Scott Lemieux

Scott Lemieux is an assistant professor of political science at the College of Saint Rose. He contributes to the blogs Lawyers, Guns, and Money and Vox Pop.

Recent Articles

Progressives' Post-DOMA To-Do List

AP Photo/Alex Brandon, file
AP Photo/The Columbus Dispatch, Fred Squillante T wo of my favorite writers on legal subjects, Dahlia Lithwick and Barry Friedman, wrote a piece for Slate earlier this week wondering if the progressive agenda hasn't been exhausted by the victories on same-sex marriage. "While progressives were devoting deserved attention to gay rights," they argue, "they simultaneously turned their backs on much of what they once believed." I share their sense of frustration, but I interpret the landscape differently. To me, the problem isn't the lack of a robust progressive agenda. The problem is that progressives generally lack power. Last week, I saw strong defenses of progressive values at every level of politics—from ordinary citizens to the highest offices in the country. In a brief window of time, you saw heroic opposition to barbaric attacks on the welfare state in North Carolina and reproductive freedom in Texas, President Obama's climate change speech , and eloquent defenses of equality by...

Four Lessons Learned from This Year's Stuffed Supreme Court Docket

flickr/quinn.anya
(AP Photo/J. David Ake) A momentous Supreme Court term concluded on Wednesday with historic decisions on same-sex marriage. But while the previous term will be forever defined by the Court's narrow upholding of the Affordable Care Act, the 2012-3 term had an unusual number of important decisions for a contemporary court. There are several important lessons to take from the term as a whole: On Civil Rights and Liberties: One Step Up, Two Steps Back. As Philip Klinkner and Rogers Smith observed (among many others) in their book The Unsteady March , progress on civil rights isn't a linear progression in which things start off terribly and keep getting better. Progress achieved in one generation can be substantially rolled back in the next; civil rights often advance for some groups while backsliding for others. (World War II catalyzed substantial civil rights advances for African-Americans; Americans of Japanese origin and suspected political radicals, conversely, saw substantial...

Two Cheers for the Supreme Court on LGBT Rights

The justices give us at least a couple of reasons to celebrate.  

AP Images/Carolyn Kaster
Today, the Supreme Court finally issued two long-awaited major opinions on gay and lesbian rights. One of them was a historic opinion and a major victory for civil rights. The other stopped short of what could have been, but will at least result in same-sex marriage being legal in the nation's biggest state. The first of today's rulings, United States v. Windsor , concerned the constitutionality of Section 3 of the infamous Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage for the purposes of federal law as being only between a man and a woman. Edith Windsor was inelgible to receive a spousal benefit on her federal estate taxes because her marriage to another women was not recognized by federal law. According to the Court's 5-4 majority opinion—authored by Anthony Kennedy and joined by the Court's four Democratic nominees—Section 3 is unconstitutional. "DOMA seeks to injure the very class New York seeks to protect," Kennedy argues. "By doing so it violates basic due process and...

The Supreme Court's War on the Great Society

The ignoble American tradition of using "states' rights" to trump real, fundamental human rights carries on with the Roberts Court's decision gutting the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

AP Images/Yoichi Okamoto
AP Images/Yoichi Okamoto The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) is arguably the most important and successful civil rights legislation passed by the United States Congress. Today, without remotely adequate justification, a bare majority of the Supreme Court cut the heart out of the centerpiece of the Great Society. That this outcome was expected doesn't make it any less outrageous. The key issue in Shelby County v. Holder is the "preclearance" provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Section 4 of the VRA "covers" numerous jurisdictions—predominantly but not exclusively Southern—with a history of vote discrimination and Section 5 of the VRA requires the covered jurisdictions to get approval from the federal government before changing their voting laws. We should start with the explicit constitutional authority for this legislation. The majority opinion asserts that "the Framers of the Constitution intended the States to keep for themselves, as provided in the Tenth Amendment, the power to...

Yes, Justice Thomas, Affirmative Action Is Constitutional

AP Images/Michael Dwyer
As the Prospect 's Jamelle Bouie notes , yesterday the Supreme Court finally released Fisher v. University of Texas , its long-awaited affirmative action ruling and ... mostly decided not to decide. There is surely a juicy story waiting to be uncovered about why the Court took eight months to issue a ruling that barely took up 40 pages and left the current state of the law essentially untouched. (It's hard not to suspect that a coalition favoring a much broader majority opinion ultimately crumbled.) In addition to the minimalist majority opinion, however, there was a concurrence by Justice Clarence Thomas—who agreed with the majority that the case should be sent back to the lower court, but for different reasons—that laid out the case for ruling affirmative action unconstitutional in essentially all circumstances. This concurrence is worth attending to, because it inadvertently lays out the fundamental weakness of the case against affirmative action. Perhaps the most salient feature...

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