The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) has taken a strong dissenting opinion on the dissenting opinion of Justice Clarence Thomas, in which the justice invoked the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
Thomas, who rarely submits a dissenting opinion on Supreme Court decisions, did so last week in Obergefell v. Hodges, the same-sex marriage decision last Friday.
The 5-4 majority opinion concluded that people seeking same-sex marriage were asking for “equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
In dissent, Thomas argued that “human dignity cannot be taken away by the government. Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them. And those denied governmental benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because the government denies them those benefits. The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away."
Priscilla Ouchida, Executive Director of the Japanese American Citizens League, specifically addressed Thomas’ use of the internment in his argument.
"The Japanese American Citizens League is appalled with Justice Thomas' correlation that ties laws prohibiting same-sex marriage to the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II,” Ouchida said in a statement.
“The government's actions to incarcerate every man, woman, and child of Japanese ancestry in 1942 are contrary to the principles of individual rights and due process,” Ouchida continued. “The mass removal of Americans from their homes was tantamount to the destruction of a community, a culture, and an American system of constitutional protections. And, as suggested by Justice Kennedy in his majority opinion, dignity is inherent in notions of due process where individuals cannot be deprived of life, liberty or property. There is no dignity in inequality."
In 1994, the JACL was the first non-LGBTQ civil rights organization after the ACLU to support marriage equality.