Analyze cases and determine if illegal discrimination occurred;
Decide what penalty should be handed down.
TEKS: U.S. Hist. 7 C, 18 B; Govt. 9 F
Materials Needed: Copies of cases
Vocabulary: Discrimination, equality
Study the Supreme Court cases, University of California v. Bakke, Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger and the decisions in these cases.
Pass out Attachment One and discuss the federal laws with the class.
Divide the class into groups and pass out Attachment Two.
Have students discuss the cases within the group, following directions on the student handout. A teacher key is provided, but students may correctly find other answers to the cases.
MAJOR FEDERAL CIVIL RIGHTS LAWS
Amendment V: No person … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law …. (applies to the federal government; a similar provision in Amendment XIV applies to state governments).
Amendment XIV: No state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.
Equal Pay Act of 1963: Requires equal pay for equal work, regardless of sex. Requires that equal work be determined by equal skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions at the same place of employment. Requires equal pay when equal work is involved even if different job titles are assigned. (Enforced by the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor or by private lawsuits.)
Civil Rights Act of 1964 (as amended in 1972): Prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin in public accommodations (e.g., hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas). Does not apply to private clubs not open to the public. Prohibits discrimination because of race, color, sex, religion or national origin by businesses with more than fifteen employees or labor unions. Deals with hiring, recruitment, wages, and conditions of employment. Permits employment discrimination based on religion, sex or national origin if it is a necessary qualification of the job (a “bona fide occupational qualification”). Prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin by state and local governments and public educational institutions. Prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin or sex in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance, and authorizes termination of federal funding when this ban is violated. (Enforced by the Equal Opportunity Commission or by private lawsuit.)
Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (as amended in 1978): Prohibits arbitrary age discrimination in employment by employers of twenty or more persons, employment agencies, labor organizations with twenty-five or more members, and federal, state and local governments. Protects persons between the ages of forty and seventy. Permits discrimination where age is a necessary qualification for the job. (Enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or similar state agency.)
Title IX of the Education Act Amendments of 1972: Prohibits discrimination against students and others on the basis of sex in educational institutions receiving federal funding. Prohibits sex discrimination in a number of areas, including student and faculty recruitment, admissions, financial aid, facilities and employment. Requires that school athletic programs effectively accommodate the interests and abilities of members of both sexes. Equal total expenditure on men and women’s sports is not required. Does not cover gender stereotyping in textbooks and other curriculum materials. (Enforced by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.)
Rehabilitation Act of 1973: Prohibits private and government employers from discrimination on the basis of physical handicap. Requires companies that do business with the government to undertake affirmative action to provide jobs for the handicapped. Prohibits activities and programs receiving federal funds from excluding otherwise qualified handicapped persons from participation or benefits. (Enforced by lawsuit in federal court or, in some cases, state or local human rights or fair employment practices commissions.)
Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974: Requires all financial institutions to make credit equally available to credit-worth customers, regardless of gender and marital status. Prohibits creditors from: asking the gender of the credit applicant; asking about the applicant’s childbearing plans; differentiating between male and female heads of households; requiring that a married woman’s charge accounts be in her husband’s name; terminating credit based on change of marital status; and requiring a credit cosigner of a woman when one would not be asked of a man. (Enforced by civil lawsuit against the violator for as much as $10,000 in damages or by complaints filed with the Federal Reserve System or the Federal Trade Commission.)
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990: Prohibits the discrimination against individuals with disabilities in the following areas: employment, public services, public accommodations and services operated by private entities. The ADA provides that, “No covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability because of the disability of such individual.” There are three qualifying criteria for a “disability;” (1) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity of an individual; (2) a record of such an impairment; and (3) being regarded as having such an impairment.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1991: Local school districts must provide the following for students with disabilities: A “free and appropriate public education.” Students with disabilities can go to school from birth to age twenty-one without paying any extra money for classes. The student must be in a class in the “least restrictive environment.” A student must be sent to a school that provides a class that is best for that student. Each student with a disability must have an “individualized education plan,” or “IEP.” School officials cannot unilaterally suspend or expel disabled students from class for dangerous or disruptive behavior. School districts must make benefits available to students in private schools on a basis “comparable in quality, scope, and opportunity for participation to the program benefits that the (school district) provides for students enrolled in public schools.” A disabled student is defined as having one or more of the following conditions: mental retardation, hearing impairments including deafness, speech or language impairments, visual impairments including blindness, serious emotional disturbance, orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairments, or specific learning disabilities.
Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993: Congress’ purpose in enacting this act was to balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of families and to entitle employees to take reasonable leave for medical reasons, for the birth or adoption of a child, or for the care of a child, spouse or parent who has a serious health condition. Eligible employees are those who have been employed at least twelve months by the same employer for at least 1,250 hours of service during that twelve months. Covers only employers who employ fifty or more employees each working day during each of twenty or more calendar work weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. The act allows a total of twelve workweeks of leave during any twelve-month period. There are special provisions for school district employees. The employer is not required to offer paid leave and may require any employee to substitute accrued paid vacation leave, personal leave or family leave for any part of the twelve-week period. Employees returning from leave are entitled to be restored to their previous position or an equivalent position with equivalent employee benefits. (Enforced by the Secretary of Labor, who is charged with investigating complaints of violations. An employee may also file an action against the employer in any federal or state court.)
EVERYTHING ELSE BEING EQUAL: CASES
Directions: Working as a group, read each of the following cases. Determine if illegal discrimination has occurred; if so, record which law (amendment) was violated. Then decide what the appropriate penalty for the action might be and make note of the group’s decision. Case 1: Paula Plane had a very serious hearing impairment. Although she had a hearing aid, she could not understand speech unless she could lip-read. She applied for a job as a flight attendant with a major airline. During her job interview, her hearing problem was obvious and the airline refused to hire her. They claimed she could not safety handle the job.
Case 2: Officer Gunn was in excellent physical condition. He ran, lifted weights and maintained a strenuous program to keep his body in top physical shape. For ten years, he had passed every police department physical and had been given an excellent bill of health. However, upon reaching his fiftieth birthday, the state forced him to retire because a state law required all law enforcement officers to retire at age 50.
Case 3: Gloria Guard applied for a position as a state prison guard after completing college with a degree in law enforcement. Requirements included that all guards be at least 5’8” and weigh as least 130 pounds. Gloria was only 5’4” and 120 pounds, and she did not get the job.
Case 4: Kellie Kick was a sophomore at All-American High School. She had been a good athlete all her life and had played soccer since she was five years old. Her older brother had been the place kicker on the school football team, and Kellie had often worked out with him. She desired to try out for the team as the kicker. When she appeared for tryouts, the coach told her he didn’t allow girls to try out for his team.
Case 5: Paul Parent was a new father. He and his wife adopted a three-day-old baby, and they decided it would be easier for him to take some time off from his job than her to stay home with the new baby for a few months. When he informed his employer of his intentions, he was told if he carried through with his plans, he would be fired.
Case 6: Andy Bookout was an accountant who had been in a wheelchair since a swimming accident when he was eight years old. He wanted to ride the city bus to his job, but the bus was not wheelchair accessible.
Case 7: Suzanne Single decided to buy a new car on credit. She was recently divorced and supporting a young daughter. When she applied for a loan at the bank, she was refused because of her marital status.
Case 8: All-American High School had a staff of sixteen for its 500 students and did not employ a full-time nurse. Jo Jones, a sophomore student, moved to the school district and tried to enroll at AHS. The principal refused to allow her to become a student because a medical problem required that Jo be given a daily injection of a medication. The principal said the school did not have the necessary personnel for this responsibility.
Case 9: John Payne wanted to go to law school. He applied at a major law school in his state but was turned down. He tried again the next year; again, he was not accepted. Questioning his rejection, Payne found that, both years, he had ranked close to the top of the students turned down. In fact, Payne had ranked higher than many of the minority students and females who were admitted.
EVERYTHING ELSE BEING EQUAL: CASES
Directions: Working as a group, read each of the following cases. Determine if illegal discrimination has occurred; if so, record which law (amendment) was violated. Then decide what the appropriate penalty for the action might be and make note of the group’s decision. Case 1: Paula Plane had a very serious hearing impairment. Although she had a hearing aid, she could not understand speech unless she could lip-read. She applied for a job as a flight attendant with a major airline. During her job interview, her hearing problem was obvious and the airline refused to hire her. They claimed she could not safety handle the job. (Violates the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Fifth Amendment.) Case 2: Officer Gunn was in excellent physical condition. He ran, lifted weights and maintained a strenuous program to keep his body in top physical shape. For ten years, he had passed every police department physical and had been given an excellent bill of health. However, upon reaching his fiftieth birthday, the state forced him to retire because a state law required all law enforcement officers to retire at age 50. (Probably does not violate the Age Discrimination In Employment Act of 1967 or the Fourteenth Amendment because age might be considered a necessary qualification for the job of law enforcement officers.) Case 3: Gloria Guard applied for a position as a state prison guard after completing college with a degree in law enforcement. Requirements included that all guards be at least 5’8” and weigh as least 130 pounds. Gloria was only 5’4” and 120 pounds, and she did not get the job. (May violate the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Fourteenth Amendment, unless it can be shown that minimum height and weight are necessary to do the job.) Case 4: Kellie Kick was a sophomore at All-American High School. She had been a good athlete all her life and had played soccer since she was five years old. Her older brother had been the place kicker on the school football team, and Kellie had often worked out with him. She desired to try out for the team as the kicker. When she appeared for tryouts, the coach told her he didn’t allow girls to try out for his team. (If All-American High School receives federal funding, this would violate Title IX of the Education Act Amendments of 1972 and may violate the Fourteenth Amendment.) Case 5: Paul Parent was a new father. He and his wife adopted a three-day-old baby, and they decided it would be easier for him to take some time off from his job than her to stay home with the new baby for a few months. When he informed his employer of his intentions, he was told if he carried through with his plans, he would be fired. (Probably violates the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 and the Fourteenth Amendment.) Case 6: Andy Bookout was an accountant who had been in a wheelchair since a swimming accident when he was eight years old. He wanted to ride the city bus to his job, but the bus was not wheelchair accessible. (Violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 because public accommodations must be provided for the handicapped and the Fourteenth Amendment.) Case 7: Suzanne Single decided to buy a new car on credit. She was recently divorced and supporting a young daughter. When she applied for a loan at the bank, she was refused because of her marital status. (Violates the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 and the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.) Case 8: All-American High School had a staff of sixteen for its 500 students and did not employ a full-time nurse. Jo Jones, a sophomore student, moved to the school district and tried to enroll at AHS. The principal refused to allow her to become a student because a medical problem required that Jo be given a daily injection of a medication. The principal said the school did not have the necessary personnel for this responsibility. (Violates the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1991 and the Fourteenth Amendment.) Case 9: John Payne wanted to go to law school. He applied at a major state law school but was turned down. He tried again the next year; again, he was not accepted. Questioning his rejection, Payne found that, both years, he had ranked close to the top of the students turned down. In fact, Payne had ranked higher than many of the minority students and females who were admitted. (Violates Title IX of the Education Act Amendments of 1972 if the state law school receives any federal funds, which it probably does, and the Fourteenth Amendment.)
CHARLES W. BAKER, et al.,
JOE C. CARR, et al.
369 U.S. 186, 82 S.Ct. 691, 7 L.Ed.2d 663
Reargued October 9, 1961
Decided March 26, 1962
The Tennessee Constitution required apportionment every ten years for both houses of the state legislature on the basis of population. Since 1901, no apportionment law had been passed, in spite of changes in population growth and the movement of people from the farms to the cities. By 1960, house districts ranged in population from 3,454 to 79,301, a 23-1 ratio; senate districts ranged from 39,727 to 237,905, a 6-1 ratio.
The mayor of Nashville, a county judge, and city residents of several counties in Tennessee filed a suit against Joe C. Carr, the Tennessee Secretary of State and other state officials on the ground that the 1901 Tennessee apportionment law denied them the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. They sought to have the apportionment law declared unconstitutional and to obtain an injunction restraining the conduct of further elections under the law. The complainants also requested the Court to order an election at large for members of the state legislature or, as an alternative, to hold an election with equitably apportioned legislative districts based on the most recent census figures.
The complainants argued that they had appealed to the legislature and to the state courts for a fairer distribution of seats, but without success. They were, therefore, appealing to the federal courts as their only recourse.
On February 4, 1960, a three-judge District Court dismissed the case on the ground of lack of jurisdiction, citing Colegrove v. Green. The case was then appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court. In addition to the Fourteenth Amendment question, the Court was asked to consider federal court jurisdiction over state legislative apportionment.
ISSUES: Do federal courts, under Article III, Section 2, of the United States Constitution, have the jurisdiction to consider cases of state legislative reapportionment? Does unequal representation in the state legislature violate the Fourteenth Amendment right of equal protection of the laws?
BAKER v. CARR (1962)
The Supreme Court's six-to-two decision (Justice Whittaker did not participate in the case) held that the federal courts had jurisdiction in malapportionment issues and that the plaintiffs had raised a "justiciable" issue -- an issue that the Supreme Court could decide. Thus, for the first time in history the Supreme Court ruled that the question of apportionment could be reviewed by federal courts under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Malapportionment could be a denial of this right because under representation meant unequal participation in the selection of lawmakers. The majority opinion, however, did not say specifically that districts must be based on equal population. It said simply that, in the Tennessee case, "arbitrary and capricious" districting violated the Constitution of the United States.
The opinions in this famous case were highly technical and the language was legalistic. Justice Brennan, in writing the opinion for the majority, began by pinpointing the issue that the plaintiffs' votes had been debased by the failure of the Tennessee legislature to reapportion the state legislature in accordance with its own constitution. By using as its model the apportionment law of 1901, despite population changes thereafter, the State of Tennessee had acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The plaintiffs therefore sought judicial relief:
Did the plaintiffs have standing in the eyes of the Court? To have "standing to sue" one must show that he may be injured by the law in question. Justice Brennan ruled that the plaintiffs had standing in these words:
These appellants seek relief in order to protect or vindicate an interest of their own, and of those similarly situated. Their constitutional claim is, in substance, that the 1901 statute constitutes arbitrary and capricious state action, offensive to the Fourteenth Amendment in its irrational disregard of the standard of apportionment prescribed by the State's Constitution or of any standard, effecting a gross disproportion of representation to voting population. The injury which appellants assert is that this classification disfavors the voters in the counties in which they reside, placing them in a position of constitutionally unjustifiable inequality vis-a-vis voters in irrationally favored counties. A citizen's right to a vote free of arbitrary impairment by state action has beenjudicially recognized as a right secured by the Constitution, when such impairment resulted from dilution by a false tally.... The majority opinion then turned to the question of justiciability, or the authority of the courts to decide this type of case. The lower court had dismissed the case on the precedent set by the Colegrove ruling that legislative apportionment was a "political question" and therefore "non-justiciable in the courts." Such political questions, the lower court had ruled, had to be
decided by the state legislatures or by Congress, both of which were supposed to be responsive to the will of the people.
The majority handled the difficult problem of the Colegrove precedent as follows:
... The District Court misinterpreted Colegrove v. Green and other decisions of this Court on which it relied. Appellants' claim that they are being denied equal protection is justiciable, and if "discrimination is sufficiently shown, the right to relief under the equal protection clause is not diminished by the fact that the discrimination relates to political rights" .... The Court then proceeded to elaborate on the doctrine of "political question":
Our discussion ... requires review of a number of political question cases, in order to expose the attributes of the doctrine.... That review reveals that in ... "political question" cases, it is the relationship between the judiciary and the coordinate branches of the Federal Government, and not the federal judiciary's relationship to the States, which gives rise to the "political question." ... ... The doctrine of which we treat is one of "political questions," not one of "political cases." The courts cannot reject as "no law suit" a bona fide controversy as to whether some action denominated "political" exceeds constitutional authority.... ... Only last term, in Gomillion v. Lightfoot, we applied the Fifteenth Amendment to strike down a redrafting of municipal boundaries which effected a discriminatory impairment of voting rights, in the face of what a majority of the Court of Appeals thought to be a sweeping commitment to state legislature of the power to draw and redraw such boundaries....
We conclude that the complaint's allegations of a denial of equal protection present a justiciable constitutional cause of action upon which appellants are entitled to a trial and a decision. The right asserted is within the reach of judicial protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. Justice Douglas wrote a relatively brief concurring opinion in which he identified the major issue of the case as "The question is the extent to which a state may weight one person's vote more heavily than it does another's...."
Justice Clark's concurring opinion described the apportionment picture in Tennessee as a "topsy-turvical of gigantic proportions ... a crazy quilt without rational basis." He then proceeded to show that the plaintiffs had no way of challenging the discrimination in voting strength and that the only road open to them was through the courts. Justice Clark concluded with an eloquent passage:
As John Rutledge said 175 years ago in the course of the Constitutional Convention, a chief function of the Court is to secure the national rights. Its decision today supports the proposition for which our forebears fought and many died, namely, that to be fully conformable to the principle of right, the form of government must be representative. That is the keystone upon which our government was founded and lacking which no republic can survive. It is well for this Court to practice self-restraint and discipline in constitutional adjudication, but never in its history have those principles received sanction where the national rights of so many have been so clearly infringed for so long a time. National respect for the courts is more enhanced through the forthright enforcement of those rights rather than by rendering them nugatory through the interposition of subterfuges. In my view the ultimate decision today is in the greatest tradition of this Court. Justice Stewart's concurring opinion indicated that he was not expressing any views on the merits of the case. Since the lower court had dismissed the lawsuit without trying the facts, he concluded, "the proper place for the trial is in the trial court, not here." The case should be sent back to the district court so that each side could be given an opportunity to present its side fully. Only then would the facts relating to political discrimination become clear.
As the one who had written the Colegrove opinion, Justice Frankfurter felt strongly about this obvious repudiation of his position. Joined by Justice Harlan, he argued once again that the courts are competent neither to determine the constitutionality of election districts nor to formulate workable remedies. Once again he warned the courts of the damage they might incur by engaging in political matters. For him, the Baker case was a "massive repudiation of the experiences of our whole past in asserting destructively novel judicial power." He urged:
The Court's authority -- possessed neither of the purse nor the s word--ultimately rests on sustained public confidence in its moral sanction. Such feeling must be nourished by the Court's complete detachment, in fact and in appearance, from political entanglements and by abstention from injecting itself into the clash of political forces in political settlements. If, he said, the majority ruling was followed to its ultimate conclusion, judges would be empowered to devise the proper composition of the legislatures of the fifty states. This would lead the judiciary into a "mathematical quagmire." The courts, pointed out Justice Frankfurter, are not the proper agency to decide the "worth" of a vote.
Justice Harlan's dissenting opinion, in which Justice Frankfurter joined, argued that the Tennessee districts were not so "irrational" as to be unconstitutional. He identified the issue as follows:
It is at once essential to recognize this case for what it is. The issue here related ... to the right of a State to fix the basis of representation in its own legislature.... I can find nothing in the Equal Protection Clause or elsewhere in the Federal Constitution which expressly or impliedly supports the view that state legislatures must be so structured as to reflect with approximate equality the voice of every voter. Not only is that proposition refuted by history ... but it strikes deep into the heart of our federal system. In the last analysis, what lies at the core of this controversy is a difference of opinion as to the function of representative government. It is surely beyond argument that those who have the responsibility for devising a system of representation may permissibly consider that factors other than bare numbers should be taken into account. The existence of the United States Senate is proof enough of that.... There is nothing in the Federal Constitution to prevent a State, acting not irrationally, from choosing any electoral legislative structure it thinks best suited to the interests, temper, and customs of its people.... A state's choice to distribute electoral strength among geographical units, rather than according to a census of population, is certainly no less a rational decision of policy than would be its choice to levy a tax on property rather than a tax on income. Both are legislative judgments entitled to equal respect from this Court .... What then is the basis for the claim made in this case that the distribution of state senators and representatives is the product of capriciousness or of some constitutionally prohibited policy? ... the claim is that the State Legislature has unreasonably retained substantially the same allocation of senators and representatives as was established by statute in 1901, refusing to recognize the great shift in the population balance between urban and rural communities that has occurred in the meantime.... Indeed, I would hardly think it unconstitutional if a state legislature's expressed reason for establishing or maintaining an electoral imbalance between its rural and urban population were to protect the State's agricultural interests from the sheer weight of numbers of those residing in its cities.... These are matters of local policy, on the wisdom of which the federal judiciary is neither permitted nor qualified to sit in judgment.... The reactions to the Baker decision were immediately felt, and soon a nationwide revolution in legislative apportionment was under way.
REYNOLDS v. SIMS
377 U.S. 533, 84 S.Ct. 1362, 12 L.Ed. 2d 506
Argued November 13, 1963
Decided June 15, 1964
By the early 1920s the distribution of the United States population had clearly changed. For the first time, more Americans were living in cities than in rural areas. This change created inequities between the populations of urban and rural state legislative districts. By 1960, nearly every state had some urban legislative districts populated by at least twice as many people as rural districts in the state.
In Alabama, voting districts had been last redrawn early in the twentieth century. By the 1960s, like other states, Alabama’s population had shifted from farming communities to cities and suburbs. This resulted in rural counties, with just one-quarter of the population, controlling both houses of the state legislature.
People’s votes possess equal value when each member of a legislative body represents the same number of people. Clearly, the people in more populous urban districts were not equally represented with voters in less populous rural districts. As a result, city and suburban problems did not receive appropriate attention in state legislatures dominated by representatives from farming and rural districts. B. A. Reynolds and other Birmingham city residents went to court, charging that their votes had less weight than that of rural voters.
ISSUE: Did Alabama, and other states, violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by setting up legislative districts that contained unequal numbers of people?
REYNOLDS v. SIMS (1964)
The Supreme Court ruled eight-to-one that the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to establish equally populated electoral districts for both houses of state legislatures. Chief Justice Warren, writing for the Court, declared that plans for setting up legislative districts could not discriminate against people on the basis of where they live (city residents in this case) any more than they could on the basis of race or economic status. The Chief Justice began:
… Our problem … is to ascertain … whether there are any constitutionally cognizable principles which would justify departures from the basic standard of equality among voters in the apportionment of seats in state legislatures. The Court rejected the idea that, like Congress, state legislatures could create districts for the Senate on an area rather than a population basis. The Constitution, which allotted equal protection to states in the Senate no matter what their size, recognized the states as “sovereign entities.” Political subdivisions within a state (such as counties or regions), however, did not possess the status of sovereign entities. Thus, Warren argued, the people of a state must benefit from equal representation in both houses of a state legislature. Warren declared:
Legislators represent people, not trees or acres. Legislators are elected by voters, not farms or cities or economic interests. As long as ours is a representative form of government, and our legislatures are those instruments of government elected directly by and directly representative of the people, the right to elect legislators in a free and unimpaired fashion is a bedrock of our political system. It could hardly be gainsaid that a constitutional claim had been asserted by an allegation that certain otherwise qualified voters had been entirely prohibited from voting for members of their state legislature…. It would appear extraordinary to suggest that a State could be constitutionally permitted to enact a law providing that certain of the State’s voters could vote two, five, or 10 times for their legislative representatives, while voters living elsewhere could vote only once…. The Court ruled that state legislatures did not have to draw legislative districts with “mathematical exactness or precision.” However, such districts did have to be based “substantially” on equal population. Thus, the Court established the key principle of “one person, one vote.”
In a concurring opinion, Justice Clark stated:
It seems to me that all that the Court need say in this case is that each plan considered by the trial court is “a crazy quilt,” clearly revealing invidious
discrimination in each house of the Legislature and therefore violative of the Equal Protection Clause …. Justice Harland alone dissented. He stated, “What is done today deepens my conviction that judicial entry into this realm is profoundly ill-advised and constitutionally impermissible ….”
FOLLOW UP: The Reynolds decision had a major impact on state legislatures. After the decision, forty-nine state legislatures reapportioned their legislative districts on the basis of equal population. The decision caused a fundamental shift in American politics by declaring unconstitutional the practices, which enabled rural minorities to control state legislatures. The decision also affected national politics since state legislatures draw the lines for U. S. Congressional districts.
In 1964, the United States Supreme Court, in Wesberry v. Sanders, extended the one-person, one-vote doctrine to elections for the U. S. House of Representatives. The one-person, one vote doctrine ensures that the vote of each person has the same weight as the vote of every other person. This decision means that the voting population of each congressional district within a state must be as nearly equal as possible.
DRAWING DISCRIMINATING DISTRICTS
Learning Objectives: The student will
1. Understand the process of redrawing congressional districts;
2. Define “gerrymandering.”
TEKS: Texas Hist. 7.14 A, 7.15 A, 7.17 A; W. Geog. 13 A & B; Govt. 3 B, 4 A, 5 B, 6 A, 9 A, 14 D, 15 D, 17 A, 18 C, 21 B
Materials needed: A copy of the activity for each student
Vocabulary: Redistricting, gerrymandering
1. Discuss with the class the process of redistricting of state legislative seats by the state legislatures that occurs every ten years after the national census.
2. Divide students into “legislative redistricting committees” of three to five students each. Explain that each committee is to come up with a redistricting plan for the State of Texas.
3. Pass out Attachment 1 and have groups follow instructions.
If possible, make transparencies of each group’s redistricting plan. Discuss potential problems of various redistricting plans. Have class determine if any groups created redistricting plans that might be considered gerrymandering. Discuss the role that politics plays in the way districts are determined, in spite of Supreme Court cases that require equal districts.
Extension for Gifted/Talented/Advanced Placement:
Have students study recent United States Supreme Court cases on redistricting, Miller v. Johnson, 1995, and League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry, 2006.
REYNOLDS v. UNITED STATES
Decided October, 1878
Utah was first settled in 1847 by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, commonly called the Mormon Church, where they were able to practice their beliefs without much interference. The doctrine of the Mormon religion at the time was:
... that it was the duty of male members ... circumstances permitting, to practice polygamy.... After a revelation to Joseph Smith, founder and prophet of the Church, Mormons believed that the practice of polygamy was required of male members by the Almighty God.
... that the failing or refusing to practice polygamy by such male members ... would be punished, and that the penalty for such failure and refusal would be damnation in the life to come.... When other people moved into the Utah Territory, some of these new settlers demanded that Congress pass a law to "end this immoral practice." Such a law was passed and was vigorously enforced after the Civil War. Many Mormons were prosecuted in an attempt to wipe out the practice of plural marriages.
The United States statute in question, known as the "Anti-Bigamy Act," stated:
Every person having a husband or wife living, who marries another, whether married or single, in a Territory, or other place over which the United States have exclusive jurisdiction, is guilty of bigamy, and shall be punished by a fine of not more than $500, and by imprisonment for a term of not more than five years. George Reynolds, an official of the Mormon Church, lived in the Utah Territory. He had two wives and both were living. He was charged in 1874 with violating the law passed by Congress and applicable to all territories of the United States.
At his trial, Reynolds argued that his religion required male members of the church to marry more than one wife. Those who did not would suffer "damnation in the life to come." He said he should not be punished for taking a second wife because it was his religious duty. He asked the judge to instruct the jury to find him not guilty.
The judge refused to do so, and instead instructed the jury that:
... if the defendant, under the influence of a religious belief that it was right ... deliberately married a second time, having a first wife living, the want of committing a crime -- did not excuse him; but the law inexorably in such case implies the criminal intent. Reynolds was found guilty and sentenced to two years at hard labor and a $500 fine. He then appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying that the Anti-Bigamy Act violated his right to practice the tenets of his religion. He stated that the First Amendment states clearly that Congress will make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion.
ISSUE: Does the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause prohibit prosecution for polygamy when it is a tenet of a person's religion?
REYNOLDS v. UNITED STATES (1878)
Chief Justice Waite wrote the unanimous opinion for the Court, which upheld the trial court's conviction of George Reynolds. He begins by saying that religious freedom is "guaranteed everywhere throughout the United States, so far as congressional interference is concerned." The issue here is whether this law is a constitutional exercise of the powers of Congress. Freedom of religion, wrote the Chief Justice, means freedom to hold an opinion or belief and does not apply to those actions "in violation of social duties or subversive of good order."
The Chief Justice continued:
... we think it may safely be said there never has been a time in any State of the Union when polygamy has not been an offense against society, cognizable by the civil courts and punishable with more or less severity. In the face of all this evidence, it is impossible to believe that the constitutional guaranty of religious freedom was intended to prohibit legislation in respect to this most important feature of social life. Marriage, while from its very nature a sacred obligation, is nevertheless, in most civilized nations, a civil contract, and usually regulated by law.... Replying to whether Congress has the right to outlaw polygamy even though it is a tenet in a religious faith, the Court replied:
Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. Suppose one believed that human sacrifices were a necessary part of religious worship, would it be seriously contended that the civil government under which he lived could not interfere to prevent a sacrifice? Or if a wife religiously believed it was her duty to burn herself upon the funeral pyre of her dead husband, would it be beyond the power of the civil government to prevent her carrying her belief into practice? So here, as a law of the organization of society under the exclusive dominion of the United States, it is provided that plural marriages shall not be allowed. Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government could exist only in name under such circumstances. FOLLOW-UP: The Reynolds case did not end the Mormon polygamy issue in our courts. In 1890, two other cases were decided. One involved an Idaho territorial statute requiring an oath before voting in general elections that the voter was not a member of any church, which required or encouraged polygamy as a religious duty. The other dealt with a federal statute, which forfeited property of the Mormon Church, except that which was used exclusively for religious worship. The Supreme Court upheld both laws and, as a result, in that year the Mormon Church announced that plural marriages were no longer a tenet of their faith. The properties were then returned.