How Civil Activism Has Made An Impact On American History
Sometimes it can be easy to lose faith in having the power to shape our society and make meaningful change.
That’s why Engines of Liberty is a reminder that ordinary citizens have been responsible for profound social movements throughout history.
Taking a look at the various civil activists who’ve pushed significant change in the United States over the past decades is a great source of inspiration— ranging from a widowed gay man’s activism for marriage equality, to Florida leading the charge for pro-gun campaigns, or even two lawyers using legal activism to bring attention to Abu Ghraib prison.
These incredible stories demonstrate that when people come together, rely on their convictions, and dream big, real change can happen.
Renew your belief in changing society and remind yourself of what can be accomplished with passion and dedication!
It Took A Child Custody Case To Launch The Movement For Gay Marriage In The U
It all started with a dispute over child custody in the state of Vermont.
In 1989, after tragedy struck when Susan Hamilton died in a fatal car accident, her parents sued to gain custody of their grandchild and Hamilton’s partner, Susan Bellemare.
The only thing that saved Bellemare from losing the case was a will prepared by Hamilton specifically stating that Bellemare should continue to raise Collin in the event of her death.
This situation was a wake up call for civil rights activists: gay partners had very few rights recognized in the eyes of the law.
Therefore, motivated by this unfairness and determined to effect change, three couples began suing the State of Vermont for refusing them marriage licenses.
The couples were hardworking individuals who defied negative stereotypes – they held respectable jobs, were in steady relationships and two couples even had children.
After years of political lobbying and court battles, things began to change: in December 1999, Vermont’s Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples must be treated the same as any other union under the state constitution.
The situation eventually led to an even greater victory when Vermont House of Representative voted to legalize same-sex marriages in 2009.
This momentous decision was largely due to those three brave couples who fought for equal rights many years before.
Activism And A Rigorous Legal Battle Results In Victory For The Gay Rights Movement In California
The battle for gay marriage in California was a heated one, with activism from both sides of the debate.
In 2004, Mayor Gavin Newsom sparked the conversation by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, who weren’t yet legally recognized as such.
The state was already known for its progressive stance on gay rights, but even then it was difficult for these marriages to be made valid.
In 2008, the fight took a turn when the California Supreme Court approved of gay marriage – only to have the decision reversed months later, when a conservative group proposed an amendment to the state’s constitution (Proposition 8) that limited marriages to unisons between men and women.
With over $40 million being spent on campaigns and convincing television ads such as one depicting a young child telling her parents what she learned in schools that day (that she can grow up and marry a woman), Proposition 8 passed with 52 percent of the vote.
But even this win didn’t last long before it was challenged and disapproved by the US Court of Appeals – due to Proposition 8 taking away rights which were granted to same-sex couples previously.
Even then there was no state representative willing to defend this bill so eventually it reached all the way up to US Supreme Court where, thanks Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger or Attorney General Jerry Brown stepping aside from defending it, Proposition 8 was annulled and gay marriage became legal in California once again.
The Us Supreme Court Grants Equal Rights To Same-Sex Marriage In Landmark Decision
In 2015, after years of activism and campaigning for equal rights, the US Supreme Court finally recognized gay marriage as a right across the country.
This landmark decision was met with some initial reluctance from some of the nine judges on the court.
Justice Antonin Scali argued that such an important decision should be left to state lawmakers who he believed better reflected societal morals.
However, after careful consideration, five of the nine judges voted in favour of gay marriage and today heterosexual couples and same-sex couples alike can enjoy the legal protections afforded by marriage.
The four reasons used to justify this ruling were: freedom to choose your partner; protection of intimate relationships; benefits to gay parents and children; access to wedding-related rights like medical decisions and taxes.
With this historic ruling, Everyone has now equal access to these life changing benefits regardless of sexual orientation!
The Power Of Knowing Who To Lobby: How The Nra Influenced Pro-Gun Legislation In Florida And Virginia
Gun lobbyists have been successful in their efforts to loosen gun restrictions mainly by knowing which states and laws to challenge, as well as having presidential support.
This was evidenced by the success of Marion Hammer and her team who, in 2005, made Florida the first state to pass a stand your ground law.
Furthermore, when faced with a tough challenge from anti-gun groups in Virginia such as a 2002 lawsuit that threatened to ban guns from the area, NRA lobbyists still managed to succeed – largely due to President Bush’s appointment of John Roberts and Samuel Alito, two judges who were both pro gun.
As a result, the Supreme Court declared Virginia’s ban on guns unconstitutional.
Overall, it is clear that having knowledge of which states are more likely to be open-minded towards pro-gun legislation (such as Florida), and having political allies such as a president who supports the cause has been beneficial in helping gun lobbyists achieve their goals.
How Fred Korematsu’S Fight For Justice Forced The Us Government To Acknowledge Discrimination Against Japanese Americans
Even when a great injustice is committed, it can still sometimes take decades of activism to right the wrong.
In the case of Fred Korematsu, the Supreme Court ruled in 1944 that, under the circumstances, it was justifiable to treat all people of Japanese descent as suspects.
While this decision was widely supported at the time, new evidence eventually came to light that revealed that the internment order was based not on fact but rather on racially motivated assumptions.
After decades of activism from human rights organizations and eventually an investigation committee initiated by President Carter in 1979, additional evidence emerged that proved the reports submitted by Lieutenant John DeWitt which had initially justified the internment orders were unfounded.
Despite Reagan’s refusal to comply with a presidential apology for Korematsu and reparations for those affected until more evidence surfaced, his administration ultimately acknowledged their mistake and issued an official apology.
This case highlights how even when a wrong is done – especially one as prominent as a Supreme Court decision – true justice can still be achieved many years later with enough dedication and effort from those fighting for what is right.
Activists’ Fight For Human Rights Exposes Us War Violations And Leads To Supreme Court Action
The light of human rights activists can bring about serious change to the way prisons are run.
This is evident in the work of Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh, lawyers who used the Freedom of Information Act to find secret US military activities in foreign countries.
They uncovered disturbing information that demonstrated how prisoners were being mistreated in places like Abu Ghraib with President Bush providing authorization for secret detentions and interrogations without legal protection.
They also found evidence of sensory deprivation, death due to interrogation, threats towards those who reported abuses, and lack of legal defense for suspects at Guantanamo Bay.
Particularly shocking was the revelation that only eight percent of detainees at Guantanamo had a link to Al Qaeda and 16 percent were actually Taliban fighters – contradicting the government’s claims that they housed primarily dangerous terrorists at Guantanamo Bay.
Through their work to shed light on this dark side of prison operations, these lawyers revealed human rights violations taking place in both places – violations which ended up making it all the way to the Supreme Court.
By steadfastly revealing secrets held by governments and advocating for human rights around the world, activists like Jaffer and Singh have been able to help bring justice to some of society’s most vulnerable populations – demonstrating how gaining transparency can make all the difference when it comes to prison reform.
Activists Showed Perseverance And Resilience In Forcing The Government To Be More Responsible With Drone Use
The power of activism cannot be underestimated.
Even when the government denies the presence of a program or insists that nothing can be done about certain policies, civilian activists can voice their dissent and make a real difference in the world.
In President Obama’s term, one prominent fight was sparked by reports of his support for a secret drone program to attack enemy targets.
Despite these reports and increasing pressure from activists, the President refused to acknowledge its existence due to an agreement with overseas governments.
However, through persistent efforts from human rights groups such as the New America Foundation, they were able to draw attention to this issue and even bring forth a 9-year old Pakistani girl who recounted the death of her grandmother at the hands of US drones.
Eventually, Obama had no choice but to acknowledge the program and announce new conditions on how it will be operated – reducing both casualties amongst target groups and innocent bystanders alike.
In effect, these measures were responsible for cutting down deaths from 471 in 2009 to just 35 in 2014.
It’s important to realize what civilians achieved here – by being persistent in seeking change even against government denials, they were able to reform policy and save countless innocent lives in the process.
Engines of Liberty, written by David S.
Bernstein, provides readers with an in-depth look at the importance of grassroots activism and its role in shaping society.
The book emphasizes that individuals have more power than they often realize over their own lives and the potentially massive consequences associated with collective action.
It argues that when people come together to organize and promote their shared interests, politicians become more likely to respond to their demands, leading to real change within a society.
Ultimately, this book offers an inspiring lesson about the power of collective groups in achieving reform—no matter how big or small those changes may be.