December 20, 1893: Georgia became the first state in the Union to pass a law against lynching, making the act punishable by four years in prison. The statute was not particularly effective. 38 years later, on December 20, 1921, on the federal level, southern Democrats defeated the Dyer Anti-Lynching bill. Although outnumbered in the House by more than two to one, Democrats under the leadership of Tennessee Representative Garrett filibustered so successfully against consideration of the Dyer Anti-Lynching bill, that Rep Mondell, the Republican floor leader, was forced to capitulate and agree that the bill should not come up until after the Christmas holidays.
1964 Harlem Riot
December 20, 1964: a jury found William Epton, the leader of the Harlem Progressive Labor Movement, guilty of conspiring to riot, of advocating the overthrow of the New York State government, and of conspiring to overthrow it.
December 20, 1986: in Howard Beach, Queens white teens chased Michael Griffith, an African-American youth, onto a freeway where a motorist hit him. Griffith died from his injuries setting off a wave of protests and racial tensions in New York.
On December 22, 1986, police made arrested three local teenagers: Jon Lester, Scott Kern and Jason Ladone. On December 27 1,200 demonstrators marched through the streets of Howard Beach. A jury later convicted Lester, Kern and Ladone of second-degree manslaughter. Ultimately nine people would be convicted on a variety of charges related to Grffith's death of Griffith. Jason Ladone served 10 year and was freed in April 2000 at age 29. In May 2001, Jon Lester was released and deported to his native England. Scott Kern was released in 2002.
December 20, 1951: EBR-I (Experimental Breeder Reactor-I) became the first reactor to generate usable amounts of electricity from nuclear energy by lighting four light bulbs at the National Reactor Testing Station of Argonne National Laboratory, Butte County, Idaho.
(see December 20 Music for full blog) December 20, 1957: while spending the Christmas holidays at Graceland, his newly purchased Tennessee mansion, rock-and-roll star Elvis Presley received his draft notice for the United States Army. December 20, 1968, The Beatles sent out their Beatles 1968 Christmas Record. December 20 – 26, 1969: “Leaving on a Jet Plane” by Peter, Paul, and Mary #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
December 20, 1960: North Vietnam announced the formation of the National Front for the Liberation of the South. More commonly known as the National Liberation Front (NLF), organizers intended to replicate the success of the Viet Minh, the umbrella nationalist organization that successfully liberated Vietnam from French colonial rule.
The Cold War
December 20, 1963: more than two years after East Germany constructed the Berlin Wall to prevent its citizens from fleeing its communist regime, nearly 4,000 West Berliners were allowed to cross into East Berlin to visit relatives. Under an agreement reached between East and West Berlin, over 170,000 West Berlin citizens received passes. Each pass allowed a one-day visit.
December 20, 1984: in People v. Liberta, the New York State Court of Appeals decided that there was no basis for distinguishing between marital rape and non-marital rape. The court noted that "a marriage license should not be viewed as a license to forcibly rape [the defendant's] wife with impunity" and struck the marital exemption from the statue in question for violation of the state and federal Constitution.
December 20, 1999: the Vermont Supreme Court ruled in Baker v. State of Vermont that same-sex couples must be treated equally to different-sex married couples. The Vermont legislature responded by establishing civil union, a separate legal status that affords couples some, but not all, of the protections that come with marriage - falling short of the constitutional command of equality, but far more than gay couples had before. The law went into effect on July 1, 2000. December 20, 2013: U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby struck down Utah's ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional handing a major victory to gay rights activists in a conservative state where the Mormon Church wields considerable influence. Shelby, in a lawsuit brought by three gay couples, found that an amendment to the Utah Constitution defining marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman violated the rights of gay couples to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution. "The state's current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in doing so, demean the dignity of these same sex couples for no rational reason. Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional," Shelby said.
Religion and Public Education
December 20, 2005: in Kitzmiller v. Dover, a US District Court ruled that a Pennsylvania school district’s "intelligent design policy" violated the First Amendment. The policy required district teachers to inform students of the "gaps/problems in Darwin's Theory," and they are required to introduce "other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design." (see NYT article)
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