ABA supports equality in federal programs and voting rights for Guam

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The American Bar Association has added its voice in support of equality for residents of U.S. territories when it comes to participation in federal programs and the right to vote.

This support comes through two resolutions introduced by the Virgin Islands Bar Association that were overwhelmingly adopted by the full ABA House of Delegates at this year’s virtual Annual Meeting. Anthony Ciolli, past President and delegate of the Virgin Islands Bar Association, spoke in favor of both resolutions to the ABA House of Delegates and helped shepherd their passage.

“The ABA’s support of equal rights in U.S. territories highlights how long-neglected issues facing residents of U.S. territories have become more mainstream throughout the United States,” said Neil Weare, President and Founder of Equally American, which advocates for equality and civil rights for the 4 million Americans living in U.S. territories. “I appreciate the leadership of the Virgin Islands Bar association and Anthony Ciolli in raising these concerns to the highest level of the legal profession,” Weare added.

Hours before yesterday’s landmark decision in Pena Martinez v. US Department of Health and Human Services, the ABA House of Delegates approved Resolution 10B supporting the equal application of federal benefits to residents of U.S. territories. The full language of the resolution is as follows:

Resolution 10B

RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association supports an interpretation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution which guarantees that all persons residing in a territory of the United States who are otherwise eligible to receive federal benefits shall receive them without regard to residence, including but not limited to, Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383(f); and

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association supports the passage of the Supplemental Security Income Equality Act (H.R. 947) and other legislative efforts to extend SSI benefits to all eligible persons in the fifty states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Earlier today, the ABA House of Delegates approved Resolution 10C supporting the expansion of voting rights in U.S. territories. The resolution reflects arguments raised by Equally American in Segovia v. United States, filed on behalf of residents of Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. The full language of the resolution is as follows:

Resolution 10C

RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association opposes, as violative of the Equal Protection Clause, the provisions of the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), which permit former residents of a state who have moved to American Samoa or the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands to continue to vote in national elections in that state, while denying those same rights to those who have moved from a state to the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam.

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