ACLU Week in Review

By Ben Bowens, Communications Associate, ACLU of Pennsylvania

April 20 – April 24
With a decision on the freedom to marry coming from the Supreme Court later this year, the ACLU released ‘Supercut: Pop Culture’s Journey Toward Marriage Equality’ to look back at some of the most influential LGBT moments in film & television history. Meanwhile, ACLU affiliates were busy demanding answers from Maryland’s governor in the wake of yet another police-involved killing, taking on a bike-stop program in Florida that has been targeting African-American riders at a high rate, and pushed for expansion of the types of voter ID accepted in Wisconsin.

Police-Involved Death

ACLU to ask Hogan for changes after Gray death

Friday afternoon, the ACLU held a news conference asking Maryland’s governor to change the systematic failures in the Baltimore police department following the death of Freddie Gray. read more…

Biking While Black

ACLU calls for stop to Tampa’s bike stop program as police chief defends it

Flanked by top union officials, police Chief Jane Castor told the City Council on Thursday she “vehemently” disagrees with a Tampa Bay Times investigation questioning why black riders have gotten 80 percent of bike tickets written by police.read more…

The Nightly Show introduces a new segment


Voter ID Expansion?

ACLU pushes for expansion of acceptable voter ID types

Following the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear Wisconsin’s voter ID law, thereby upholding it, the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin aims to expand the list of identification acceptable on Election Day.read more…

Using ‘Artivism’ to Combat Abortion Stigma

By Marah Lange, MSW Intern, Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project

In my time as an intern at the Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project, I have considered ways I could connect my work to my experience as a student at the University of Pennsylvania. Since attending Abortion Out Loud: Lifting the Scarlet A last fall at Haverford College and hearing Louise Melling, Director of Center of Liberty and Deputy Legal Director at the ACLU, speak about the impact of abortion stigma in the legislature and more broadly, I have been eager to play my part in fighting stigma.

Last week, the 1 in 3 Campaign gave me that chance in the form of “artivism.” As a grassroots organization, the 1 in 3 Campaign is dedicated to creating a platform where women can share their stories in an effort to “build a culture of compassion, empathy, and support for access to basic health care”. Since 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in their lifetime, each will undoubtedly have a different set of circumstances surrounding their experience and sharing those stories is powerful.

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These images are part of an “artivism” display at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice to help support the 1 in 3 campaign.

To support this campaign, I and many other student activists across the country posted real stories of women and their abortions in busy public spaces on our campuses. It was my intention for these stories to spark conversation among fellow students and to shed light on the fact that many women will make the decision to have an abortion and that is okay. I am hopeful that this small attempt at fighting stigma will have an effect on my campus and that those who observed the display will carry the stories with them as social work professionals and advocates moving forward.

To see the full display, please visit the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice.

ACLU Week In Review

By Ben Bowens, Communications Associate, ACLU of Pennsylvania

ACLU homepage

April 13 – April 17
Big news this week coming from the mother ship! For the first time in six years, the main website for the American Civil Liberties Union has been given a facelift. The new site (pictured right) has a fresh, modern feel, and even comes with a store where you can purchase brand new ACLU gear.

ACLU Gets a Makeover!

Check Out the New ACLU.org

ACLU.org hasn’t had a redesign since 2009. It’s an enormous site – over 40,000 pages and dozens of different types of content (from cases to blogs to Know Your Rights to press releases to FOIA documents and many more). We aimed to completely rethink the design to improve user experience and do a better job telling the story of the ACLU’s work. The design process strove to incorporate key elements of our identity: inclusivity, fearlessness, participation, transparency, and accessibility. By creating a site that connects with these core values, we hope to reach and engage with new audiences who care about protecting and defending civil liberties. explore…

PA Senate Advances DNA Collection Bil

Bill would lower hurdles to collect suspects’ DNA

The state Senate is advancing a plan to expand law enforcement’s ability to collect people’s DNA once they’re arrested for certain crimes, but before they’re convicted. read more…

RFRA In Action

Business Owners Must Serve Gays But they don’t have to like it.

A case involving the owner of Geno’s Steaks shows that the compromise between religious liberty and non-discrimination laws is hiding in plain sight, in the right to free speech. Business owners should be free to express their religious beliefs, and their preference to not serve gays, but should not be allowed to actually deny service. ACLU of Pennsylvania Deputy Legal Director, Mary Catherine Roper weighs in. read more…

Centre County Cellphone Scandal

Pair of Centre County judges seeks to destroy cellphone evidence

Two Centre County judges whose cellphone records showed they exchanged text messages with prosecutors trying cases before them want the evidence destroyed, claiming it will ruin their public images. “It is highly inappropriate to sue people for investigating public corruption, and to make matters worse, the people suing here are the judges and the district attorney who are the subjects of the investigation,” said Witold “Vic” Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. read more…

Hunger Strike at Ohio Supermax Prison

ACLU Seeks Probe Amid Hunger Strike at Ohio Supermax Prison

The American Civil Liberties Union is calling for an independent investigation into conditions at Ohio’s super-maximum security prison amid a long-running hunger strike. The protest at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown began March 16 to draw attention to recreation and programming restrictions, including a ban on religious gatherings, imposed after an assault on a corrections officer. A prisons department spokesman said five inmates of about 40 who began the strike were still refusing meals Monday. read more…

ACLU Week In Review

By Ben Bowens, Communications Associate, ACLU of Pennsylvania

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April 6 – April 10
In case you missed it, a lot of the ACLU’s attention has been focused on immigrants this week. On Monday, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking to obtain documents related to the health care of “unaccompanied minors” held in Catholic Charities-operated facilities. Then, on Tuesday, the ACLU of Massachusetts defended a legal ruling that granted 100 immigrants being held in detention the right to fight for their freedom. The week ended with some really exciting news out of our national office regarding a certain viral video featuring a pretty profane comedian. Also, ACLU-PA is asking our supporters to contact their state representatives to take action in support of Governor Wolf’s moratorium on executions in Pennsylvania (links below).

Reproductive Health Care for Immigrants

Why the ACLU is suing over Catholic groups and abortions for undocumented immigrants

The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit this week to find out whether teenagers who are being housed in Catholic Charities–operated facilities have access to contraception and abortion. read more…

Immigrant Detention

ACLU to Defend Limits on “Mandatory” Immigration Detention

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts will defend a legal ruling that has allowed more than 100 Massachusetts detainees to argue for their freedom in the past year. At an “en banc” hearing on Tuesday, April 6, at 9:30 am, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit heard arguments in two cases–one of which was argued by the ACLU of Massachusetts–in which district courts rejected the government’s interpretation of a “mandatory” immigration detention provision. read more…

Body Cameras on Private Property

ACLU warns public over newly passed Georgia bill

The ACLU of Georgia is cautioning the public over legislation allowing police to use body cameras on private property, saying the measure could infringe on the rights of innocent citizens in their own homes. read more…

TAKE ACTION, PENNSYLVANIA!!!

– In February, Governor Wolf took the decisive step of implementing a moratorium on executions in Pennsylvania until a study of the death penalty initiated by the state Senate is released.

Now some members of the state House of Representatives are howling over the governor’s decision and have introduced a resolution to make their point. Urge your state representative to support the moratorium and oppose the House resolution!

Webby Award Nomination

– The ACLU’s video “Lewis Black Says F#%! Voter Suppression” has been nominated for a Webby Award. The Webby Awards are the most important and well-recognized awards for the Internet, with over 1,000 member judging body. The video “has been selected as one of the five best in the world in its category,” Online Video: Best Individual Performance, and is competing against videos created by College Humor and Funny or Die. While the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences is solely responsible for selecting the winner, there’s also a chance to win the Webby People’s Voice Award, which is voted for by the public. Check out the video below and VOTE HERE

Supreme Court Decision in Young v. UPS Highlights Need for Change in Pennsylvania

By Marah Lange, MSW Candidate, University of Pennsylvania

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Last week, women across the country celebrated when the Supreme Court ruled in support of pregnant workers in the case Young v. UPS.

When Peggy Young was pregnant with her now 7-year-old daughter, her doctor recommended she not lift more than 20 pounds. What happened next takes place all too often: UPS, her employer at the time, refused to provide her temporary accommodations, as it typically did for other workers, including people with disabilities, people with on-the-job injuries, and even people who had lost their commercial drivers’ licenses as a result of DUI convictions.

Despite Peggy’s willingness to keep working with simple modifications to her job, she was forced to take unpaid leave and go without income during a time when she needed it most. So Peggy went to court.

Last week’s Supreme Court decision sent Peggy’s case back to the lower courts, which originally ruled in UPS’s favor. And more importantly, it signaled to all employers that if they are accommodating most other workers with injuries or disabilities while refusing to accommodate most pregnant workers who need it, they are likely violating the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

While this ruling is a significant victory, many pregnant workers may continue to face difficulty requesting and receiving temporary accommodations or successfully challenging employers that discriminate. For example, women in smaller workplaces, women who are new to their jobs, and workers with limited bargaining power may not know their employers’ accommodations policies or the accommodations their co-workers have received.

That’s why 13 states, including Peggy’s home state of Maryland, have passed legislation to strengthen protections for pregnant workers. Now it’s time for Pennsylvania legislators to step up to the plate. The Pennsylvania Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would strengthen protections for pregnant workers and help ensure that women aren’t put in the unnecessary and unsafe position of choosing between the health of their pregnancies and their jobs. This is especially critical for women working in low-wage jobs and for the 41 percent of families in which women are the primary breadwinners.

In order for women to have the freedom to make reproductive decisions for themselves and their families – like decision to have a child while working – temporary and reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers are a must.

Marah Lange is an MSW Candidate at the University of Pennsylvania. She currently interns for the Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project.

ACLU Week in Review

By Ben Bowens, Communications Associate, ACLU of Pennsylvania

Mumia Abu-Jamal, Daniel Faulkner

Mumia Abu-Jamal, right, is an inmate at a Pa. state prison for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, left. (File photos/Pennlive)

This was a busy week for ACLU affiliates across the country with the biggest news coming out of Indiana. On Thursday, the ACLU’s national office issued a response to Indiana’s proposed amendments to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which you can read more about below. As for the Pennsylvania office, we were in federal court on Monday and spent the rest of the week fielding calls about Pennsylvania’s own religious freedom law. Here’s a quick look at some of the ACLU involved stories that made headlines this week.

Reaction to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)

ACLU Statement on Proposed Amendments to Indiana RFRA

The events in Indiana over the last week represent a dramatic change in the way our country reacts to discrimination hiding under the guise of religion.

The Indiana legislature and the governor made a terrible and dangerous mistake, and they were met with widespread condemnation and a backlash that has hurt their state’s reputation and its economy. read more…

ACLU hosts panel discussion to clarify ‘religious freedom’ law

While Republicans work to the clarify the law, the Indiana ACLU gathered a panel of community leaders for a discussion to help explain the law’s intent. However, it also gave the public the chance to ask whether they thought the law would allow for discrimination. read more…

Pennsylvania has a religious freedom law too, but not like Indiana’s

Religious freedoms laws have traditionally been used to keep governments from violating people’s religious beliefs, according to Mary Catherine Roper, deputy legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.

Those laws have never been created so that entities could have permission from the government to discriminate, she said. read more…

Pennsylvania’s “Revictimization Act”

Oral arguments in our lawsuit challenging the “Revictimization Relief Act” were heard in Federal Court

A new state law designed to ensure that crime victims aren’t “revictimized” is actually an unconstitutional attack on free speech, opponents of the legislation argued to a federal judge Monday. read more…

Centre County Officials Square Off Over Text Messages

Stage is Set for Courtroom Showdown With Centre County Officials Fighting Each Other

The three lawsuits stem from several criminal cases in recent months in which defense attorneys used records of text messages between judges and prosecutors (obtained through the county through Right to Know requests) to allege bias and preferential treatment in favor of the DA’s office. read more…

TSA vs. Black Women’s Hair

ACLU Attorney Finalizes Agreement With TSA To Track Hair Searches, Assess Possible Racial Discrimination

Accusations of racially selective airport searches by the Transportation Security Administration have prompted officials to deem the practice discriminatory. This comes years after Solange Knowles spoke out about her own experience with airport “Discrim-FRO-nation” on Twitter but it appears as though black women are still receiving routine hair searches. read more…

License Plate Readers

Lawmaker, ACLU want limits on police license plate readers

Conservative Republican state Rep. Peter Breen has introduced legislation that would put a 30-day limit on data collected by license plate readers. He has the backing of the Illinois American Civil Liberties Union, a group he fought unsuccessfully in court over the gay marriage issue. read more…