By Sarah Armstrong, Outreach Coordinator
It has been quite a year on the civil liberties front lines in Oregon. We picked our top eight civil liberties victories of 2013. Not surprisingly, intersections of privacy and technology make the most appearances on our list, but we also had wins for the rights of transgender people, immigrant rights, free speech, due process, and racial justice.
We love Oregon and are working hard to ensure it remains a place that honors freedom and values the rights of all people. Join us! Support civil liberties in Oregon.
#8 - You can’t be required to “friend” your boss.
It’s hard to believe, but some employers require that folks hand over their social media passwords, allow them to “shoulder surf” their online accounts, or mandate that they “friend” them on sites like Facebook. We helped pass a law in Oregon that prohibits employers (and ) from that type of snooping.
Private activities that would never be intruded upon offline should not receive less privacy protection simply because they take place online. An employer would never be allowed to read an applicant’s diary or postal mail, listen in at private gatherings with friends, or look at that person’s private videos and photo albums. They should not expect the right to do the electronic equivalent.
#7 – No, you may not radio track Oregon students! (Well, at least not without telling us first.)
In November 2012, a Texas student was kicked out of school for failure to wear a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag that was distributed for tracking attendance. RFID tags are tiny computer chips that are more commonly used to track everything from cattle to commercial products moving through warehouses. Oregon legislators took notice and went to work on a new law to prevent this from happening here.
Though we fought for a version of the law that would have completely banned the use of RFID location tracking of students in Oregon schools, it failed to pass. But, we were successful in inserting a requirement that parents and students be notified of any use of the RFID technology and be provided an opportunity to opt-out.
So far, no school has started to use RFID, but if they do, we’ll be watching closely to ensure that students’ privacy rights are respected.
#6 - Even if the government doesn't like what you have to say, free expression is protected.
We represented local conservation group, Oregon Wild, in a suit against the Port of Portland, a.k.a. PDX Airport, after the Port refused to run an ad from the group that the airport deemed too controversial or political. (The ad highlighted clear-cutting practices in Oregon – see it here.) We argued that this was exactly the type of content-based restriction our constitutional free speech protections are designed to prevent – and a judge agreed.
#5 - Transgender rights victory! Surgery requirement is repealed.
Previously, Oregon law required *surgery* in order to update a birth certificate gender marker, even for those who did not need or want it, or were unable to access surgery for financial, medical, or other reasons. As of January 1, 2014 – that will no longer be the case in Oregon.
The ability to obtain correct gender markers on their birth certificates is a right that many take for granted. People often have to show their birth certificates in a variety of situations, from enrolling in school or the military to starting a new job or applying for another form of identification like a driver's license or passport. Lacking access to accurate birth certificates has stigmatized transgender Oregonians and put them at serious risk of harassment and discrimination.
#4 - Combating Oregon’s School-to-Prison-Pipeline, Fair School Discipline law passes.
We crunched the numbers on school discipline and again found that students of color in Oregon are more frequently and more seriously punished than their white peers in school. This continued trend leads to a greater likelihood of students failing to graduate from high school and engagement in the criminal justice system. Students are funneled into the STPP primarily by a zero-tolerance approach to discipline, characterized by inflexible and excessive use of suspensions and expulsions by schools.
The Fair School Discipline law makes positive changes to school discipline policies. It limits the use of expulsions and requires schools to lay out a clear system of consequences for misbehavior.
#3 - ALL Oregon students are now eligible for in-state tuition.
After more than a decade of work by immigrant rights advocates, tuition equity is a reality in Oregon! All students who attend high school in Oregon, regardless of citizenship status, are now eligible for in-state tuition at Oregon colleges or universities.
Affordable college education is an issue of fundamental fairness. Undocumented students who will benefit from the law are, by and large, talented high achievers who arrived in Oregon as children, grew up in Oregon, and persevered against the odds to graduate from high school and secure admission to an Oregon college or university.
#2 - Drone Surveillance? Get a warrant!
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s … a creepy police drone?!?! Law enforcement agencies across the country are using drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, equipped with live video and/or heat-sensing technology. Thanks to legislation we helped to pass in Oregon, they’ll need to ask a judge and get a warrant before surveilling us from the sky.
#1 - You have the right to a jury trial and the right to an attorney, even if the charges against you are “downgraded.”
Picture it: it’s 2011 and you’re an Occupy Portland protestor. You (and 49 others) are arrested, handcuffed, and booked into jail on criminal charges. If the police had instead issued you a citation (as is the case for a lesser offense) you couldn’t have been arrested, handcuffed, and booked – and you wouldn’t have the right to a jury trial or the right to have an attorney appointed to you if could not afford one.
So, what happens if your charges are later downgraded to a citation by the prosecutor? We argued two cases (State v Fuller and State v Benoit) in front of the Oregon Supreme Court about that very question. And the court agreed with us – prosecutors can’t deny the right to an attorney or the right to a jury trial, by downgrading charges after-the-fact.
We need your support to keep fighting for freedom in 2014! Make a gift to the ACLU of Oregon.