Manzanar Committee Denounces Remarks By U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas In Dissenting Opinion On Same Sex Marriage

LOS ANGELES — On June 26, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Obergefell, et al. v. Hodges, Director, Ohio Department of Health, et al., that laws restricting marriage to a union between a man and a woman, as well as laws preventing states from recognizing same sex marriages performed in other states, are unconstitutional.

The Court ruled that such laws violate the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, which dictates that “…No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

In his dissenting opinion, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, wrote, in part:

“…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.”

Justice Thomas was obviously referring to the American concentration camps in which over 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were unjustly incarcerated during World War II at the hands of the United States Government.

“There is no doubt that oppressed people throughout history have managed to maintain their dignity,” said Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey. “Our families managed to remain dignified and proud despite being subjected to the humiliation and violence while forcibly removed from their homes and communities at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt after the outbreak of World War II.”

Despite that, Embrey denounced Justice Thomas’ remarks.

“It is a dangerous and troubling sign that a United States Supreme Court Justice apparently believes that because people can maintain their dignity despite horrific oppression, incarceration or deprivation of civil rights, they do not need equal protection under the law,” said Embrey. “Following his logic, it appears that if Justice Thomas had been a member of Congress during the struggle for redress and reparations, he would he have held that the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 was not necessary since the Japanese American people maintained their dignity.”

“It is simply astounding that Justice Thomas apparently has no understanding of our history, and of the relationship between our government and the people,” added Embrey. “Our government took away our community’s liberty, civil and human rights, and facilitated the economic and social devastation of the Japanese American community.”

“The efforts of many in government, and in broader society, to humiliate and profit from our community’s plight were unjust and undignified. This is precisely why it was necessary to demand the U.S. Government recognize the forced removal was unconstitutional and redress it legally.”

Embrey went on to hail the majority ruling by the Court.

“Thankfully, the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court clearly sees the importance of ensuring LGBT people will no longer be denied the same rights we all enjoy,” Embrey stressed. “Marriage equality is a right for all people.”

The Manzanar Committee is dedicated to educating and raising public awareness about the incarceration and violation of civil rights of persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II and to the continuing struggle of all peoples when Constitutional rights are in danger. A non-profit organization that has sponsored the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage since 1969, along with other educational programs, the Manzanar Committee has also played a key role in the establishment and continued development of the Manzanar National Historic Site. For more information, check out our web site at, call us at (323) 662-5102, and e-mail us at You can also follow the Manzanar Commitee on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube.

Creative Commons License The Manzanar Committee’s Official web sit is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. You may copy, distribute and/or transmit any story or audio content published on this site under the terms of this license, but only if proper attribution is indicated. The full name of the author and a link back to the original article on this site are required. Photographs, graphic images, and other content not specified are subject to additional restrictions. Additional information is available at: Manzanar Committee Official web site – Licensing and Copyright Information.

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3 thoughts on “Manzanar Committee Denounces Remarks By U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas In Dissenting Opinion On Same Sex Marriage

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  1. Justice Clarence Thomas was not a slave and couldn’t possibly know whether or not they lost dignity as a result of enslavement. I’m sure that ANY person who was once free to live life as he so desires would lose dignity by being enslaved. It must have been doubly true for American citizens such as the Nisei confined to a concentration camp. Too bad we can’t ask Joe Kurihara

    Floyd SHIRK

  2. Well said, Manzanar Committee! But it is, indeed, troubling that a Supreme Court justice made these remarks.

  3. Fantastic letter. Rational. Clear. On point. Justice Thomas… are you serious? Come on now… our country deserves more than that. Must have been a pubic hair in your coffee that jostled the thinking.

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