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Know Your Voting Rights: State-by-State Voting Laws and Information | American Civil Liberties Union

Election 2012: Get Ready to Vote (by acluvideos)


The ACLU describes why it’s not a violation of your freedom of religion to enforce laws that limit discrimination- and demonstrates that it’s well established with legal precedent.

While today’s controversy centers around access to contraception and eradicating gender discrimination, the claim that the business makes in today’s case – that religious objections should trump laws designed to promote equality – is not unique. A few examples:

•    In 1966, three African-American customers brought a suit against Piggie Park restaurants, and their owner, Maurice Bessinger, for refusal to serve them. Bessinger argued that enforcement of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits that type of discrimination, violated his religious freedom “since his religious beliefs compel[ed] him to oppose any integration of the races whatever.”

•    In 1976, Roanoke Valley Christian Schools added a “head of household” supplement to their teachers’ salaries – which according to their beliefs meant married men, and not women. When sued under the Equal Pay Act, Roanoke Valley claimed a right to an exemption. According to the church pastor affiliated with the school, “[w]hen we turned to the Scriptures to determine head of household, by scriptural basis, we found that the Bible clearly teaches that the husband is the head of the house, head of the wife, head of the family.” 

•    In the 1980’s, Bob Jones University, a religiously-affiliated school in South Carolina, wanted an exemption from a rule denying tax-exempt status to schools that practice racial discrimination. The “sponsors of the University genuinely believe[d] that the Bible forbids interracial dating and marriage,” and it was school policy that students engaged in interracial relationships, or advocacy thereof, would be expelled. 

Fortunately, in all of these cases, the court rejected the claim that religious beliefs can trump anti-discrimination laws. Even in the 1960’s, the court recognized that although a business owner has a constitutional right to express his religious beliefs, he does not have an absolute right to exercise such beliefs “in utter disregard” of the rights of others. The court in today’s case should follow history and what courts have long recognized: that religion is not a license to discriminate.


Today in labor history, August 7, 1890:  Elizabeth Gurley Flynn is born.  Flynn was an organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union, and an activist for women’s rights, birth control, and women’s suffrage.  She died in 1964.


Today in labor history, August 7, 1890:  Elizabeth Gurley Flynn is born.  Flynn was an organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union, and an activist for women’s rights, birth control, and women’s suffrage.  She died in 1964.

Opponents of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, Senate Bill 1070, are using dozens of e-mails sent by Russell Pearce over the past six years to allege that the law was racially motivated and that the former senator and sponsor of the legislation fabricated data to persuade the Legislature and Gov. Jan Brewer to support it.

documentRead the e-mails from Russell Pearce

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona acquired thousands of Pearce e-mails through a public-records request and included dozens of them in a legal motion to block a portion of the law.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month in a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice that the part of the law that requires law-enforcement officers to ask about a person’s legal status in certain situations does not conflict with federal authority. Lower courts could issue a ruling on how and when that goes into effect as soon as today.

The e-mails from Pearce in the court documents include statements such as: “Can we maintain our social fabric as a nation with Spanish fighting English for dominance? … It’s like importing leper colonies and hope we don’t catch leprosy. It’s like importing thousands of Islamic jihadists and hope they adapt to the American Dream.”

They also include unsupported statistics such as “9,000 people killed every year by illegal aliens,” and “the illegal aliens in the United States have a crime rate that’s two-and-a-half times that of non-illegal aliens.”

The ACLU says this is a “ground breaking” lawsuit with potentially national implications that asserts “a child’s fundamental right to read.” The lawsuit, according to The Detroit Free Press, is grounded in guarantees by state law and the Michigan state constitution that children will either be reading at grade level or will be provided special assistance to get there.

The Supreme Court has just agreed to consider whether plaintiffs represented by the ACLU have the right to challenge the constitutionality of a controversial law that authorizes the National Security Agency to conduct dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international emails and phone calls.

At issue is an appeals court ruling that allowed the ACLU’s challenge to the law– called the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 – to move forward.

…On Friday, my colleague Nusrat Choudhury appeared before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to argue that placing our clients on the No Fly List without providing them any opportunity to confront and rebut the “evidence” against them is unconstitutional.

You can listen to the argument here. I’m always a little amazed when intelligent and collegial government lawyers stand up in court to defend the indefensible, but even by those standards, Friday’s hearing stood out. Chief Judge Alex Kozinski had a simple question for the government attorney: what would you do if you found yourself on the No Fly List? After some hemming and hawing, the attorney said that he would seek “redress” from the Department of Homeland Security – even though DHS does not place people on the No Fly list and has no authority to remove them (that’s the FBI’s job). Because, the lawyer conceded, DHS would not be able to confirm or deny whether he was on the list, he would then seek review in a federal appellate court. And what would the court be able to do?, asked Judge Kozinski. Not much, said the government lawyer. In fact, the lawyer would not even concede that a federal court possessed the authority to order someone removed from the No Fly List.

In other words, according to the United States government, the only redress that is available to a watch-listed citizen is to hope that some government bureaucrat will correct a mistake or change his mind. Judge Kozinski seemed frustrated by the government’s equivocation. “So many words,” he said during an earlier exchange. “So little meaning.”

U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro declared that Scott’s executive order to conduct random drug tests of 85,000 state employees amounted to an “unreasonable” search under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. Her decision was based on U.S. Supreme Court precedents that have cited the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches, concluding that governments cannot require job applicants to take drug tests absent a “special need,” such as safety.

Ungaro found that Scott’s order was so broadly worded that it failed to meet any drug-testing searches deemed “reasonable” by the U.S. Supreme Court because of “surpassing safety interests,” such as mandatory urine tests of railroad workers.

“In the present case, the court searches in vain for any similarly compelling need for testing,” Ungaro wrote in a 37-page decision. “The [executive order] does not identify a concrete danger that must be addressed by suspicion-less drug-testing of state employees, and the governor shows no evidence of a drug use problem at the covered agencies.”

Scott’s executive order, issued last year, required random drug testing of current state employees as well as a pre-testing of prospective job applicants in agencies under his control.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees sued the state last June, maintaining that the governor’s order was unconstitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights on Thursday filed a lawsuit against an anti-abortion “personhood” ballot measure on behalf of six Oklahoma voters.

“By their own admission, the proponents of this initiative aim to strip women and families of their established right to decide whether and when to become pregnant and carry a pregnancy to term,” said Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma. “This initiative insults Oklahoma women’s intelligence and dignity by denying access to basic health services.”

The lawsuit urges the state Supreme Court to block Oklahoma’s personhood amendment petition effort because it is allegedly unconstitutional. The amendment would grant fertilized eggs and embryos the same constitutional rights as people, thereby completely prohibiting a woman from terminating her pregnancy, even in cases of incest or rape.

The ACLU of Arizona has joined forces with the Berkeley, Calif.-based Prison Law Office – they’re the ones who’ve been litigating California prison conditions cases for years, and brought us last year’s Plata decision at SCOTUS. The two groups have filed a federal lawsuit charging that the Arizona prison system’s use of solitary confinement amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment:

In one particularly tragic case, a prisoner at the state prison complex in Tucson died last year of untreated lung cancer that spread to his liver, lymph nodes and other major organs before prison officials even bothered to send him to a hospital. The prisoner, Ferdinand Dix, filed repeated health needs requests and presented numerous symptoms associated with lung cancer. His liver was infested with tumors and swelled to four times its normal size, pressing on other internal organs and impeding his ability to eat. Prison medical staff responded by telling him to drink energy shakes. He died in February 2011, days after finally being sent to a hospital but only after his abdomen was distended to the size of that of a full-term pregnant woman. A photograph of Dix shortly before his death appears in the lawsuit.

Jackie Thomas, one of the lawsuit’s named plaintiffs who is housed in solitary confinement at the state prison complex in Eyman, has suffered significant deterioration in his physical and mental health as a result of being held in isolation, where he has become suicidal and repeatedly harmed himself in other ways. Prison staff have failed to treat his mental illness, improperly starting and stopping psychotropic medications and repeatedly using ineffective medications that carry severe side effects. Last November, Thomas overdosed on medication but did not receive any medical care.

First, a bill that gives immunity to doctors who lie to couples about the results of their prenatal tests in order to prevent them from getting an abortion. Now, a bill that would give your boss the green light to fire you for using birth control. You think I am kidding? I wish. For a decade now, Arizona insurance companies have been required to provide coverage for contraception just like other prescriptions. But, because they saw an opening to score some political points, some politicians there are suddenly moving to take that coverage away from women and their families.

SarahLee adds:

Arizona legislators know that whether or not her insurance covers it, a woman may get the prescription she needs to prevent an unintended pregnancy. They want to give her boss the right to control that too. The bill they are pushing would not only allow employers to take the insurance coverage away, but it would also make it easier for an employer who finds out that his employee uses birth control to fire her. You heard me right … to fire her.

WTF!  These guys are simply going insane with these bills.  I honest to goddess cannot understand how any woman can remain in the Republican party and face a mirror - or her daughters.

This incident follows a spate of anti-gay activity in Tennessee. The “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would ban elementary and middle schools from talking about sexual orientation, passed the state Senate last year and was approved by the House education subcommittee a few weeks ago. Last year, in his campaign to stop the formation of a gay-straight alliance at her school, one high school principal allegedly threw a straight student against a wall for wearing a T-shirt in support of the idea. State lawmakers also recently proposed a bill that would protect students who bully their gay peers, if they do so for religious reasons.

There have been two recent gay teen suicides in Tennessee that have gained public attention. In January, Phillip Parker, a gay 14-year-old, killed himself and left a handwritten note in his trash can, “Please help me mom,” after reportedly enduring mental and physical torment from peers. In December, a gay high school senior, Jacob Rogers, dropped out of school after what his friends describe as four years of bullying, and took his own life.

After Bond’s assembly, students complained to the American Civil Liberties Union, which sent a letter to Haywood County Schools Superintendent Marlon King, asking the school system to express views friendly to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and to let students know they have a constitutional right to identify as gay. The Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, launched a petition against Bond’s remarks, which garnered 5,000 signatures in four hours.

Bond resigned later that day….

I sincerely hope that everyone following me has an ACLU membership card in your wallet.

This afternoon, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced that the final rule will be published in the Federal Register early next week, meaning that it will take effect in just a little over one month from today! Needless to say, this is a tremendous step forward in efforts to stamp out discrimination against LGBT people in housing.

Of critical importance, the rule will require all organizations that operate HUD-assisted or HUD-insured housing facilities to serve LGBT Americans looking for shelter and housing—including religious organizations. As a coalition of more than 30 civil rights organizations (including the ACLU) wrote to HUD last year, once a religious organization chooses to provide housing services or programs with the aid of federal funds and benefits from HUD, it cannot shield itself from traditional safeguards that protect civil rights in the provision of those services. Those religious organizations that provide wholly private housing services will be unaffected by this new rule.  We are pleased that HUD said that all organizations must provide equal access to HUD housing programs and did not sanction the use of religion to discriminate.