An Alabama law gave tax breaks to families transferring their children to successful schools, discriminating against impoverished students in the state’s Black Belt region who were trapped in failing schools. The SPLC asked a federal court to permanently block the Alabama Accountability Act, saying the law violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause because it impermissibly created two classes of students assigned to failing schools – those who can escape them because of their parents’ income or where they live and those who cannot.
Prisoners at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Meridian endured filthy and dangerous conditions at the for-profit prison, which operated “in a perpetual state of crisis” where prisoners were at “grave risk of death and loss of limbs,” even resorting to setting fires to receive medical attention. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the prisoners that described how prison officials had known of these conditions for years but failed to protect prisoners.
M.C. was born with an intersex condition – a difference in reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the typical definition of male or female. When M.C. was just 16 months old and in the care of the South Carolina Department of Social Services, doctors and department officials decided the child should undergo sex assignment surgery to make M.C. a girl. There was no medical reason to perform this surgery, which robbed M.C. of the opportunity to decide what should happen to his body. The SPLC filed a lawsuit on behalf of M.C.’s adoptive parents.
When Alabama legislators revised the state’s anti-immigrant law in 2012, they passed a law requiring the state to maintain an online list of immigrants who are detained by law enforcement, who appear in court for any violation of state law, and who unable to prove they are not “unlawfully present aliens.” It provided no means for people to be removed from this “black list” if the listing is an error or if their immigration status changes. The Southern Poverty Law Center and its allies filed a federal lawsuit to stop this state-sanctioned “blacklisting” of immigrants, which could encourage harassment and violence.
Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) fraudulently claimed to provide services that “convert” people from gay to straight. These services, known as conversion therapy, have been discredited or highly criticized by all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations. Conversion therapy also promotes the idea that gay men and lesbians choose their sexual orientation, an incorrect notion that encourages a climate of anti-gay bigotry. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against JONAH, a New Jersey-based conversion therapy organization, for fraudulent business practices.
In the spring of 2009, the U.S. Secretary of Labor suspended regulations for the H-2A guestworker program that would have slashed wages for guestworkers and U.S. workers alike. A federal court blocked the secretary’s suspension on the day it was to go into effect after a group of guestworker employers filed suit. The Southern Poverty Law Center intervened in the case on behalf of U.S. farmworkers and H-2A guestworkers to seek to recover the higher wages they would have earned under the suspension.
After Alabama’s anti-immigrant law took effect, the U.S. Department of Justice obtained public school attendance records and found a decline in Latino student attendance. The Southern Poverty Law Center requested the same data to determine the law’s impact on Latino students’ access to a public education. The SPLC filed a lawsuit against the Alabama Department of Education after being denied the public records.
Brian Edwards and Tom Privitere were shocked to discover that an anti-gay hate group took their engagement photo and used it in political mailers to attack a Colorado lawmaker in 2012 for supporting same-sex civil unions. The SPLC and its allies filed a federal lawsuit against the group, Public Advocate of the United States, for misappropriating the likeness and personalities of the couple. It also charged that the group infringed on the photographer’s exclusive right to the photo.
Vermilion Parish (La.) Sheriff Michael Couvillon refused to turn over public records related to the detention of individuals suspected of being undocumented. The SPLC requested the records under the Louisiana Public Records Act to determine if the sheriff’s office was holding immigrants in jail for prolonged periods of time due to unconstitutional racial profiling.
Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish Public School System failed to provide adequate translation and interpretation services for Spanish-speaking parents with limited English proficiency and created an environment hostile to Latino students. The school system provided school notices in English to English-speaking parents but failed to provide this information to Spanish-speaking parents in Spanish – discriminating against these students and violating state and federal law. The SPLC filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice, resulting in a settlement agreement between the school system and federal authorities.