ACLU of Oregon Blog

Undecided on Measure 88?

We urge you to vote YES on Measure 88 for safe roads

Oregon legislators from both sides of the aisle came together last year to pass the Driver Card law because they knew that it would make Oregon roads and communities safer. They voted “YES” despite differences in their views about immigration reform. They voted “YES” for thousands of Oregon parents, seniors, students, and workers who need to drive every day in our state. As Governor Kitzhaber said earlier this week, “Driver cards for safer roads was a good idea then – and it’s a good idea now.”

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Oregon Voter Guide 2014

Oregon Ballot Measure Recommendations 

Oregon ballots have arrived! We have taken positions on four ballot measures that will impact civil liberties and/or civil rights in Oregon. Please check out our recommendations -- and thank you for exercising your right to vote.

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A Great Day for Seven Americans Formerly on the No-Fly List

By Noa Yachot, Communications Strategist, ACLU

An extraordinarily secret government blacklist just got a little bit less secret.

Seven American citizens who were banned by the government from air travel received word yesterday evening that they are cleared to fly. For them, the notice ends a years-long struggle to find out why they were blacklisted and clear their names. As of last night, the seven can finally make plans to visit family, travel for work, and take vacations abroad.

The seven – six men and one women – had been on the government No Fly List, which prevented them from flying to, from, and over U.S. airspace. Even after they were surrounded by TSA agents at the airport and questioned by the FBI, the government refused to officially confirm that they were included on the list. They were also never provided reasons for being banned from air travel, or given a meaningful opportunity to contest the ban. In short, our clients have been locked in a fight to regain their freedoms with virtually no information.

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Voter ID Laws: What do they accomplish?

Guest blog post by Barbara Gordon-Lickey, a member of the ACLU of Oregon Education Committee.

Ruthelle was born at home in rural Wisconsin in 1927. She has been an elected member of her Village Board since 1996. But she has no accepted form of photo ID and no certified birth certificate.

Amanda used to be able to vote using her student ID card. But in South Carolina, student identification is no longer acceptable.  Adopted in Georgia, Amanda’s name is different from the name on her birth certificate.  Amanda has tried, unsuccessfully, to change the name on her birth certificate.  

José is an 83-year-old wheelchair user. He does not have a photo ID. He does not drive, and, in order to get an ID, he would need to take two or three buses to get to the closest Department of Public Safety office.

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Lolita and the Freedom to Read

In celebration of Banned Books Week (September 21 - 27, 2014), we have a guest blog post by Barbara Gordon-Lickey, member of the ACLU of Oregon Education Committee.

I was in high school when I first learned that maintaining the freedom to read requires vigilance. I wanted to read Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov. Although Lolita received much critical acclaim, it was controversial, to put it mildly, because it dealt with a sexual relationship between an adult man and a 12 year old girl. After its initial publication in France in 1955, Lolita was banned for several years in France and Great Britain, as well as several other countries. Surprisingly, it was published in the United States in 1958 without major incident, although some local libraries refused to buy it. Lolita was on the New York Times best seller list for two years and sold over 50 million copies, possibly because of its controversial subject matter. It was not an obscure piece of erotic literature.

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A Summer of Racial Tension and a Spotlight on Police Use of Force

By Executive Director David Fidanque

The death of Michael Brown followed by weeks of demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri, has highlighted that race still divides us as a nation – especially in the way our criminal laws are enforced.

For most white Americans, sitting safely in their homes watching the events in Ferguson unfold like a reality TV show, the drama was a stark reminder that each of our communities could be just one incident away from lighting a powder keg of racial tension and fear that is just under the surface.

For people of color, many of whom experience every day the disparate impact of the way that police officers are deployed and do their jobs, the death of yet another unarmed African American young man has intensified the resolve to eliminate racial profiling and other discriminatory practices in the criminal justice system.

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Constitution Day: ACLU to Award $25,000 to Schools Nationwide

By Justin M. Loveland, Outreach Intern

In 2004, Congress created Constitution Day – a day on which we can all celebrate our fundamental rights and responsibilities set forth by the U.S. Constitution. The same piece of legislation requires that all schools receiving federal funds teach something about the U.S. Constitution on September 17.

The law was spearheaded by Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), who was worried – and perhaps rightly so – that not enough Americans could list the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, recall the number of senators there are, explain the three branches of government, or decide whether the Constitution establishes the United States as a Christian nation. For the record, it does not.

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There Is No 5-Second Rule for the First Amendment, Ferguson

By Lee Rowland, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project

This piece originally ran at POLITICO.

Tear gas, rubber bullets, and assault weapons; free speech zones, gags, and press pens: This is the arsenal of the police state. Some of these tactics are physical. The other ones - all the more pernicious for their quiet coercion - impose a veil of silence over the actions of law enforcement. And each of these weapons has been unleashed on the people of Ferguson, Missouri, since the killing of Michael Brown.

In the first few nights of protest, Ferguson and St. Louis County police responded with a truly inconceivable show of force. Officers suited up in DHS-funded military hand-me-downs, outfitted with goggles, machine guns, sniper rifles, riot gear and gas masks. Distressing warzone-like images flickered into the public consciousness: photos of armed police cohorts pointing loaded automatic weapons at citizens with their hands in the air, women and children's faces streaming with tear gas and milk and white officers targeting black protesters like it's Selma circa 1964.

The message was clear: The public is the enemy.

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Happy Birthday VRA!

By Justin M. Loveland, Outreach Intern

Forty-nine years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law to prohibit racial discrimination in voting. This long-overdue Act finally outlawed the worst of the Jim Crow laws, including debilitating poll taxes, literacy tests that were vaguely worded or required obscure political knowledge, or the racist Grandfather Clause that gave voting rights to those whose ancestors voted before the Civil War – white men. While the VRA symbolized a leap toward equality, last summer the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to voting rights nationwide by striking down a coverage formula used in a key part of the Act.

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Marijuana Legalization Initiative: A Common Sense Path Forward for Oregon

By Executive Director David Fidanque

On Tuesday, two retired prosecutors argued that Oregon voters should reject the initiative designed to reform our failed approach to marijuana.

While the prosecutors acknowledge it is just a matter of time before marijuana use by adults 21 and older will be legalized, regulated and taxed in Oregon, they demand that it be done only on their terms.

Let’s step back for a minute. In the last decade, Oregon police have arrested or cited more than 95,000 people for marijuana offenses, according to the Oregon State Police. That’s like arresting or citing every single person who lives in Hillsboro. Last year, a person was arrested or cited for a marijuana offense every 41 minutes in Oregon.

It’s more than a waste of money; it’s a distraction. Police ought to focus on keeping our roads safe and stopping violent criminals, not clogging our courts and jails with people who buy pot. And people who buy marijuana ought to be taxed for it. Right now marijuana sales are feeding black market cartels that fuel violent crime.

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