Each Friday, we’ll bring you updates on the latest civil liberties news from Maine and the nation.

Victory! Arizona Governor Vetoes Discriminatory Law

The nation turned its focus on Arizona this week, as a so-called “religious freedom” bill that passed in the House and Senate last week made its way to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. Big businesses, including Apple, Intel, American Airlines, U.S. Airways, AT&T, urged Brewer to veto the measure, which would have allowed businesses to refuse service to any person based on the owner’s religious beliefs. The Arizona bill reminds us of a similar bill that was defeated here in Maine just this month. While the ACLU is committed to protecting religious freedom, these bills go far beyond existing federal and state laws that already provide necessary safeguards for the free exercise of religion.  

The ACLU applauds Governor Brewer’s decision to veto this controversial law.

“We strongly support the right of every person to exercise their religious beliefs, but religious freedom doesn’t give any of us the right to harm others,” said Eunice Rho, advocacy and policy counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union. “The massive public opposition to this, as well as several other failed bills across the country, shows that Americans of all political persuasions and religions feel the same way.” 

See the ACLU of Arizona fact sheet on SB 1062

Check out the other “religious freedom” bills that failed last week.

Marijuana Decriminalization Bills on Maryland’s Legislators’ Agenda

Maryland, a state with one of the highest rates of marijuana arrests, began a wave of marijuana legislation hearings this month. Proponents of the decriminalization bills argue that the consequences of prohibiting marijuana include barriers to employment and education, as well as increased racial disparities. In a report released by the ACLU in October of last year, African Americans were arrested for possession at higher rates than whites in every county in Maryland.

In a statement released in January, Sara Love, public policy director for the ACLU of Maryland defends the Marijuana Control Act of 2014. "Maryland spends too much time, energy, and money arresting people for marijuana possession - and it is disproportionately black Marylanders who are arrested, despite equal use rates among whites and blacks. The status quo is unacceptable, and thankfully a majority of voters agree." 

Other states that have introduced bills to open up laws prohibiting the possession of marijuana in the past few weeks include Tennessee, New Hampshire, West Virginia, Alabama, and Georgia. Read more about the movement to legalize marijuana here.

Civil Rights Act Film Festival at the Portland Public Library

 In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, the ACLU of Maine, NAACP-Portland, and the Portland Public Library will be screening four classic films of the 1960s. Here’s the lineup! 

2/27 6:30 In the Heat of the Night

2/28 6:30 A Raisin in the Sun

3/1 2:00 Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

3/1 5:00 To Kill a Mockingbird

All screenings free and open to the public.

Meet Our Newest Addition to the ACLU of Maine Family, Penny