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Amendments in the Constitution: Bill of Rights

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The Nineteenth Amendment is one of the most important amendments in the Constitution. A well-earned right after a century-long battle. This amendment reads:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

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Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

This amendment protects the rights of women to vote. Voting on government positions, such as president, etc. It also protects voting rights from being taken away by the government because of gender. This amendment was initially wanted around a century before it was actually ratified, around the 1820s or 30s. During this time, women were beginning to disagree with the idea that women were just wives and mothers only concerned with home and her family. This was the beginning of the century-long fight women’s rights movement. In 1848 some abolitionist activists made up of mostly women went to the Seneca Falls Convention to talk about the problem of women’s rights. Luckily, the delegates at the convention all agreed; women deserve the right to vote, and men and women were created equally.

After that, in 1850 the Civil War started. This then led to Civil rights, the 14th and 15th Amendments being added to the Constitution. Women saw this as a chance to push for their rights and refused to support the 15th amendment. In 1869, the National Woman Suffrage Association was created by Lucy Stone. Another faction was formed, a pro-15th-amendment faction called the American Woman Suffrage Association. Yet, in 1890, the two groups fused and formed the National American Woman Suffrage Association. The suffragists’ argument then changed; women deserve to vote because they were different from men, instead of men, and women are created equal. Within six years, Colorado, Idaho, and Utah approved the amendment and added it to their state constitutions, giving women the right to vote. Fortunately, between 1910 and 1918, the Alaska Territory, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, and Washington granted women the right to vote. At this time, the Equality League of Self-Supporting Women-led parades, pickets, and marches to raise awareness for women’s rights.

The day before the introduction of President Woodrow Wilson in 1913, suffragists commenced a large suffrage parade at the capital, yet hundreds of women were injured. The suffragists continued to push for their cause, and some even had to serve jail time.

After almost a century of fighting for rights, the amendment was ratified on August 18th, 1920. Tennessee was the 36th state that was needed for the amendment to be ratified. Tennessee completed the two-thirds majority, which was required to make an amendment official.

This amendment had a large impact on America. It ended the fight for women’s rights, gave women the basic rights that men got from the start. It is an inspiring story and gave women a leap in the direction of equality, which women are still fighting for to this day.

Before 1967, due process in court from the 14th Amendment had not applied to juvenile offenders, only adults. It was not a problem back then, since there were not many juvenile defendants. This changed when the In re Gault case was given to the Supreme Court.

The case first started with a young boy, around 14 to 15 years old, by the name of Gerald Gault, on June 8, 1964. He was making prank calls with a friend and called his neighbor, Mrs. Cook. She filed a complaint, then Gault and his friend were arrested and taken to the Children’s Detention Home. However at the time of the arrest, Gault’s parents were not home, and the police left no notice or information of arresting their son. Gault’s mother eventually found out what happened through a family of Ronald Lewis. When Gault’s mother got to the Detention Home, she was informed that a court hearing was scheduled for the next day.

The officer who arrested Gault filed a petition on the same day of Gault’s hearing, yet the petition was not served on Gault or his parents. They did not even see the petition until more than two months later, August 17, 1964, which was the day of Gault’s habeas corpus hearing. The first hearing, on June 9, 1964, was very informal. Mrs. Cook was not present, no recording or transcript was made, and no one was sworn before testifying. Gault was questioned by the judge, yet there are conflicts on what, if anything, Gault admitted to. After the hearing, Gault was brought back to the Detention Home and held there for two or three more days before being released. Upon release, Gault’s parents were told another court hearing was to take place on June 15, 1964.

June 15, 1964, arrived, and Mrs. Cook was not present, although Mr. Gault had requested so. He had requested this so “so she could see which boy that done the talking, the dirty talking over the phone.” Again, no recording or transcript was made, and there are conflicts on whether or what any of the Gaults spoke of or not. At this hearing, officers filed the report listing the charge as lewd phone calls. If an adult had been charged with this, they would have been fined $50 and two months in jail. This report was not revealed to the Gault family. However, at the end of the hearing, the judge decided Gault spend the next six to seven years of his life in juvenile detention, or until he turns 21. At this point, Gault’s parents filed a petition for a formal order of habeas corpus, which was dismissed by both the Superior Court of Arizona and the Arizona Supreme Court. The Gaults then tried the Supreme Court of the United States, which, luckily, agreed to hear the case to decide the procedural due process rights of a juvenile criminal defendant. This was argued on December 6, 1966, yet the issue was that there was a possibility of incarceration.

The Supreme Court emphasized the importance of due process. The Court acknowledged that if Gault had been 18 at the time of the arrest, he would have had the court rights, safety, and procedures that adults do. The Court examined the juvenile court system and determined that there are good reasons for treating adults and juveniles differently in court, but juveniles being tried for sentences of delinquency and prison are entitled to some procedural safeguards under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

So, the Supreme Court decided in favor of the Gaults. Because of this, juveniles in court are now being protected by adult procedural safeguards, therefore making this case one of the most important in the U.S. history of cases.

Sexual orientation has grown into a large part of society lately, and some people do not appreciate it. Sexual orientation has instead become something to discriminate against, not something to support. Sadly, some people have been discriminate against LGBT+ and decide not to hire, house, etc. them. This was the exact situation that caused the Altitude Express v. Zarda case.

The case started with a gay man named Donald Zarda who worked as a sky-diving instructor at Altitude Express in 2010. Some of his jobs included participating in skydives with clients, and it required him to be strapped close to the client. Zarda occasionally told female clients about his sexuality to ease any concerns they may have about being closely strapped to a man for the dive. On one particular dive, Zarda informed a female client of his sexual orientation, then performed the dive with her. After, the client stated that Zarda inappropriately touched her and used his sexuality as an excuse, and Zarda’s boss fired him. Zarda denied touching the client, and alleged that he was fired because of his sexual orientation.

Zarda then filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and claimed he was fired because of his sexuality, and his inability to conform to male stereotypes. He sued under the New York Human Rights Law and Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964. Title VII prevents employers from discriminating against people based on sex. Yet the district court ruled out that Title VII does not protect against discrimination based on sexuality. After this, EEOC issued that Title VII’s “based on sex” includes discrimination based on sexual orientation. Zarda reinstated his Title VII claim, yet the district court rejected it once again.

The case is being led by Gregory Antollino, a lawyer with a long history of trying employment discrimination cases. A jury trial was then held, and in a verdict in favor of Altitude Express. For the lower courts, a United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit is used. A three-judge panel is held and in a verdict in favor of Altitude Express. The Second Court of Appeals then grants Zarda an en banc rehearing, meaning the full court will rehear the case and consider overturning outdated decisions in the circuit. The Judges of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued an en banc precedent, that discrimination based on sexual orientation constitutes “sex discrimination” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Altitude Express then files a cert. A petition with the U.S. Supreme Court. This is still pending.

Altitude Express v. Zarda is a very important case. It is especially important for the LGBTQ+ community since things like employment discrimination based on sexuality are and can be very common. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will outlaw employment discrimination, or at least employment discrimination based on sexuality. Sadly, during this case, Donald Zarda had passed away, but his sister kept the case going.

Since the making of the Constitution, American citizens have had the right to own guns, as stated in the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment states, “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” These guns were originally used to fight the British by American soldiers fighting for independence, self-defense, wars, and hunting. A large amount of the population of the U.S. thinks that this is one of the most important rights in the Constitution. A large debate has recently come up, since there have been many mass shootings. This raised the question if a type of gun control should be set in place.

As with all arguments, there are two sides, with many different and strong points. Some say that having some form of gun control will reduce the number of mass shootings, gun violence, and more. Others say gun control could take away their right to self-defense, and that guns do not kill people, people kill people. They also argue that the Second Amendment protects their right to own guns, yet people who are pro-gun control say that the Second Amendment only allows the right for the militia to own guns.

Pro-gun controls provide a solution, that being better background checks, raising the age requirement to buy a gun, banning assault weapons, and “red flag” laws. Red flag laws would allow courts more authority to confiscate a weapon who are considered a threat. For example, after the Parkland shooting, if the red flag law was passed, they could have taken the evidence of the suspect being a threat to a judge and have immediate action take place. The evidence they would have had would have been the fact that the shooter killed and injured many children. Instead, what happened was they had to go through the process of committing the shooter for a crime. According to Gun Violence Archive, since the start of 2019, there have been 14,044 murders or homicides involving guns, and only 1,401 deaths by guns for self-defense reasons. The counterargument to this is that people kill people, not guns, and that self-defense is a basic right, and owning a gun is a way to defend citizens. According to a study by AEI.org done in 2013, with more guns being sold and more people owning a gun, homicide rates including guns have gone down over the years.

Both sides have very strong arguments. This debate has yet to be resolved, and the argument revolving around gun control has become a major issue. Hopefully, shortly, we as a nation will figure this out and come to a solution as a whole. There is no need to fight, but a need for a solution that will allow both sides to be happy with the result. This is one of the most important modern issues out in the world today since it is affecting many people’s lives through gun violence.

I believe that guns should not be fully banned, just some, and there need to be better background checks. Every citizen should feel safe at home, school, work, etc. Yet this is not happening, since guns are the whole problem, making innocent people scared to go anywhere. That is why some use guns for self-defense in these situations, which is valid, but many do not. However, many are focusing on personal safety and not the safety of others. Children in school have to learn what to do if a shooter comes on their campus, which is not something that they should have to learn at all. People need to look past themselves and remember that other people are scared too. I respect those who are pro-gun, yet I just disagree with them. 

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