ACLU Week in Review

By Ben Bowens, Communications Associate, ACLU of Pennsylvania

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June 15 – July 3

It’s been a pretty crazy couple of weeks for the ACLU of Pennsylvania. While the Pittsburgh and Harrisburg offices were getting accustomed to new spaces, we packed up the Philadelphia office, relocated to a new building across town and were just getting settled in when… *BOOM* The Supreme Court ruled in favor of equality and we were off to celebrate the freedom to marry at rallies across the state!!! This week in review (okay, more like “half-month review”) is chocked full of excellent ACLU content from the keystone state and beyond.

LOVE WINS!

June 26th: A Historic Day for Equality

June 26, 2015. Twelve years to the day after the Supreme Court struck down bans on sodomy in Lawrence v. Texas. Two years to the day after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor. Today, the Supreme Court of the United States has held that states may not deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples and must recognize same-sex couples’ existing marriages. read more…

Supreme Court Ruling Makes Same-Sex Marriage a Right Nationwide

The Directors Guild of America says networks and studios are to blame for the “deplorable” dearth of female directors in Hollywood, following a call by the American Civil Liberties Union for an investigation into the industry’s “systemic failure” to hire female directors. read more…

It’s time to “fix forfeiture”

ACLU of PA Welcomes Nationwide Effort to “Fix Forfeiture”

A group of national organizations announced their new nationwide effort to “fix forfeiture” in Harrisburg today, a move welcomed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. The mission of the new coalition of ideologically diverse partners is to reform state and federal laws on civil asset forfeiture, a legal process that allows law enforcement to take and keep property it claims is connected to crime, without ever convicting or even charging the property owner with a crime. read more…

Registry for PA strippers

Baring it all: Pennsylvania lawmakers want a registry for strippers

Don’t tell his wife, but Big Brother is headed to the strip club. More than 60 state lawmakers are sponsoring a bill that would increase regulation over adult-oriented clubs, including a registry of strippers, banning alcohol and even creating a buffer zone between dancers and patrons that appears to effectively prohibit lap dances. read more…

House hunting while black

Black Americans unfairly targeted by banks before housing crisis, says ACLU

Black Americans were unequally issued loans on unfavorable terms during the sub-prime loan bonanza that prefigured the housing crisis and are still suffering in its aftermath, a new report from the American Civil Liberties Union has found. The resulting economic downturn has adversely affected them to a much greater degree than white homeowners, said the ACLU’s Rachel Goodman, who said the findings suggest banks knowingly preyed on black mortgage-seekers when it came to issuing sub-prime mortgages.read more…

Michigan launches Mobile Justice

ACLU of Michigan launches free app for recording, reporting police misconduct

Putting a high-tech twist on its long-time role as a government-accountability watchdog, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan announced recently the launch of Mobile Justice MI, a free downloadable mobile-device application that allows users to record and quickly report police misconduct. read more…

Another appeal for information about drone strikes

New York Times, ACLU Make Case For Access To Drone Strike Memos

The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Times continued their fight in court Tuesday as they try to secure nine Department of Justice memos they believe outline the federal government’s legal justification for tactical drone strikes that have killed hundreds — including U.S. citizens — across the world. read more…

Volunteer Spotlight: Saskia Levy-Sheon

Saskia Levy-Sheon

Saskia Levy-Sheon and her kitten, Emma.

Hometown:
Oakland, CA

School:
Bryn Mawr College, 2016: International Studies

What do you do as a volunteer for the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I’m an intern with the Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project, so I help out with many of the ACLU’s projects related to women’s health and reproductive rights.

How long have you volunteered with the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I started my internship at the beginning of June, 2015.

How did you first get involved with the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
When I was in high school I was involved in the Youth Activist Committee at the ACLU of Northern California. We organized an annual conference for youth and led Know Your Rights workshops for our peers. I was introduced to the Duvall Project last year in one of my classes.

Why is volunteering with the ACLU of Pennsylvania important to you?
I greatly appreciate the work the ACLU has done historically to protect the civil liberties of a wide variety of individuals and groups. I believe that the Duvall Project is doing important work to protect the rights of vulnerable populations, and I strongly agree with their view that sexuality and health must be recognized as fundamental human rights.

What civil liberties issue(s) are you most passionate about and why?
I have been passionate about issues of reproductive freedom from a young age. I believe that reproductive freedom is the key to gender equality and that it intersects with a variety of other civil liberties issues in important ways.

What do you do when you’re not volunteering for the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
When I’m not at the office I am usually cooking, hiking, playing with my kitten, or learning a new language.

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If you are interested in volunteering with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, please visit: aclupa.org/volunteer

Volunteer Spotlight: Guy Marinari

Guy

Profession:
Retail

What do you do as a volunteer for the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I talk to people who have called the ACLU of Pennsylvania’s intake line, summarize their problems in writing, and send the summarized reports to a staff member, who determines the best way for the ACLU to provide assistance.

How long have you volunteered with the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I began volunteering in early August, 2014.

How did you first get involved with the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
I responded to an ad posted by the ACLU of Pa on Craigslist. After following all of the Craigslist-recommended safety precautions for the first meeting and intuiting that the likelihood of my being robbed, kidnapped, or killed was low, I decided to volunteer. That intuition has, thus far, proved to be correct.

Why is volunteering with the ACLU of Pennsylvania important to you?
Every conversation has been an opportunity to learn about another person – mostly their problems, of course, but also their thoughts, their experiences, and the way they see the world.

What civil liberties issue(s) are you most passionate about and why?
Something that I’m interested in generally – and this relates to many of the calls made to the ACLU of PA – is the criminal justice system because, while it is certainly a system, “justice” doesn’t seem to be the best word to describe it. An issue that I am less interested in – although it, too comes up with some frequency in Intake – is the government’s clandestine mind-control program. But, then again, that could just be because they’ve already gotten to me…

What do you do when you’re not volunteering for the ACLU of Pennsylvania?
A good liberal, I dutifully read the New York Times, listen to National Public Radio, and watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Guy’s weekly commitment to the Intake Department, working about 20 hours a week, makes him the go-to intake volunteer for urgent projects. His sense of humor and dedication will surely be missed when he starts Temple Law School in the Fall.
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If you are interested in volunteering with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, please visit: aclupa.org/volunteer

ACLU Week in Review

By Ben Bowens, Communications Associate, ACLU of Pennsylvania

June 8 – June 12
WE MOVED! — This week marks the end of a long moving process for all three offices across the state of Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Philadelphia). Check out some of the highlights (and some lowlights) from the move in this gallery.

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Back with a normal week in review next week!

ACLU Week in Review

By Ben Bowens, Communications Associate, ACLU of Pennsylvania

Guilty-Property-Report---FI

June 1 – June 5
This week we set our sights on reforming Pennsylvania’s flawed civil asset forfeiture practices. After releasing a report entitled “Guilty Property: How Law Enforcement Takes $1 Million in Cash from Innocent Philadelphians Every Year — and Gets Away with It,” we, along with our coalition partners, held a press conference announcing our support of legislation aimed at reform. Check out the report, listen to our legislative director explain the issue and read some other ACLU stories making headlines this week below.

Let’s reform asset forfeiture in Pennsylvania!

New ACLU Report Shows Philadelphia DA Seizes $1 Million in Cash Annually from Innocent Philadelphians

The ACLU of Pennsylvania today released a new report that documents the impact of Pennsylvania’s unfair civil asset forfeiture laws and the aggressive enforcement of these laws by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. Civil asset forfeiture is a legal mechanism that allows law enforcement to take and keep property it claims is connected to illegal activity without charging the property owner with a crime. read more…

ACLU Supports Legislation to Reform PA’s Asset Forfeiture Laws

The Directors Guild of America says networks and studios are to blame for the “deplorable” dearth of female directors in Hollywood, following a call by the American Civil Liberties Union for an investigation into the industry’s “systemic failure” to hire female directors. read more…

Andy Hoover on The Rick Smith Show

Michigan launches a Mobile Justice app!

Mich. joins other states with ACLU app to record police

A mobile app that allows residents to film police encounters on their phone, and send them to the ACLU moments after the recording is over is becoming available in more states.The ACLU of Michigan is the latest state chapter to roll out an app called “Mobile Justice.” read more… PA’s app is coming soon!!!

ACLU of North Carolina turns 50

ACLU of North Carolina celebrates 50th anniversary
Read more at http://www.wral.com/aclu-of-north-carolina-celebrates-50th-anniversary/14690170/#PAf8It0WQHIxYlbC.99

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina will mark the 50th anniversary of its founding by sparking conversations about the civil liberty issues the group has tackled over the years.The ACLU-NC will commemorate the anniversary on Sunday with a panel and history exhibit at the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte. read more…

ACLU pushing for police reform in Minneapolis

ACLU presses Minneapolis to move on police reforms

American Civil Liberties Union leaders laid out their list of recommended police reforms Thursday as they called on Minneapolis officials to help reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system. An ACLU report made public last week found that people arrested in Minneapolis for low level crimes were nearly nine times more likely to be black or Native American than white. read more…

ACLU Week in Review

By Ben Bowens, Communications Associate, ACLU of Pennsylvania

Kathryn Bigelow at Time 100 Gala 2010

Kathryn Bigelow, director of Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker, at Time 100 Gala 2010

May 11 – May 15
On the heels of our very successful annual meeting in Philadelphia, the ACLU of Pennsylvania is once again gearing up to host a big event. On Wednesday, May 20, we will celebrate the first full year of marriage equality in PA with an anniversary party in honor of our courageous plaintiffs. You can find details about where to get tickets below. Meanwhile, on the opposite coast, colleagues at the ACLU of Southern California launched an inquiry into what they point out are “dramatic disparities” in the hiring of women as film and television directors. The ACLU cites statistical evidence from various studies and anecdotal accounts from more than 50 female directors. More on that and some other ACLU stories making headlines this week are below.

Where are the female film directors?

A.C.L.U., Citing Bias Against Women, Wants Inquiry Into Hollywood’s Hiring Practices

Grumblings that Hollywood is a man’s world have percolated for decades and are borne out in grim figures: Women directed only 4 percent of top-grossing films over the last dozen years. Now this apparent truism is being challenged as a violation of civil rights. On Tuesday the American Civil Liberties Union asked state and federal agencies to investigate the hiring practices of major Hollywood studios, networks and talent agencies for what the organization described as rampant and intentional gender discrimination in recruiting and hiring female directors. read more…

ACLU Accuses Hollywood Of Discriminating Against Female Directors

The Directors Guild of America says networks and studios are to blame for the “deplorable” dearth of female directors in Hollywood, following a call by the American Civil Liberties Union for an investigation into the industry’s “systemic failure” to hire female directors. read more…

Celebrate the freedom to marry in Pennsylvania!

Anniversary_EmailHappy 1st Anniversary! Celebrating the Freedom to Marry in Pennsylvania

On May 20, 2014, the freedom to marry for all was finally achieved in Pennsylvania. This historic moment was a result of the ACLU of Pennsylvania’s lawsuit, Whitewood v. Wolf. You’re invited to celebrate the one-year anniversary of marriage equality with the ACLU of PA, as we honor our courageous plaintiffs and thank our supporters who made this victory possible! Buy tickets…

Chick-fil-A T-shirts

Bangor Area schools chief says students bullied others with tweets

Bangor Area schools chief Frank DeFelice has defended the suspension of 10 high school students who used Twitter to criticize two students who wore Chick-fil-A shirts during a Gay-Straight Alliance event. The students were suspended for bullying and for using smartphones during school hours, DeFelice said, as the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania continues an investigation. read more…

Agenda for Women’s Health

ACLU-PA Takes Lead In Campaign For Women’s Health

Yesterday, a bipartisan group of legislators came together in Harrisburg to introduce a legislative Agenda for Women’s Health. Lately, when I hear lawmakers use the phrase “women’s health,” it makes me cringe. How have lawmakers across the country justified passing completely unnecessary regulations that require abortion clinics to have hospital-grade elevators and driveways large enough to accommodate an ambulance – a move clearly (and successfully) designed to close dozens of clinics? These regulations are necessary to protect “women’s health,” of course. Why are state legislatures rushing to require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, when complications from abortion are extremely rare and hospitals are already required to treat patients experiencing a medical emergency? Well, it’s a matter of “women’s health.” read more…

Lethal Injection Drugs

ACLU Seeks Records Over Suspect Lethal Injection Drugs

On Friday the ACLU of Nebraska filed an open records request to determine if Nebraska’s recent acquisition of drugs to be used in lethal injection was lawful. A 2013 Federal Circuit Court ruling determined that these drugs are subject to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight and importation rules and that states must obtain such drugs legally through licensed, inspected dealers. read more…

ACLU-PA Takes Lead In Campaign For Women’s Health

By Julie Zaebst, Project Manager, Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project

facebook.Justice4.StandWithPregnantWorkers.2015Yesterday, a bipartisan group of legislators came together in Harrisburg to introduce a legislative Agenda for Women’s Health. Lately, when I hear lawmakers use the phrase “women’s health,” it makes me cringe. How have lawmakers across the country justified passing completely unnecessary regulations that require abortion clinics to have hospital-grade elevators and driveways large enough to accommodate an ambulance – a move clearly (and successfully) designed to close dozens of clinics? These regulations are necessary to protect “women’s health,” of course. Why are state legislatures rushing to require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, when complications from abortion are extremely rare and hospitals are already required to treat patients experiencing a medical emergency? Well, it’s a matter of “women’s health.”

You can understand my skepticism when the words “women’s health” come out of a politician’s mouth.

But the package of bills unveiled in Harrisburg is different. The legislation was developed by the bipartisan, bicameral Women’s Health Caucus, with the input of advocates (including real women! And real experts in women’s health!) It recognizes that women’s health and well-being are impacted by a range of issues, from economic fairness and family-friendly workplace policies to real access to reproductive and comprehensive health care. In a departure from what we’ve often seen in Harrisburg, the legislation proposes evidence-based strategies to address real health issues that women across Pennsylvania face every day.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania is excited to be a leader in the Campaign for Women’s Health, a statewide advocacy coalition supporting this package of bills. We know that advocates are tired of fighting senseless proposal after senseless proposal to restrict access to abortion care, when their families and communities have real health needs the legislature could address. This campaign gives advocates the opportunity to rally around legislation that would make real improvements in the health and well-being of women across the state right now. In fact, last legislative session, three bills that were a part of the Campaign for Women’s Health were signed into law. This includes a bill that prohibits municipalities from punishing victims of crime, including survivors of domestic violence, for calling for emergency services.

I’m looking forward to more legislative successes this session – and to being able to keep a straight face when Pennsylvania lawmakers utter the words “women’s health.”

You can learn more about the Campaign for Women’s Health and how to get involved at www.pa4womenshealth.org.

ACLU Week in Review

By Ben Bowens, Communications Associate, ACLU of Pennsylvania

ACLU Police Hiring News Conference 26

May 4 – May 8
This week marked two massive victories for the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the ACLU’s national office. In the commonwealth, we reached a settlement with the city of Pittsburgh in our case alleging discriminatory hiring practices in the Pittsburgh Bureau’s of Police reflected by low numbers of African-American hires. Then, the ACLU’s national office celebrated a landmark victory for privacy, after a federal appeals court ruled unanimously that the mass phone-records program exposed two years ago by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is illegal because it goes far beyond what Congress ever intended to permit when it passed Section 215 of the Patriot Act. In addition to making headlines, the Philadelphia chapter held it’s annual meeting which featured an excellent keynote address from the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project director, Ezekiel Edwards. Check out those stories, a recap of the Philly chapter meeting and more below.

Settlement reached in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh’s settlement with ACLU aimed at improving police hiring practices

A $1.6 million settlement agreement between the city of Pittsburgh and five rejected police candidates, announced Thursday, aims to remedy a hiring system that allegedly shunned blacks with tarnished backgrounds, while winking and nodding at blemished whites. read more…

Pittsburgh police, accused of racial bias, will revamp hiring

The Pittsburgh Police Department has agreed to revamp its hiring practices in order to settle a federal lawsuit that claimed discrimination against African-American job applicants, Mayor Bill Peduto said on Thursday. read more…

Victory against mass survaillance

Why Today’s Landmark Court Victory Against Mass Surveillance Matters

In a landmark victory for privacy, a federal appeals court ruled unanimously today that the mass phone-records program exposed two years ago by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is illegal because it goes far beyond what Congress ever intended to permit when it passed Section 215 of the Patriot Act. read more…

ACLU of Maryland defends rioting students

ACLU asks schools to not suspend, expel students involved in riots

A coalition of youth and juvenile justice advocates called on the city school system Thursday to refrain from suspending or expelling teenagers arrested in last week’s rioting in Baltimore. read more…

T-Shirt backlash

ACLU involved after 15 Pa. students suspended over Chick-fil-A T-shirt backlash

Parents and students say a Pennsylvania school district suspended about 15 students who took to social media during schools hours after two classmates wore Chick-fil-A shirts during a Gay-Straight Alliance event. read more…

Reggie Shuford recaps the Philly meeting

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“Some of you were with me Wednesday night at our Philadelphia Chapter annual meeting, listening to Ezekiel Edwards – the director of the Criminal Law Reform Project at the ACLU’s national office – give a passionate and mesmerizing keynote talk on mass incarceration in America. I’m sure some of the concepts Zeke covered are somewhat familiar to you – the staggering racial disparities in the prison population, the unnecessarily punitive laws that have locked up a generation of nonviolent offenders, the ways in which we’ve outsourced our mental health, economic, and educational shortfalls to the prison system. I have to be honest: even having worked on issues related to criminal justice for the majority of my career, I sometimes find the statistical enormity of the problem dispiriting and overwhelming. But those moments are fleeting. There is too much work to do. We’re determined to end our state’s and our country’s addiction to incarceration in this decade, and we’re spearheading a remarkably eclectic coalition – conservatives ranging from Rand Paul to the Koch brothers to Newt Gingrich have joined progressives in publicly advocating for criminal justice reform in America. I really do believe that, with enough focused effort from extraordinary people like Zeke and our team here in PA, with ACLU members spreading the good word and, yes, with enough resources at our disposal, we can meet the ACLU’s nationwide goal of reducing the American prison population by 50% by 2020, the ACLU’s 100th birthday.”

Vox: Why it’s so important to film police

Taking photographs and videos of things that are plainly visible from public spaces is your constitutional right. That includes federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police and other government officials carrying out their duties. Unfortunately, law enforcement officers often order people to stop taking photographs or video in public places, and sometimes harass, detain or even arrest people who use their cameras or cell phone recording devices in public. Know Your Rights When Taking Photos and Making Video and Audio Recordings

ACLU Week in Review

By Ben Bowens, Communications Associate, ACLU of Pennsylvania

Deb & Susan Whitewood

Deb & Susan Whitewood attend a rally outside of the Supreme Court same-sex marriage hearing.

April 27 – May 1
In what turned out to be a very busy week for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, we counted two free speech victories and filed a new lawsuit. We started the week responding to an incident in Plum Borough School District, where a principal allegedly told students they would face criminal prosecution for talking about an improper student-teacher relationship on social media. Then we got a ruling from federal court in our favor, striking down Pennsylvania’s “Re-victimization Act” or, as some have called it, the “anti-Mumia law.” We rounded out the week filing a lawsuit on behalf of an atheist group who were repeatedly denied the right to post ads on the sides of local buses, advertising space that is often claimed by church groups.

Plum Burough High School

Plum Borough School District responds to ACLU free speech questions

The Plum Borough School District superintendent today sent a letter to parents, students and the American Civil Liberties Union explaining the district’s reasons for holding assemblies Friday to warn students to be careful in their social media posts concerning the arrests of three teachers. read more…

Audio and transcript of Plum HS meeting with police & school officials

SCOTUS Debates Freedom to Marry

Marriage Equality Advocates Cautiously Optimistic As Same-Sex Marriage Arguments Head To US Supreme Court

Same sex marriage takes center stage today as the US Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the issue, and marriage equality advocates are cautiously optimistic. “For equality to be guaranteed no matter where we are in America would be tremendous,” says Helena Miller. She married Dara Raspberry in Connecticut five years ago. But when they moved to Pennsylvania in 2011 to be closer to family, their marriage was not recognized. So the couple joined 23 other plaintiffs in the Whitewood lawsuit against Pennsylvania’s governor, and won. read more…

Atheists Sue NEPA

Atheists sue Lackawanna County transit system over refusal to run ad

A Northeastern Pennsylvania transit system permitted churches to advertise on the sides of its buses but then refused to allow a group that doesn’t believe in God to place an ad containing the word “atheists,” fearing it would offend riders, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday. read more…

Atheists challenge Pennsylvania bus system’s exclusion of ads that mention or discuss religion

… it looks like the Lackawanna policy is pretty clearly unconstitutional, and the plaintiffs in Northeastern Pennsylvania Freethought Society v. County of Lackawanna Transit System (M.D. Pa. filed Apr. 28, 2015) have a winner. read more…

Victory For Free Speech

Federal judge strikes down anti-Mumia law

A federal judge in Harrisburg today struck down the state’s Revictimization Relief Act, ruling that it was “manifestly unconstitutional” because it violated the free-speech rights of prisoners and of reporters and others who rely on that speech to do their work.

U.S. District Judge Christopher C. Conner enjoined the law, passed by a state lawmakers angered that Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is serving a life sentence for murdering a Philadelphia police officer, gave a commencement address. Conner ruled that the hastily passed law violated the First and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. read more…