Stories from the ACLU of Washington

Published: 
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
It's the 75th anniversary of the ACLU of Washington, and we've put up ads all over the city of Seattle to celebrate!
Published: 
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
iCivics is the vision of former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is concerned that students are not getting the information and tools they need for civic participation, and that civics teachers need better materials and support. So, she created a bunch of video games to teach civics to middle school students. These look to be excellent teaching tools, but are they any good as games? Read more
Published: 
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Like publishing ideas in books or newspapers, demonstrating in the streets has been one of the fundamental outlets for speech throughout our nation’s history.  The Supreme Court has long held that speech gets maximum protection in certain kinds of public places, like parks, sidewalks, and streets.  People with soapboxes need somewhere to put them, after all. In these public places, speech may be limited only for narrow and very specific reasons.  States are allowed, for example, to prohibit demonstrators from blocking access to buildings like hospitals or fire stations.  We allow the government to make and enforce laws designed to keep those vital public services operating, even when it might limit people’s right to demonstrate in certain areas.  Courts call these “time, place, and manner restrictions,” and as long as they meet certain criteria, they’re constitutional. Read more
Published: 
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
The first Pride Parade I ever attended was in 2003, just days after the Supreme Court ruled on Lawrence v. Texas, a groundbreaking decision that struck down the Texas law which criminalized sodomy. I was in San Francisco. Marchers held signs, “I had sodomy for breakfast.” As I had only come out less than two years prior, the immense outward free expression of pride and celebration of equal rights was overwhelming—in a good way. As Pride month culminates here in this weekend’s festivities and annual parade, I reflect on a couple recent developments that are cause for celebration—personally, with respect to future aspiring parenthood and to professional growth and inspiration. Read more
Published: 
Monday, June 21, 2010
On June 10, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) proclaimed a major victory in the War on Drugs. As stated by Attorney General Eric Holder, Project Deliverance “struck a significant blow against the [Mexican] cartels…, [albeit] just one battle in what is an ongoing war.” The numbers involved certainly are impressive, 2,226 arrests (including 23 here in Washington), 74.1 tons of illegal drugs seized, and $154 million in apprehended assets. However, Project Deliverance is about more than just flashy photos of seized drugs and stern quotes from law enforcement officials, it is a snapshot of the futility of the War on Drugs.  Read more
Published: 
Friday, June 18, 2010
For a long time my partner and I have known that our futures would be intertwined.  About a year ago, the conversation began to shift from both of us dreaming of law school to each of us taking active steps towards attending law school.  As our conversation moved from dreaming to paying for it (and the sticker shock that is private and public law schools in this country), we began toying with the idea of making our relationship legitimate (read: legal).  We figured that if we had legal standing as a partnership, both being in law school, our potential loan cap could increase.  Romantic, no? We began to discuss seriously how legalizing our union would change our lives; how we would have some legal protections for our relationship and a responsibility to care for each other, would always be able to visit each other in the hospital and have power of attorney over each other, and could take family and medical leave to care for each other.  We talked about traveling together, and how the US embassy would see us differently if we traveled together as legal partners. Read more
Published: 
Friday, June 18, 2010
Have you ever gone somewhere and gotten the distinct impression that you were not welcome?  Suppose you were a student of color and a school board member stated his belief that you are incapable of academic success because of your race. What could you possibly make of this? Recently, Marysville School Board Member Michael Kundu told his fellow board members that he believes that academic achievement is genetically determined.    In an e-mail discussion, Kundu asserted that students in certain racial groups are simply incapable of achieving academic success based on biological or genetic disadvantages. In other words, a third of the students in the Marysville School District are almost not worth teaching. Read more
Published: 
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Last session, state lawmakers responded to a series of tragic police shootings by putting on the ballot a constitutional amendment to give judges expanded authority to deny bail for criminal defendants. If Washington voters approve the amendment this November, it will amend our Constitution for the first time in more than 20 years. Thanks to TV crime shows, we all more or less know what bail is—a person who has been arrested can give a certain amount of money to the court in order to be released from jail while awaiting trial. If he shows up to court as required, he gets his bail back, even if he’s eventually found guilty. If he “skips bail,” the court keeps the money. What the TV shows don’t talk about, however, is why we have a bail system in the first place. Read more
Published: 
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
This is not an isolated incident. The Seattle Police Department has a long history of allowing jaywalking citations to escalate into use of force situations. The pattern is very predictable:  The officer sees a jaywalker, orders the person to come to him, gets angry when the jaywalker either doesn’t respond or argues, and ends up either in a physical confrontation or an arrest for an obstruction charge or both. Read more
Published: 
Monday, June 14, 2010
Last Thursday, a new law that improves qualifying patients' access to medical marijuana went into effect.  Sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36), SB 5798 expands the list of health care professionals who can authorize the medical use of cannabis under state law.  The new list includes all providers who are currently authorized to prescribe medications such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners.  Only two other states, New Mexico and Rhode Island, grant this authorization power to all health care professionals who can prescribe.  As Sen. Kohl-Welles explains, "This bill will provide real relief to those who are suffering, particularly those who live in rural areas and low-income individuals who typically see advanced nurse practitioners rather than MDs. Providing this relief honors the will of the voters who overwhelmingly approved the medical-marijuana initiative in 1998." A more detailed explanation of the law, which also includes new requirements for patients' written authorizations, can be found on Page 3 of the Summer 2010 issue of the West Coast Leaf.  Also, ACLU of Washington has updated its web page, "A Guide to Washington's Medical Marijuana Law," to reflect the changes.  The web page also includes an informational brochure that can be downloaded for printing and a revised form that health care professionals can use for authorizations.

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