What a year it has been! And we couldn’t have done it without you. For my very first blog post, I bring you a look back at some of our favorite moments of 2014, none of which would have been possible without your support:
We beat back Gov. LePage’s attempts to ramp up the failed “war on drugs”: The ACLU of Maine was the leading voice in defeating the governor’s attempts to spend millions of dollars on more law enforcement, even while our state has seen a drastic decrease in funding for treatment and prevention programs. Maine can’t arrest its way out of the drug problem – and we will continue working toward a new approach.
We fought for the rights of citizens to observe the police at work: In September, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Bar Harbor couple who were wrongfully arrested for peacefully observing and attempting to film an interaction between several police officers and a single woman in downtown Portland. The right of citizens to observe and record the police is a critical check on the use of power and force that must be protected.
We defeated a bill that would have allowed people to use their religion as an excuse to discriminate: We lobbied hard against a so-called “religious freedom” bill that would have allowed people to claim their religious beliefs allowed them to ignore important protections, such as laws protecting people against discrimination and laws protecting women’s reproductive rights. The bill was eventually rejected by the legislature.
We called for fair treatment of all Mainers, regardless of where they were born: In July, we joined a lawsuit challenging the LePage administration’s attempts to deny General Assistance to some immigrants, including asylum seekers who are in Maine lawfully awaiting asylee status and work authorization. We filed the complaint on behalf of Rehma Rebecca Juma and Suavis Furaha, who came to Maine to escape violence in their native Burundi.
We stood up for Kaci Hickox and the other brave individuals who are working hard to end the Ebola epidemic: When Gov. LePage threatened to force extreme restrictions on Hickox, a trained health professional who was already complying with medical guidelines, we led the call for a rational response based on science, not fear.
We helped protect the privacy and dignity of transgender students: in January, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that schools must allow transgender students like Nicole Maines to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender. The ACLU of Maine and the national ACLU LGBT Project filed an amicus brief in the case.
And so much more! You can read about all of our work at www.aclumaine.org.
On a final note, our public education coordinator (and resident musicologist) Jon Gaither put together an amazing playlist of the best civil rights- and civil liberties-themed songs from the 1930s on, and we wanted to share it with you. He wrote about his picks and linked to the list here. If you’re on Spotify, give it a listen as you head into to the new year!
From the ACLU of Maine to you, best wishes for a wonderful 2015.