Portland's ban on standing or sitting or loitering in any way on any of the median strips in the city goes into effect today. If you stand in a median strip holding a political sign (even one opposing the median strip ban), you will be breaking the law. Also, if you stop to smell the flowers on the median strip on Congress Street in front of City Hall. There is a lovely bench on the grassy median strip on Fore Street near the Custom House that was, according to a small plaque, placed there in memory of Gene and Madelyn Cohen.
As my summer with the ACLU of Maine comes to a close, it hardly seems like any time has passed at all. I have been so very fortunate to have had this opportunity to work on such important issues with such a great group of people. As someone who has never really had the chance to be in on the ground floor of policy reform, this was an incredible and eye-opening experience! I am very proud of what little contributions I have been able make.
We went into the 126th Legislature with a plan: to bring Maine's privacy laws up to speed with advancing technology. To that end, we proposed a 5-bill privacy package with bipartisan sponsorship. And while it was an uphill battle the whole way, we were successful in winning privacy protections and standing up for the 4th Amendment!
Along with securing wins on three important privacy laws, this session we also worked to:
Yesterday, we saw an unprecedented move towards criminal justice reform nationwide. In his address at the 2013 annual meeting of the American Bar Association, United States Attorney General Eric Holder called for “significant actions to recalibrate America's federal criminal justice system", asserting that mass incarceration “at the federal, state and local level is both ineffective and unsustainable.” The transcript of his speech can be found here. Some of the highlights include:
Recently, a school in Wood County, West Virginia agreed to abolish for two years its single-sex education practice in which boys and girls were segregated to separate classrooms. This was after legal action was levied by the ACLU on behalf of a Wood County family who believed the program was sexist. This recent occurrence brings an interesting and little discussed topic to light: single-sex education.
Today, a federal judge ruled that the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices are unconstitutional. The ACLU’s affiliate in New York has been on top of this issue for years, and the data they’ve compiled clearly shows that this is not just a minor problem.
There are not many other issues that raise the hackles of perfectly polite, open-minded Americans like the ongoing debate on Abortion Access in the United States. It seems as though it has become a discussion centralized on morals, religious practices and the polarized mentalities of the different regions of this nation. But what we polite, open-minded folk often forget is that the core of this dispute, as it pertains to the national stage, is really about freedom.
The federal government classifies marijuana as a "Schedule 1" narcotic--high potential for abuse; no currently accepted medical use; and dangerous--and for decades the government has asserted that there is sound scientific basis for this classification. It is not true.
According to a report from today's New York Times, the National Security Agency is collecting and monitoring virtually all text-based electronic communication into and out of the United States. This means every e-mail and text message is intercepted, copied, systematically searched, and retained by the government--without a warrant. It is precisely this type of government intrusion that the 4th Amendment is designed to protect us from.