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Cyrus Dugger

Hypocrites of the Civil Rights Rollback

There is an increasingly strong movement moving forward to rollback our hard won civil rights. A new book, Awakening From The Dream: Civil Rights Under Siege and the New Struggle for Equal Justice, chronicles this campaign.

However, the recent Foley scandal highlights a trend of hypocrisy by tort "reformers" which we have begun discussing here on Tort Deform.

This letter to the editor of the Washington Post says it all:

While attempting to explain his inexplicable behavior, former Rep. Mark Foley cited a disability: alcoholism. This is interesting because limiting rights for those with disabilities was a legislative passion of Mr. Foley's -- along with opposing gay rights and protecting young people from sexual predators.

Foley was the force behind the ADA Notification Act, an ill-advised bill that would have significantly curtailed the opportunities of more than 54 million disabled Americans to pursue justice if their civil rights were violated.

Had Mr. Foley gotten his way, people facing discrimination from businesses in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act would have been denied the right to sue unless they gave the offender 90 days' written notice to correct a problem. For a wheelchair user turned away from a noncompliant restaurant, the Foley bill would mean three more months of separate and unequal treatment. For a business discriminating against people with disabilities, it would provide a license to continue doing so, with a 90-day grace period should they be challenged.

Mr. Foley has left Capitol Hill. Hopefully this proposal has, too.

Brewster Thackery

Arlington

The writer is an advocate for the disabled and was vice president of the National Organization on Disability from 2001 to 2004.

I would also note that Foley received an "F" on the Drum Major Institute's Congressional Scorecard. Pointedly, he also supported and helped pass the ironically titled Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, which makes it harder for debtors to get a fresh start after financial problems.

Given that he hopes to one day be given a fresh start in the arena of public opinion, his support for this bill is ironic.

If you or your organization is interested in learning more about or working on these types of civil justice issues, please feel free to contact me at cdugger@drummajorinstitute.org.

Cyrus Dugger
Senior Fellow in Civil Justice
Drum Major Institute for Public Policy

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Posted at 12:02 PM, Oct 12, 2006 in Civil Rights
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