News Highlights: Week of December 4

Not a final ruling, but justices OK travel ban enforcement, by Mark Sherman of The Washington Post

Without explanation, the Supreme Court announced this week that they are allowing the Trump administration’s travel ban, which includes travelers from the largely Muslim countries Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, to take full effect. In the summer, the Supreme Court ruled that having a “bona-fide” relationship to someone in the U.S. (not including grandparents or cousins) could exempt a traveller from the ban, but this week they ruled that those relationships will no longer provide exemption. The ruling is not final, and lower courts are expected to challenge it in coming weeks. Critics of the ban argue it is biased against Muslims, and the announcement comes days after the president posted anti-Muslim videos on Twitter. The Supreme Court is expected to hear and decide the issue by the end of June.

Top court leaves in place Texas ruling questioning gay spousal benefits, by Andrew Chung of Reuters

The scope of legal same-sex marriage is under question in Texas. In 2013, the mayor of Houston extended municipal spousal benefits to same-sex married couples. The city was subsequently sued by a local pastor and an accountant. Initially, a state trial court ruled in their favor but then reversed their decision when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, in the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case. In June of this year, the Texas Supreme Court revived the lawsuit and ruled that the Obergefell ruling “did not hold that states must provide the same publicly funded benefits to all married persons.” The city of Houston appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, quoting the Obergefell ruling that married same-sex couples are covered by the “constellation of benefits that the states have linked to marriage.” On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal—a move that may end up limiting the scope of the Obergefell case.

Why Hari Kondabolu Had to Explain What The Problem With Apu Is to America, by Mallika Rao of Vulture

With almost three decades on the air, The Simpsons has had a significant impact on American culture. That’s why Hari Kondabolu, an Indian American comedian, created The Problem with Apu, a documentary that examines how the Simpsons character Apu is a racist caricature. In the documentary, Kondabolu learns that the character has roots in the 1960s film The Party, in which Peter Sellers plays an Indian character, complete with brown face and an exaggerated, inaccurate accent. Kondabolu also interviews well-known South Asian American performers about Apu’s impact on them, from being ridiculed as children to being typecast in their present-day careers. He says he’s disappointed in the character because it’s a hackneyed stereotype in an otherwise creative and nuanced show. He hopes that in the future, a character like Apu never makes it out of the writer’s room. Kondabolu’s take on achieving that outcome: “I hope we do have a conversation that allows us to talk about how come there aren’t more writers of color on staff.”

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