Cato Institute on Civil Rights



Balance freedom of association against discrimination

The gay-rights movement is turning from same-sex marriage to the next item on its agenda: outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation. That is where many libertarians who strongly supported same-sex marriage step back for a more measured approach.

The law here is unsettled, especially as the right to the free exercise of religion is pitted against the right to be free from discrimination. For example: a Christian couple who own a small farm open to the public for seasonal activities were fined $13,000 for declining to host a same-sex wedding.

Freedom of association--the simple idea that people are free to associate, or not, as they wish--certainly isn't what it once was. Under common law, if you represented your business as "open to the public," you had to honor that, with exceptions for unruly customers. These rules left ample room for freedom of association, albeit with serious exceptions like Jim Crow, the deplorable state-sanctioned discrimination enforced by government.

Source: Cato Institute 2015-16 voting recommendation on RFRA , Jul 14, 2015

VAWA unconstitutional: violence against women isn't federal

The Supreme Court should not uphold the Violence Against Women Act. In passing the act, Congress exceeded its constitutional authority. VAWA creates a federal private cause of action against anyone "who commits a crime of violence motivated by gender." It is, in effect, a federal tort statute. And therein lies the problem: Where in the Constitution does Congress find authority to enact such legislation?

Supporters point to two sources: Congress's power "to regulate commerce" and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Not so, said a district court (reversed by an Appeals Court). The act does not regulate commerce. And the 14th Amendment protects against state violations, not against private acts.

Violence against women is a national problem. But that does not make it, under the Constitution, a federal problem. Congress's power to regulate commerce is not a power to regulate everything.

Source: Cato Institute voting recommendation on Emoluments , Mar 30, 2000

Anti-gay bullying school rules stifles free speech.

Huffington opposes Student Non-Discrimination Act

Congressional Summary: