vnchast beahuior.”
There exists little record of queer life in the colonies, since criminal complaints were generally the only occasion on which they were detailed. Thomas Morton’s founding of Merrymount remains among the most vivid: Merrymount denziens are described as having rejected the strict rules of the Puritans, declaring all servants and slaves to be free and encouraging intermingling with indigenous Algonquin people. Morton declared himself “Lord of Misrule” and his people were described by Nathaniel Hawthorne as a “crew of Comus,” a reference to a mythological figure during whose ceremonies men and women exchanged clothing.
Hawthorne’s description of Merrymounters, written two centuries later, could refer to a Pride parade today: “One was a youth in glistening apparel, with a scarf of the rainbow pattern crosswise on his breast. … There was the likeness of a bear erect, brute in all but his hind legs, which were adorned with pink silk stockings.”
On one particularly exciting occasion, the residents of Merrymount erected a maypole and danced in a manner described as evoking Ganymede and Zeus—figures that often symbolized same-sex couplings. This proto-Pride proved a bit too much for the neighbors, who arrested Morton, chopped down the pole, and scattered the residents.
But Puritan objections to homosexuality were not entirely rooted in what we would call gender normativity. “The earliest sodomy laws are not prohibiting homsexual sex per se,” said Bronski. “They’re prohibiting non-reproductive sex. So if you had anal sex with your wife, that would be a crime. The most important thing was to reproduce, because half the children died when they were infants.”
Indeed, the Puritans often avoided applying prescribed punishments for queer sex. Nicholas Sension, for example, was brought before a court in 1672 having propositioned numerous men over the preceding thirty years. “He took me and threw me on the chest and took hold on my privy parts,” testified one man. Sension was merely admonished at least twice during those decades before finally being whipped, fined, and shamed. It was yet another case, historian Linda Bissell wrote, of authorities using the law “to enforce obedience only when other means had failed and violations of norms were flagrant.”
Despite many settlements calling for the death penalty for sodomy, colonizers found that conditions were so harsh and the community so delicate that it was inadvisable to kill except in the most extreme cases. As a result, they often found reasons to forgive same-sex intercourse when it was discovered.
“There were always concerns about starvation of the entire colony,” said historian Carl Anthony. “So in the order of things that were important to them, that harsh Christian judgement about sex outside of marriage fell lower on the list.”
This “may have reflected economic realities in an area where labor was scarce, or it may have stemmed from a reluctance to apply capital punishment to crimes feared to be rather common,” wrote Oaks in 1978.
“My reading of this is that the Puritans were like, ‘people do this stuff, but it really shouldn’t be public,’” said Bronski. “‘We don’t want to go too far punishing them, because that would hurt the community.’ The most important thing is to keep the community stable.”
He added, “you kept the community together by keeping your emotions in.”
“Puritans became inured to sexual offenses,” wrote historian Edmund Morgan in 1942, “because there were so many.”
It’s an attitude that managed to stay with Americans over the intervening centuries, a tension between distaste for homosexuality and resignation that it will never go away. It’s only in the last few decades that the original spirit of Merrymount has returned, whether in the form of separatist radical faerie communities or queer enclaves within cities.
“I think Thomas Morton would have loved it,” Bronski said. “I’m rather fond of the Puritans. I wouldn’t want to live with them, but they totally understand that human beings are fallible. And what really matters is keeping the community together — which I can relate to as part of a gay community.”
A pair of American women detained by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent after they were overheard speaking in Spanish at a Montana convenience store have reached an undisclosed settlement in their lawsuit against agency, the ACLU announced.
Ana Suda and Martha “Mimi” Hernandez were out buying groceries in the city of Havre, a small town about 35 miles from the Canadian border, when they were approached by Agent Paul O’Neal the night of May 16, 2018. He asked both women for their IDs and then admitted to doing so because he heard them chatting in another language.
The incident sparked widespread backlash after video of the interaction, recorded by Suda, went viral online.
“Ma’am, the reason I asked you for your ID is because I came in here and I saw that you guys are speaking Spanish, which is very unheard of up here,” O’Neal can be heard saying in the clip.
When asked whether he was racially profiling them, the agent denied it.
“It has nothing to do with that,” he says. “It’s the fact that it has to do with you guys speaking Spanish in the store, in a state where it’s predominantly English-speaking.”
Suda was born in Texas and moved to Montana with her husband in 2014. Hernandez was born in California and moved to Montana in 2010. Both are certified nursing assistants and worked at an assisted-living center in the state.
The pair also had valid Montana driver’s licenses and showed them to O’Neal and a supervisor, who arrived later on the scene. According to the lawsuit, the agents made it clear through words and actions that the women were not free to leave the convenience store parking lot for nearly an hour.
Their lawsuit contended O’Neal violated their Fourth Amendment right “because there was no legitimate reason to seize the women; and of equal protection, because the agent singled the women out based on race, relying on their use of Spanish as justification and proxy for race.”
The court documents additionally noted that “America is a multi-lingual, multi-racial and multi-ethnic country” with “no official language.”
In settling the case, U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not admit liability and added in a statement that “the overwhelming majority of CBP employees and officers perform their duties with honor and distinction, working tirelessly every day to keep our country safe.”
It’s unclear whether O’Neal still works for the agency or if he faced any disciplinary action in the case.
In wake of filing their complaint against the agency, both Suda and Hernandez moved out of Havre due to the backlash they faced over the viral incident.
The city of nearly 10,000 people, located about about 30 miles from the U.S.-Canada border and near two Native American reservations, is mostly white, with about 15% Native American and about 4% Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census.
“We stood up to the government because speaking Spanish is not a reason to be racially profile and harassed,” Suda said in a statement provided by the ACLU.
“I am proud to be bilingual, and I hope that as a result of this case CBP takes a hard look at its policies and practices. No one else should ever have to go through this again.”