Each Friday, we’ll bring you updates on the latest civil liberties news from Maine and the nation.
Wisconsin Throws Out Voter ID Law
Victory! On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman struck down Wisconsin's voter ID law, stating that it was discriminatory toward poor and minority voters. The law, which was passed in 2011, required voters without ID to overcome large obstacles to obtain a photo ID to be able to vote.
“We hope and expect that this decision will be a bellwether in those other states,” said Dale Ho, director of the Voting Rights Project at the ACLU. “I really do think the tide has turned in the legal fight.”
Currently, 31 states require voters to show some form of ID at the polls, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Read more about how the fight against voter ID law is playing out in other states here.
Tennessee’s New Bill To Criminalize Women Who Use Drugs During Pregnancy
Disappointingly, on Tuesday Tennessee’s governor Bill Haslam signed into law legislation to charge women who use narcotics while pregnant with misdemeanor assault.
The American Civil Liberties Union called the law dangerous and said Haslam overlooked widespread calls for a veto of the bill.
Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney with the ACLU Freedom Project, said in a statement issued Tuesday: "Today, the Tennessee governor has made it a crime to carry a pregnancy to term if you struggle with addiction or substance abuse. This deeply misguided law will force those women who need health care the most into the shadows. Pregnant women with addictions need better access to health care, not jail time."
Read more here.
Despite this discouraging news from Tennessee, reproductive rights supporters have a few reasons to celebrate this past month. Read the good news here!
Victory for Transgender Students
By now, you may have seen the White House’s 60-second PSA announcement featuring Daniel Craig and Seth Meyers as part of its “1 is 2 Many” campaign to reduce campus sexual assault. This film accompanied the release of The First Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault -- a positive step forward in addressing sexual violence in schools and on college campuses.
What might have slipped past your news feed is that on the same day, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the Department of Education released a guidance document that explicitly declares discrimination against transgender students prohibited under existing bans on sex discrimination, specifically Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. This is significant as now transgender students can confidently file a complaint with OCR if they are experiencing discrimination at school based on their gender identity.
"This guidance is crystal clear and leaves no room for uncertainty on the part of schools regarding their legal obligation to protect transgender students from discrimination," said Ian Thompson, an American Civil Liberties Union legislative representative. "The Office for Civil Rights must now take the next step and issue comprehensive guidance on Title IX and transgender students."