ACLU of Oregon Blog

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.  

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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.

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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.

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The Enduring Legacy of the 1969 Stonewall Riots

By Stuart Kaplan, Board Member

The LGBT community has made tremendous strides toward greater societal inclusion and equality in the last dozen or so years. Most recently, the freedom to marry has spread in the states with almost dizzying speed as state constitutional bans against marriage equality get struck down in the courts. Against this backdrop of significant progress it is helpful to remind ourselves of historical events that now stand out as key milestones. One of those seminal events is the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City.

The site of the riots was the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, which was a popular gathering place for sexual minorities. Even though Greenwich Village was considered to be an area that was especially tolerant and open to sexual minorities, New York City police often raided bars that were thought to be friendly to a gay clientele. Police raids were a frequent occurrence at the Stonewall Inn causing the patrons to become increasingly frustrated and angry about their treatment. The raid on June 28, 1969 was seen as the last straw and it touched off numerous spontaneous and sometimes violent demonstrations on the street outside the bar against repressive police tactics. With the 45th anniversary of Stonewall occurring this June what is notable about its place in the history of the LGBT rights movement?

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Botched Execution in Oklahoma – Could Have Happened in Oregon

By Becky Straus, Legislative Director

In what witnesses and media outlets have reported as painfully botched, the failed execution in Oklahoma this week serves as a chilling reminder of the broken machinery of the death penalty in the United States. What happened in Oklahoma this week had the potential to happen in Oregon, were it not for Governor Kitzhaber’s decision in November of 2011 that no death sentence would be carried out in Oregon on his watch.

That’s because Oregon’s laws and regulations allow for a similar “three-drug cocktail” to the one that brought such gruesome results in Oklahoma. And Oregon’s guidelines raise the same kinds of unanswered questions around what specific lethal substances will be injected into the human being to be executed, where the drugs are coming from, if they’ve been tested, and the medical credentials of the person who administers the drugs. Oregon’s vague laws provide no guidance for monitoring the effects on the individual as the drugs are administered, nor do they outline contingency plans should anything go wrong.

Unfortunately the situation in Oklahoma this week was just another in a long list of botched executions that continue to be tolerated in this country. 

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Marriage Matters to Us

By Chris Tanner, Plaintiff

Ten years ago in March, Lisa and I were first in line when Multnomah County issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples. We married immediately in our church, with our ministers, blessed with the presence of friends.

Ten years ago in November, voters approved Measure 36, an amendment to our state constitution denying the freedom to marry to Oregon's same-sex couples. Shortly thereafter, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled our marriage invalid.

Lisa and I took down the framed marriage license from our wall. 

Much has changed over the last decade. A majority of Americans now support the freedom to marry, including 55% of Oregon voters. In 17 states and D.C., all loving couples can marry and Oregon now recognizes those out of state marriages. But, I still cannot legally marry Lisa in the state we call home.

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