Peter Montgomery

Peter Montgomery is a Washington, D.C., writer. He is a senior fellow at People For the American Way, where he contributes to PFAW's Right Wing Watch blog, and an associate editor at Religion Dispatches. Follow him on Twitter: @petemont

Recent Articles

The Religious Right Moves to Cement Political Power Under President Trump

Conservative evangelicals have seen more victories in a Trump administration than they probably would have under any other Republican.

AP Photo/Steve Helber
AP Photo/Steve Helber President Donald Trump, left, greets Liberty University president, Jerry Falwell Jr., right, during of commencement ceremonies at the school in Lynchburg, Virginia. A mid the stream of outrage about President Donald Trump that dominates my Facebook feed, one friend desperately sought a silver lining: “Well, at least we don’t have the theocrat Pence as President.” It reminded me that I, like some of my LGBTQ friends, thought during the Republican primary that we would prefer Trump to someone like Ted Cruz, whose unshakeable religious-right ideology and matching policy agenda was clear. We were wrong. My Facebook friend is wrong. Not only is Trump a reckless and divisive president who shows contempt for anyone who crosses him and who has energized a white nationalist movement that could wreak havoc on American political and social culture for a long time to come—he’s also the best thing that’s ever happened to the religious right. To be fair, there was a logical...

Supreme Court: Defendant’s Race Cannot Inform Sentencing

In October, we covered Buck v. Davis, a death penalty case that was being argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. On Wednesday, February 22, the Court ruled in favor of convicted murderer and condemned prisoner Duane Buck and sent his case back to the appeals court. Procedurally, the case was a complicated mess, but it was ultimately about keeping racial bias from contributing to a man’s execution. As we noted at the time:

In the broadest sense, the moral and societal question facing the Court is whether in America a man may be sentenced to death based on evidence that is unconstitutionally tainted by racial stereotyping. But the actual technical and legal question before the Supreme Court is whether the Fifth Circuit erred in upholding a lower court’s refusal to grant Duane Buck the right to appeal a district court’s finding that his case is not sufficiently “extraordinary” for a federal court to intervene.

A 6-2 majority of the Court ruled that the Fifth Circuit was wrong to deny Buck the certificate required to make this appeal. The majority opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts ruled that Buck’s counsel was ineffective, noting that that the jury in his sentencing phase had been told by the expert called by Buck’s own lawyer that “that the color of Buck’s skin made him more deserving of execution.”

Buck’s attorneys praised the ruling. “Today, the Supreme Court made clear that there is no place for racial bias in the American criminal justice system,” said Christina Swarns, litigation director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “By acknowledging that Mr. Buck’s trial counsel’s injection of racially biased evidence into the capital sentencing proceedings was unconstitutional, the Court has reaffirmed the longstanding principle that criminal punishments—particularly the death penalty—cannot be based on immutable characteristics such as race.”

Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, joined by Justice Samuel Alito. Thomas wrote that the majority opinion “bulldozes procedural obstacles and misapplies settled law” to achieve a desired outcome. Thomas argued that the testimony presented in Buck’s sentencing that being black made him more violence prone was not prejudicial. 

High Court Hears Case Challenging Discriminatory Testimony

A case now being argued before the Supreme Court challenges the constitutionality of supposedly “expert” testimony claiming that race can determine a criminal’s danger to society.

(Photo: Flickr/Brittany Hogan)
(Photo: Flickr/Brittany Hogan) D uane Buck’s life was on the line in May 1997, when a Texas jury considering whether to sentence him to death on murder charges heard “expert” testimony that Buck was more likely to pose a continuing threat to society because he is black. Nearly 20 years later, Buck’s life is still on the line, as the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on Wednesday in a case challenging the constitutionality of such racial stereotyping. To the growing number of Americans protesting racial disparities in the criminal justice system, the fact that such a question could even come before the high court demonstrates an arguably stunning double standard. Buck’s murder conviction is not being contested—only the fairness of the sentencing trial that Texas law requires before the state can impose the death penalty. In the words of Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the case is about whether the state may take an...

One Year After Marriage Equality, Progress and Peril for LGBT Americans

The one-year anniversary of marriage equality in the U.S. comes at a watershed moment for LGBT organizers, who are launching new initiatives and forging fresh alliances amid a conservative backlash.

(Photo: AP/David Goldman)
(Photo: AP/David Goldman) People hold candles during a June 13 vigil in Orlando for those killed in mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub. J une was a momentous month for LGBT Americans, as the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s historic marriage equality ruling collided with a gun massacre at an Orlando gay nightclub, turning Pride celebrations into vigils for the 49 mostly Latino victims. We noted last year that the LGBT movement’s big push after marriage equality would be to win more legal protections against discrimination. Even before the Orlando shooting, this year had witnessed an energetic right-wing pushback against those efforts, as well as continued pockets of resistance to the marriage ruling itself. The post-marriage-equality backlash is the latest manifestation of a longer-term struggle that well predates the high court’s landmark Obergefell v. Hodges ruling on June 26 of last year. For decades, social conservatives have resisted every step toward cultural...

It Didn't Start with Stonewall

A new history deepens our understanding of the origins of the gay rights movement and the transformation it has brought about.

AP Photo/John F. Urwiller
AP Images A demonstration in front of Philadelphia's Independence Hall in support of homosexual rights, July 4, 1967. This article appears in the Winter 2016 issue of The American Prospect magazine . Subscribe here . The Gay Revolution: The Story of a Struggle By Lillian Faderman Simon & Schuster L illian Faderman’s The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle begins with the late-1940s story of E.K. Johnston, a beloved professor at the University of Missouri who was considered a likely candidate to take over as college president. But everything changed when his name came up in the kind of police interrogation common in the day: one homosexual bullied into giving names, and those people intimidated into giving more names. On no other evidence, Johnston was arrested, smeared in the media, fired from the university, and threatened with jail. Hoping for mercy, he pleaded guilty, and received a fine and a sentence of four years’ probation. A condition of his probation: “cessation of...

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