Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Action alert: Reform the Patriot Act - Call Senator Kohl's office today!

Reform the Patriot Act - Call Senator Kohl's office today!

If all goes according to schedule, tomorrow, Senator Kohl and the other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will cast votes that could finally fix provisions of the Patriot Act that have undermined our fundamental freedoms for far too long.

It’s urgent that you call Senator Kohl’s office right now and let him know that you support bold action on Patriot Act reform.

Contact Senator Kohl now and urge him to vote for genuine Patriot Act reforms.

As an ACLU lobbyist who has worked on the Patriot Act for more than six years, I can say first-hand how much your calls matter. The Thursday mark-up of Patriot Act legislation in the Judiciary Committee will set the stage for later action in the full Senate. Senator Feingold and nine other Senators have introduced the JUSTICE Act, a very strong bill which effectively reins in many of the out-of-control government powers embedded in the Patriot Act.

It’s absolutely crucial that the legislation that emerges from the Judiciary Committee embraces the strong measures Senator Feingold has put forth. Senator Kohl’s vote could be absolutely essential to the outcome.

Call Senator Kohl now -- and urge him to vote tomorrow for genuine Patriot Act reforms.

It helps us to know how many calls have been made because then we can follow-up with the senator’s office. So, after you make the call, I hope you’ll report back and let us know that you’ve contacted the Senator’s office.

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this.

Michelle Richardson
Legislative Counsel
American Civil Liberties Union

P.S. Here are some of the most crucial elements of the JUSTICE Act -- ones that you should urge Senator Kohl to support tomorrow:
• Protecting the privacy of records by reining in the government’s use of National Security Letters to collect the records of innocent people far removed from an actual terrorism suspect.
• Protecting humanitarian activities by preventing prosecution of people who work with or for charities that give humanitarian aid in good faith to war-torn countries.
• Protecting First Amendment rights by requiring that the government convince a court that a National Security gag order is necessary.
• Protecting privacy of communications by amending last year’s sweeping FISA Amendments Act to better protect Americans' phone calls and emails.

Thursday! Madison celebrates Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week Panel, moderated by Jim Fleming, Wisconsin Public Radio host
Thursday, October 1, 6:00—7:30 p.m.
School of Library and Information Science—4th floor commons
Helen C. White Hall—600 North Park Street Madison, WI 53706

Featuring special guests Bob Bocher, Library Technology Consultant, WI Dept. of Public Instruction and two local librarians with experience working with public and youth library collections. The panel will discuss current issues in censorship including book challenges, net neutrality and free access to the Internet, and youth free speech rights. The event is free and open to the public. Co-sponsored by the School of Library and Information Studies at the UW-Madison and A Room of One's Own feminist bookstore.


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And check out the display at A Room of One's Own bookstore window - thanks for being loyal defenders of the right to read!

For more on Banned Books Week, visit the American Library Association website or check out the national ACLU's website on intellectual and artistic freedom.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Healthy Youth Act Would Raise the Standard for Real Sex Ed in Wisconsin

The ACLU of WI Supports the Healthy Youth Act to Ensure Comprehensive Sex Education in Wisconsin Schools

The ACLU of Wisconsin was present for the Tuesday, September 29 press conference for the introduction of the Healthy Youth Act in the Wisconsin State Legislature. The Healthy Youth Act would raise state standards for public school human growth and development instruction. This improvement would give Wisconsin teens the tools they need to make healthy and responsible life decisions by setting a standard of comprehensive sexuality education.

Evidence shows that stressing the importance of waiting to have sex while providing accurate, age-appropriate, and complete information about using contraceptives can help teens delay sex and reduce sexual risk taking. This approach is effective and is associated with lower teen pregnancy rates. Comprehensive sexuality education is needed from both a public health perspective and to save taxpayer money in a time when economic challenges strain our social safety net.

“From a Constitutional perspective, the Healthy Youth Act would honor equal protection, free speech and freedom of religion,” said ACLU of Wisconsin Community Advocate Stacy Harbaugh. “Our public schools should have a human growth and instruction curriculum on relationships and reproduction that recognizes equality in gender and sexual orientation. Our schools should also respect diversity in religion by notifying all parents about what is being taught in school and allowing them to opt out without repercussions for their children. Ultimately, our schools should teach the facts about reproduction, not promote religion or discrimination.”

Comprehensive sexuality education enjoys a broad base of support including major medical organizations such as the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Society of Adolescent Medicine, the American Nurses Association, the American Public Health Association, and the Institute of Medicine. Comprehensive sex education is also supported by major educational organizations including the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the National School Boards Association. More than 85 percent of Americans support school-based sexuality education programs that teach students how to use and where to get contraceptives.

Stay tuned to the Cap City Liberty blog or follow the ACLUMadison on Twitter to get more information and updates on real sex ed for Wisconsin.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Domestic Partners Seek To Intervene In Lawsuit Challenging Wisconsin’s Domestic Partner Law

The ACLU Urges Wisconsin Supreme Court To Send Case To Trial Court So That Those Most Affected By The Lawsuit Can Be Heard

On September 22, 2009, The American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion before the Wisconsin Supreme Court on behalf of five same-sex couples asking that they be allowed to participate in a lawsuit that will decide whether the state’s newly enacted domestic partner law violates Wisconsin’s anti-gay marriage amendment.

Anti-gay activists have asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to strike down the domestic partner law as inconsistent with the marriage amendment. The couples also ask the Court to reject the petition and send the case to a trial court so that evidence can be presented to show that the domestic partner law does not violate the anti-gay marriage amendment that passed in 2006.

“While the domestic partner law falls far short of marriage, we were grateful when it passed that we would no longer have to worry about being able to visit each other in the hospital,” said Jayne Dunnum who, along with her partner of 17 years, Robin Timm, registered to become domestic partners when the law went into effect this summer. “But with this lawsuit those fears are back, and we’d like the opportunity to explain to the courts how this affects us.”

According to the motion filed by the ACLU, the five same-sex couples meet all the legal requirements for becoming a party to the litigation and would suffer harm if the court overturns the domestic partner law.

“We’re hopeful that the Wisconsin Supreme Court will recognize that lesbian and gay couples have the most at stake in this lawsuit and deserve their day in court,” said Larry Dupuis, Legal Director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “Only same-sex couples can describe what it’s like to fear not being able to visit a partner in the hospital or being left with nothing when a partner dies without a will. And only same-sex couples can explain what it means to be shut out of marriage and have to accept a poorly understood, second-class status as domestic partners with 43 legal protections versus more than 200 that come with marriage.”

The anti-gay activists who are seeking to take away the legal protections for registered domestic partners have claimed that they need a speedy resolution and are entitled to go directly to the Wisconsin Supreme Court because the modest legal protections granted to same-sex couples through the law somehow affect the marriages of straight couples. Rather incredulously, they also claim that it would be in the best interest of lesbian and gay couples to have a speedy resolution even though they are asking the court to strip domestic partners of all legal protections.

According to the ACLU, there are important factual issues in the case, such as the many ways in which domestic partnership differs from marriage, that call for the kind of testimony that same-sex couples can provide to the Court. To consider this important evidence, the Supreme Court should refuse to accept this case directly but instead allow a circuit court to develop the factual record.

During the political campaign for the anti-gay marriage amendment that is the basis for this lawsuit, these same anti-gay activists told the voters that domestic partner benefits would not be affected by the amendment and legislators said that the state would be allowed to pass a law giving same-sex couples some legal protections.

“The anti-gay activists misled the voters into passing the amendment by saying that it would not affect the rights of domestic partners. Then they tried to prevent the legislature from providing modest legal protections for same-sex couples. And soon after the bill went into effect, they brought a lawsuit to take those protections away, based on the amendment that they said would not affect such rights” said John Knight, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT Project. “It’s incredible the lengths they will go to deny committed couples basic protections for their families.”

The same-sex couples asking to be allowed into the lawsuit include:

Jayne Dunnum and Robin Timm from Plattsville, WI, have been together for 17 years. After Timm was injured on their farm and had to be rushed to the emergency room, they worry about being able to visit each other in the hospital and are hoping the domestic partner law will put an end to these worries.

Carol Schumacher and Virginia Wolf from Eau Claire, WI, have been together for 34 years. As they enter their senior years, the domestic partner law would ease their worries about being shut out of conversations about each other’s medical care and other end-of-life decisions and guarantee that they are not barred from sharing a room if they end up in a nursing home.

Wendy and Mary Woodruff from Milwaukee, WI, have been together for 12 years. As a minister for the Metropolitan Community Church, Rev. Wendy Woodruff has had to console a congregant who lost everything, including her home and furniture, when her partner was killed and the partner’s relatives claimed their entire estate. They fear the same thing would happen to them without the inheritance protections of the domestic partner law.

Judith Trampf and Katy Heyning from Madison, WI, celebrated their 20th Anniversary this summer. A few years back, Heyning had a seizure that left her unable to drive for six months. Unable to take family leave, Trampf had to use her vacation time to drive Katy to doctor’s appointments and to and from work. Under the domestic partner law, the couple would finally gain access to family leave protection.

Diane Schermann and Missy Collins from Eau Claire, WI, have known each other for 10 years and have been a couple for five. The couple is raising seven children, including Diane’s two children from a previous marriage, a new baby that Missy gave birth to through in vitro fertilization and four foster children, two of which are relatives of Collins. Like many couples their age, the couple has put off making wills because of the expense. The domestic partner law would guarantee that at least half of their joint property automatically passes to each other.

Lambda Legal also filed papers today to intervene in the Appling v. Doyle case on behalf of Fair Wisconsin, the statewide equality organization, and its members. Lambda Legal, like the ACLU, says domestic partnerships and marriages are not "substantially similar."

Linda Hansen, David Froiland, Jason Plowman, Daniel Manna and David Goroff of Foley & Lardner, LLP are assisting ACLU attorneys Dupuis and Knight in representing the couples. Additional information about the ACLU’s motion, including bios and photographs of the couples and the legal documents filed today are available online.

Monday, September 21, 2009

DREAM Act event in Madison

Community event in Madison on the federal version of what was passed at the state level during the state budget negotiations...

National Day of Action in support of the DREAM Act

Wednesday, September 23, 4:30 - 7:30 p.m.
Centro Hispano, 810 W. Badger Rd. Madison

4:30 – 6:30pm Workshops: the Artz, DREAM Act 101
6:30 – 7:00pm Open Mic, DJ, y Music from Son Mudanza

*the event is free
*there will be food too!

The DREAM Act is a piece of legislation that would create a path to legal status through college education or military service for undocumented youth who have been in this country since an early age. On September 23rd, thousands of students all over the country will rise together and declare that it is Back to School DREAM ACT Day of Action! Here in Madison Alcance, MEChA and Voces de la Frontera invite you to join us at Centro Hispano to learn more about the DREAM Act (and instate tuition) and have fun as well!

Find the event on Facebook.

For more info contact Jannet Arenas: (608)333-3515

Monday, September 14, 2009

Banned Books Week the topic of WORT interview with ACLU of WI Community Advocate

Check out this interview with ACLU of Wisconsin Community Advocate Stacy Harbaugh on upcoming Banned Books Week events.

Hope you can join us at the Goodman Community Center on Tuesday, September 15 at 7:00 p.m. for a Banned Books Week kick-off and ACLU fundraiser.

Friday, September 11, 2009

News roundup: more support for voting rights, postponed Kenosha cursing decision and more

A news round up from the week – good civil liberties articles and issues you don’t want to miss!

Voting Rights
Rep. Joseph Parisi made a supportive statement about the committee hearing for the Wisconsin Democracy Restoration Act bill. His comments on how racial bias in the criminal justice system disfranchises a larger amount of people of color gives good support for the bill. The Capital Times had a supportive editorial and the On Milwaukee blog gave it a shout out.

Free Speech
ACLU of Wisconsin board member and law professor Jon Marshall was interviewed on a Fox 6 news report on the proposed Kenosha cursing ticket ordinance. The Kenosha City Council decided to postpone their vote. The ACLU of Wisconsin continues to urge them to drop the proposal.

There were also articles in the Madison Isthmus on the police crackdown on selling political newspapers on State St. as well as a Green Bay Press Gazette editorial questioning the timing of a park gun ban so soon after a man carried his firearm as a public statement of Second Amendment rights. And did you catch the news about the Wisconsin Representative who wants the legislature to advise journalists to stop calling H1N1 influenza the "swine" flu?

Milwaukee Examiner blog features story about a biker from Hudson, WI who is biking across the country for charity. He brought attention to the West Bend book banning controversy and the Examiner blog post has some fun facts about Banned Books Week. Celebrate Banned Books Week this month in Wisconsin.

Domestic Partnerships
The Cap Times had a scorcher of an opinion piece on the political motivations for Attorney General Van Hollen to not represent the state in the challenge against the new statewide domestic partnership registry and benefits. The Duluth News Tribune had a similar article with an overview of the AG's opinions in the course of his tenure. The ACLU of Wisconsin also sent out a Tweet earlier this week on the legal opinion from UW Law School professor David Schwartz which described how the registry and benefits are Constitutional.

There was an article on on how non-profit organizations are lining up to help people understand more about their participation in the Census. There was also a timeline on what to expect. While their is a national organization urging immigrants to not participate in the Census, Wisconsin immigrant rights groups are underscoring the need and the benefits of full participation of everyone in our community.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Celebrate Banned Books Week with the ACLU of Wisconsin!

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin Foundation will be recognizing Banned Books Week through several events across the state. Nationally, Banned Books Week is an awareness campaign sponsored by the American Library Association which celebrates the freedom to read and the right to open, accessible libraries.

“From the Internet to our local libraries, censorship is still a threat,” said Stacy Harbaugh, Community Advocate for the ACLU of Wisconsin. “While we read about high-profile conflicts that happen in Wisconsin, the reality is that teachers, librarians and journalists work every day to keep information accessible to the public. Banned Books Week recognizes their efforts.”

The ACLU works nationally to fight censorship and protect the freedom of expression, even when free speech is unpopular. The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation recently announced that it will be representing a supper club owner in Crivitz, WI who is in a dispute with police who confiscated the flag the man was flying upside-down as a form of protest. The ACLU of Wisconsin was also involved in supporting the librarians at the public library in West Bend, WI after books with gay and lesbian characters were challenged by local residents.

Nationally, the American Civil Liberties Union has joined a coalition of authors, publishers and groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation to urge a federal judge to reject a proposed settlement in a lawsuit over Google Book Search. The ACLU is concerned that the settlement will leave open the possibility that the browsing and readership history of digitized books on Google Book Search will not have privacy protections.

Please join the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation for these Banned Books Week events:

ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation Banned Books Week Kick-off and Fundraiser
Tuesday, September 15, 7:00—8:30 p.m.
Goodman Community Center149 Waubesa Street Madison, WI 53704

Featuring special guests Michael Tyree, Director, West Bend Community Memorial Library and Maria Hanrahan, West Bend community organizer. These brave book defenders will share their story of a book challenge this year in West Bend, WI. The professionalism of the library staff and the efforts of community activists were crucial in defending a diverse library collection that is free and accessible to all community patrons. A $25, tax-deductible donation is encouraged.

Banned Books Week Panel, moderated by Jim Fleming, Wisconsin Public Radio host
Thursday, October 1, 6:00—7:30 p.m.
School of Library and Information Science—4th floor commons
Helen C. White Hall—600 North Park Street Madison, WI 53706

Featuring special guests Bob Bocher, Library Technology Consultant, WI Dept. of Public Instruction and two local librarians with experience working with public and youth library collections. The panel will discuss current issues in censorship including book challenges, net neutrality and free access to the Internet, and youth free speech rights. The event is free and open to the public. Co-sponsored by the School of Library and Information Studies at the UW-Madison.

Banned Books Talk presented by ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation, Woodland Pattern Book Center, and Wisconsin Center for the Book
Wednesday, October 14, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Woodland Pattern Book Center720 E. Locust Street, Milwaukee, WI 53212

Join the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation and Woodland Pattern Book Center for a celebration of beloved banned books. We’ll talk about censorship attempts in and around South East Wisconsin. There will be a short presentation and then we’ll read excerpts from the “hot” books. A reception begins at 6:30 p.m.

For more info on the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation’s work to protect free speech, read the news on our website. Read more about the national Banned Books Week on the American Library Association website.