Update: Read this fascinating piece on why the history of lynching matters in Maine.
On Sunday night, in his acceptance speech for Best Original Song ("Glory," from the film Selma), well-known recording artist John Legend reminded us all that the struggle for justice is not over. In his speech he said:

The Academy Awards and civil liberties don’t always go hand in hand, but at last night’s ceremony there were a few surprising moments of synergy between Hollywood and the issues we deal with every day at the ACLU.

First, with the awards themselves, the winner of “Best Documentary Feature” was CITIZENFOUR, a behind-the-scenes account of Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing and the events that followed his decision to reveal the extent of American surveillance tactics. We’ve screened this film here in Maine and are delighted that it has earned an Academy Award.


A trial began yesterday for a lawsuit that challenges Alaska’s regulations that restrict abortions for low-income women. The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Susan Orlansky, an Anchorage attorney, on behalf of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest.


Update (2/19/2015): Check out this great editorial from the Bangor Daily News on Maine's debtors' prisons. From the editorial:

"...the state needs to re-examine why so many people are in jail to start with and what we hope to accomplish by keeping them there. We’ll likely find that many of them don’t need to be behind bars."


Yesterday, I had my first public hearing of the session, fittingly on a First Amendment issue. And, because the bill creates a new crime, I found myself in front of the Criminal Justice committee - which may turn out to be my home away from home for the next few months. The bill, LD 43, was modeled after the federal Stolen Valor Act of 2013 and would create a new class E crime for false claims of military service.


On Monday, Rep. Joyce “Jay” McCreight, a new representative from Harpswell, introduced the bill LD 319: An Act to Strengthen the Economic Stability of Qualified Maine Citizens by Expanding Coverage of Reproductive Health Care and Family Services. The bill title is long, but the goal of the bill is simple.


This morning, I re-watched a Democracy Now segment featuring Canadian doctor and addiction specialist Gabor Mate. In the segment, Amy Goodman asked Dr. Mate about his thoughts on the use of the criminal justice system to address drug addiction. He responded:


Every fall, the ACLU of Maine hosts three regional student conferences that bring together students from across the state to learn about the civil rights and civil liberties that matter most to young people. Not every school is able to attend those conferences, however, whether because of scheduling conflicts or just sheer travel distance. So to make sure that no schools are left out, we hit the road every year during the spring semester to take our presentations into classrooms in every corner of Maine.


On Monday, President Obama rolled out his plan for the next year’s federal budget. The budget plan includes two specific gains in the area of women’s reproductive health care.


Nothing is better than spending a frigid, snowy weekend inside reading a really good book. I spent this particularly cold weekend reading Just Mercy, a memoir by Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative.


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