Each Friday, we’ll bring you updates on the latest civil liberties news from Maine and the nation.
Colorado Rules: Let Everyone Eat Cake
Last Friday, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission determined that Masterpiece Cakeshop unlawfully discriminated against David Mullins and Charlie Craig when bakery owner Jack Phillips refused to sell the couple a wedding cake. “What should have been a happy day for us turned into a humiliating and dehumanizing experience because of the way we were treated,” said Mullins. “No one should ever have to walk into a store and wonder if they will be turned away just because of who they are.”
Mullins and Craig consulted with the ACLU of Colorado and ACLU LGBT Project, and filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD) charging the bakery with violating Colorado law, which prohibits businesses from discriminating based on sexual orientation. “Religious freedom is undoubtedly an important American value, but so is the right to be treated equally under the law free from discrimination,” said Amanda C. Goad, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “Everyone is free to believe what they want, but businesses like Masterpiece Cakeshop cannot treat some customers differently than others based on who they are as people.”
Read more about the case here.
Solitary Confinement at Pelican Bay
Does solitary confinement violate the Eighth Amendment? California's has a long history of holding inmates in prolonged isolation, and now inmates who have been held in solitary for more than a decade at Pelican Bay (California’s toughest prison) will be allowed challenge their confinement as a class – paving the way for a court case that could shape national policy. Jules Lobel, a constitutional law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, stated that this would be the first case about whether the confinement itself is cruel and unusual punishment and about who can be legitimately confined in this way.
David Fathi, director of the ACLU National Prison Project, said this represents “a major step forward in this case … Now the state has to defend 10 to 20 years of solitary confinement on the merits, and that’s not going to be easy.”
Read more about the case here.
Forcing Female Inmates to Take A Pregnancy Test, That's Unconstitutional!
This past Monday, the ACLU of Northern California filed a lawsuit against the Alameda County Sheriff over a policy requiring every woman in custody younger than 60 to submit to a pregnancy test. The ACLU charges that this is a violation of constitutional rights as well as a state law, which says that every person has the legal right to refuse medical care.
“If the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department is genuinely concerned about the health of women in their custody, voluntary pregnancy testing should be administered as part of a comprehensive health exam,” Elizabeth Gill, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Northern California, said in a statement. “Forcing a woman to take a pregnancy test is a clear violation of a person’s constitutional rights as well as a violation of other state law."
Read more about the issue here.