The Bulletin—August 6, 2013
The Bulletin compiles news from in and around the US South. We hope these posts will provide space for lively discussion and debate regarding issues of importance to those living in and intellectually engaging with the US South.
- The Equality of Opportunity project, a research initiative led by four economists from Harvard and Berkeley, released a working paper detailing the variation in income-mobility across the US States's "commuting zones." Unsurprisingly, parts of the US South did not make a good showing in terms of upward mobility. The study proposes that a lack of upward mobility is correlated to the presence commuter zones that have sprawling neighborhoods segregated by race and income, lower quality K–12 education, and a higher proportion of single-parent families. If you live in Atlanta, where Southern Spaces is based, then these descriptions are probably feeling familiar. Research agrees: Atlanta, which ranked the fifth worst of the one hundred largest commuter zones in the study (worst here meaning the least likely for children born to low-income families to ever rise out of poverty), was used by The New York Times and Atlanta Magazine to illustrate these correlations. Nevertheless, this study only identified elements correlated to a lack of upward mobility without regard for causation. So if you'd like to know why a sprawling metropole ranks so low while other such commuter zones (such as Houston) rank higher, you might want to consider using this project's data to launch a study of your own.
- Following up on Shelby County v. Holder, the case that struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965, the US Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration set in process actions that would reinstate the voting law preclearance in Texas, bringing a case to a federal court in Texas that would invoke Section 3(c) of the VRA, a section that gives the federal government authority to add districts to the preclearance list if there is substantial evidence of discriminatory voting practices. Using Section 3(c) would give the federal government full rights to enforce Section 5, the part of the VRA that actually calls for preclearance but is now moot due to the Supreme Court overruling Section 4(b), the provision that populated the list of jurisdictions that required preclearance. If Holder's strategy succeeds in Texas, the reinstatement of blocked voting laws in states with a history of racial discrimination might be short-lived.
- Though sodomy laws were declared unconstitutional in 2003 by the Supreme Court, an East Baton Rouge Sheriff's department has busted upwards of twelve men since 2011 with Louisiana's outdated sodomy law. According to the Baton Rouge Advocate, the department sent male undercover officers to cruise for men in Manchac park, wired for surveillance. After engaging in flirty banter with a target, the undercover agent would suggest they take the conversation to his apartment for "some drinks and some fun." The agent would then suggest they practice safe sex using condoms, before arresting the unsuspecting target. The charge? Attempting a crime against nature. The Sheriff's department offered an explanation on Facebook: "To our knowledge, the Sheriff's office was never contacted or told that the law was not enforceable or prosecutable." None of the last twelve case actually made it to court, since District Attorney Hillar Moore III found no evidence of any crimes committed. Louisiana is not alone in having anti-sodomy laws still on the books: it is "illegal" to engage in oral or anal sex in fourteen states and Michigan was caught doing special "sting" operations targeting gay men in 2011.
- In other sodomy news, Virginia Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli has launched a campaign to bring back Virginia's anti-sodomy law.1 He argues that without an anti-sodomy law (here defined again as oral or anal sex) prosecutors have no way to convict sexual predators who would target children, despite the cornucopia of both state and federal laws that are still in effect.2 In 2009, Cuccinelli argued, "homosexual acts are . . . intrinsically wrong. And I think in a natural law based country, it's appropriate to have policies that reflect that." Though the Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws in 2003, they remain in the Virginia Code. A federal appeals court specifically struck down this statute this March in the course of a case where an adult male solicited oral sex from a seventeen year old on the basis that the prosecution used the crimes against nature statue upon which to base its case.
- 1. The first proposed law on sodomy in the newly formed United States of America was introduced by a committiee including none other than Thomas Jefferson. This revision of the contemporary Virginia law carried a penalty of castration for men and "cutting thro' the cartilage of her nose a hole of one half inch diameter at the least" for women for committing rape, polygamy, or sodomy. This proposal, which included revisions for several other crimes, was rejected, retaining the death penalty in case of sodomy.
- 2. 18.2-48(ii)(iii), 13.2-61, 13.2-63, 18.2-67.3, 18.2-67.4, 18.2-370, and 18.2-374 (respectively Abduction for Immoral Purpose, Rape, Carnal Knowledge of Minor where the perpetrator is more than five years older than the victim, Aggravated Sexual Battery or Sexual Contact with the victim being under thirteen, Sexual battery where the perpetrator is over eighteen but the victim is under six, Taking Indecent Liberties with a Minor, and Child Pornography).