Still smiling about marriage equality? Maine wasn't the only state to have a significant win at the ballot box last week. The ACLU worked on ballot initiatives involving not only the freedom to marry, but also medical marijuana, abortion, voter ID, the DREAM Act, and criminal justice. And we won big! Check out this interactive map detailing some of the civil liberties wins.
I love a good love story, especially a feminist love story. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston is a great love story. Alice Walker said, "There is no book more important to me than this one." The narrative moves swiftly, while at the same time compelling the reader to pause and ponder. Ideas like: "There are years that ask questions and years that answer." Followed by questions: "Did marriage end the cosmic loneliness of the unmated?"
Tonight, Maine Watch will air a program about electronic medical records. Maine hospitals and doctors are moving quickly to adopt electronic medical record systems, and many Mainers are now in a statewide health information database, HealthInfoNet. Tonight's program explores both potential benefits and risks in the rapidly changing world of health information. I went on the program to talk about consumer privacy, choice, and non-discrimination.
If I call friends in Panama from my time in the Peace Corps there, my call may be listened to by American authorities. If the ACLU of Maine calls a client in El Salvador, a man who was beaten by jail guards when he was imprisoned for immigration violations in Portland, our calls may be recorded and reviewed. When families call their loved ones serving in Afghanistan, their calls may be transcribed and circulated.
There were more people than time at last night's hearing on voting rights at the Portland Public Library. Speaker after speaker urged the Elections Commissions not to change Maine voting laws without a very good reason. So many people testified against controversial voter ID requirements that Chairman John Atwood requested an end to testimony against voter ID, looking for perspectives on other issues. Proponents of early voting and absentee voting talked about ways to make it easier, not harder, for people to vote. Kennebunk Deputy Town Clerk Merton Brown urged the Commission to reinstate
I chair the Public Records Exceptions Subcommittee of the Maine Right to Know Advisory Committee, and we met today for the second time this summer. We are charged by the legislature with the task of reviewing every single exception to Maine's Right to Know or Freedom of Access Act in statute over a ten year period. This year we are tasked with examining 91 confidentiality provisions in Maine law that keep information in the hands of various governmental agencies secret from the public.
On my way to work this morning I saw a man "flying a sign" on the median on Franklin Avenue in Portland. "Homeless," was his message, "Please help." I felt uncomfortable. It always pains me to see our neighbors who have no home and are forced to spend nights at a local shelter or even outside. My second thought was to give a silent thanks to the man for taking the time to stand in the median with a sign reminding all of the morning commuters that homelessness exists, and it is not okay. "Flying a sign" or "panhandling" are an important expressive activity protected by the First Amendment
I'm putting the finishing touches on a speech tonight that I'm giving at the Rockland Public Library at 6:30 p.m. (For details, click here and then join us!) My theme is the power of story telling to effect positive social change touching on examples from the ACLU's recent work on marriage equality, reproductive choice, immigration reform, and voting rights. I wouldn't want to give the good stuff away by sharing the whole speech ahead of time, but here are the stories that are inspiring me today.