Here at civil liberties headquarters, we call them the way we see them. If the government screws up, we have no qualms with saying it. On ending Pennsylvania’s addiction to overincarceration, Governor Corbett is leading. We applaud him for it.
Conshohocken Borough in Montgomery County is one of two dozen municipalities across Pennsylvania that have adopted local non-discrimination laws to protect LGBT people. Conshohocken’s law, passed last April, protects LGBT residents from being fired, evicted, or kicked out of a business because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Sounds like a good thing, right?
Apparently, not everyone agrees. Anti-LGBT activists have sued the Borough in an attempt to invalidate the new law. On Friday, February 17, the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas will hear argument on the Borough’s motion to dismiss the complaint.
If you can, please come watch the court argument to show your support for the Borough and LGBT equality. The argument will be at 9:00 AM on February 17 at the Montgomery County Courthouse, Court Room “A”, 2 E. Airy St., Norristown, PA 19401, before Judge Bernard A. Moore. The courthouse is an easy walk from the Norristown Transportation Center.
Please be respectful of the court proceedings and courthouse rules. Arrive well ahead of time so you can get through security, obey courthouse rules about cameras and recording, do not bring signs into the courtroom or make a lot of noise in the halls. The point is to show the judge in a respectful manner that this matters to a lot of people.
Three-quarters of the women incarcerated in county jails are of reproductive age, and the majority are mothers and the sole caretakers of their children. Most are incarcerated for nonviolent crimes, are undereducated, come from minority groups, and fall below the poverty line. Approximately 6 percent of all female inmates are pregnant upon admission to jail.
As the population of women in jail grows, counties will increasingly be vulnerable to lawsuits brought by prisoners whose medical treatment or lack of treatment has caused them harm or violated their constitutional rights. The public will be harmed as women laving jail re-enter the community with unaddressed health needs. And finally, we as a society are harmed when we squander the opportunity to help the most vulnerable among us.
Over the next few days, we will be posting a series of blog posts highlighting some of the findings of the report and what needs to be done to fix these problems.
In the midst of the debate over requiring all voters at all elections to show government-issued photo identification, polls showing majority support are occasionally cited as justification for this initiative. It’s true. A majority of people see no issue with requiring voters to show ID. This isn’t surprising since most people have some form of government-issued ID, typically a driver’s license.
But here’s the thing. The opposition to House Bill 934, the voter ID bill currently before the Pennsylvania General Assembly, has never been about the majority. We know and have always known that most people have ID.
But we also know that a significant percentage of U.S. citizens, approximately 11 percent, do not have the ID required by HB 934 and would struggle to produce the documentation PennDOT requires to get an ID. Who are they? They are disproportionately seniors, blacks, people living in poverty, and people with disabilities.
Take a look at the groups in Protect Our Vote, the coalition advocating against voter ID. It includes Black Political Empowerment Project, Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Conference of the NAACP, the Alliance for Retired Americans, Project H.O.M.E., SeniorLAW Center. These are organizations that represent particular communities that are at higher risk of losing the vote if HB 934 passes.
The ACLU has a well-deserved reputation for defending anyone whose rights are endangered, regardless of race, religion, income, etc. But whose rights are most frequently at risk? It’s relatively rare that we advocate at the state capitol for people who live comfortable lives. It’s relatively rare that we advocate for people who are like those in power at the legislature and in the governor’s office. We will if there is a legitimate issue at hand. But our fellow Americans whose rights are most at risk are also those communities who are most likely to be marginalized by the majority population, due to any number of factors, including race and ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, income, disability, etc.
We fail as a nation when we are unable to empathize with those who lead lives that are different from ours. As we recognize Black History Month, we must never forget that the struggle for the right to vote- a struggle that took nearly 200 years to make right- has never been about the majority or the powerful. And that’s why HB 934, our voter ID bill, cannot pass.
House Bill 934 is currently before the state Senate Appropriations Committee. It is critical that you contact your state senator to ask him or her to vote “NO” on voter ID. You can learn more about this issue and find your senator’s contact information at this link.