The chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, Martin Castro, condemned efforts by states including Mississippi and North Carolina to defend constitutional rights in the face of federal encroachment. In a statement
released by the Commission, Castro, who is identified as a Democrat on the Commission’s website, denounced “recent state laws passed, and proposals being considered, under the guise of so-called ‘religious liberty’ which target members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (‘LGBT’) community for discrimination.”
Castro said, “Religious freedom is an important foundation of our nation,” adding, “However, in the past, ‘religious liberty’ has been used to block racial integration and anti-discrimination laws.”
He also said, “The North Carolina and Mississippi laws, and similar legislation proposed in other states, perverts the meaning of religious liberty and perpetuates homophobia, transphobia, marginalizes the transgender and gay community and has no place in our society.”
The Mississippi and North Carolina laws, said Castro, “jeopardizes not only the dignity, but also the actual physical safety, of transgender people.”
Of the other seven members of the Commission, Gail Heriot and Peter Kirsanow strongly criticized the commission’s statement. They said, “It is not entirely clear that the statement’s signatories have actually read the relevant legislation,” adding, “Whatever it is that our commission colleagues are standing up for, it is not toleration.”
According to his webpage on the Commission’s website, Castro is president and CEO of Castro Synergies, “which provides strategic consulting services to corporations, entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations that seek to collaborate with and have a positive social impact on diverse communities.” He was appointed to the Commission by President Obama in 2011, “the first Latino Chairperson in the over half-century history of the USCCR.”
Castro is also a former national board member of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). He holds a law degree from the University of Michigan Law School.
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