Aldermen in the small town of Shannon, Miss., unjustly denied a business license to a lesbian who wanted to reopen a bar catering to the LGBT community. The SPLC filed a federal lawsuit against the town and its leaders for violating the bar owner’s equal protection and free-speech rights under the First and 14th Amendments.
Harriet Cleveland lost her job at a daycare during the height of the recession. Unable to find steady work, Harriet tried to make ends meet by babysitting the children of friends and family and renting out rooms in her home. After doing everything she could, including pawning her car, Harriet ended up facing foreclosure and declared bankruptcy. During this time she had been unable to pay years old traffic tickets. In August, while babysitting her infant grandson, the Montgomery police came and arrested Harriet at her home. The Montgomery Municipal Court ordered her to serve 31 days in jail.
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.