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The ACLU of Utah Activist

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Banned Books Week 2013: Books about LGBT Families Remain Targets of Censorship

25 September 2013 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
This national ACLU log post examines continued censorship of books in the U.S. and mentions the recent ACLU of Utah case, Weber v. Davis School District. 

School to Prison Pipeline

25 September 2013 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
The ACLU of Utah has a strong commitment to fighting for racial justice and has pursued several important cases in the past year to challenge racial inequity in our community. One case that the ACLU of Utah staff has been hard at work on is Winston vs. Salt Lake Police Department for which we filed a class-action lawsuit against school and police officials over a ‘gang sweep’ in which students of color were detained, interrogated and falsely accused of participating in gang activity. The ACLU of Utah views this case as one important challenge to the larger disturbing trend of schools using discipline policies that push children out of school and into the criminal justice system. This trend is known as the school-to-prison pipeline. Increasingly, police have a greater presence in schools and as a result young people are being criminalized for offenses like minor classroom misbehavior. The greater police presence is not making our schools safer when children are encountering the criminal justice system for non-violent offenses. In the Winston case, between 14 and 40 West High School students of color were detained, interrogated, searched and forced to be photographed holding signs identifying them as gang members.  Their personal information…

Contraception is Basic Health Care

20 August 2013 Published in Federal Policy Work
Now is the time to speak out to ensure contraception coverage for millions of American women. Urge the Obama administration to stand firm and not yield to those seeking to undo a major victory for women's health. In a breakthrough for women's health, the Obama administration has ensured that millions of women have access to affordable, effective contraception. But anti-family planning forces are waging an all-out campaign to prevent women from getting affordable access to this basic health care. They are claiming that your boss should be able to control your health care decisions. We can't let them succeed. That's why we're hoping you will immediately write to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and urge it to stand by its decision – contraception is basic health care and must be available in health insurance plans. The deadline for public comment on the current plan is right around the corner. HHS needs to hear from you and all Americans who support women’s fundamental right to contraception. We must fight back and ensure our voices are heard. We know that contraception is a game changer for women. Contraception helps women protect their health and plan their families. It allows women…

Police Documents on License Plate Scanners Reveal Mass Tracking Across the Country

17 July 2013 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
Automatic license plate readers are the most widespread location tracking technology you’ve probably never heard of. Mounted on patrol cars or stationary objects like bridges, they snap photos of every passing car, recording their plate numbers, times, and locations. At first the captured plate data was used just to check against lists of cars law enforcement hoped to locate for various reasons (to act on arrest warrants, find stolen cars, etc.). But increasingly, all of this data is being fed into massive databases that contain the location information of many millions of innocent Americans stretching back for months or even years.

Utah: Only State in Nation to Enforce English-Only Policy in Prisons? Thanks to the ACLU of Utah, Not Anymore

16 July 2013 Published in Legal Advocacy
Utah, formerly the only state to enforce English-only policies in prisons for inmates and their visitors, no longer stands out as a bastion of bad policy. We are thrilled to report to our members and supporters that Rollin Cook, Executive Director of Utah State Corrections, withdrew the decades-old English-only policy after we informed him that the policy violated prisoners’ Constitutional rights, and that the policy was outdated and poorly tailored to guarantee the safety of inmates, their visitors, and staff.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Senator Hatch to vote YES to pass ENDA out of committee.

03 July 2013 Published in Federal Policy Work
Imagine being fired for no other reason than simply being who you are. Right now in a majority of states, including Utah, you can be fired solely for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Tell your senator to end workplace discrimination. Next Wednesday, July 10, the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee will vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). ENDA would level the playing field for LGBT workers and ensure that all Americans have the ability to work free from discrimination. Your senator, Senator Orrin Hatch, is a key vote on the HELP Committee and needs to hear from you to move this important legislation to the full floor of the Senate. Contact Senator Hatch today and urge him to vote YES to pass ENDA out of committee. No one should have to fear being fired simply because of who they are. Thank you for taking action to ensure a free and fair workplace for all Americans. ACLU of Utah

Out For Freedom

26 June 2013 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
While we celebrate the Court’s decision to strike down the federal recognition section of DOMA, individual states still have anti-gay, anti-marriage laws. In fact these discriminatory barriers are now embedded in 30 state constitutions. Find out about the new national ACLU campaign to fight for full marriage equality across the country. Read more >>

I support the freedom to marry

24 June 2013 Published in LGBTQ Equality
We are all eagerly awaiting the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Action (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8, which could happen as soon as tomorrow! Regardless of when these decisions are announced, those of us who believe in equality for all people are standing firmly together in anticipation. The ACLU of Utah is proud to stand with our community partners, LGBTQ friends and equality advocates at this monumental moment! 

Accuracy in E-Verify will be a major issue

14 May 2013 Published in Federal Policy Work
Wouldn't you be furious if the government's plan to screen certain immigrants out of the workforce ended up costing you your job instead? That's exactly what could happen if a massive error-prone bureaucracy called E-Verify is included in the federal immigration reform package your senator is considering right now.

Ask the Hard Questions About the Targeted Killing Program

17 April 2013 Published in Federal Policy Work
On Tuesday morning, the Senate will hold its first-ever hearing on drones and the killing program in which an estimated 4,700 people across two continents have been killed, including four American citizens. This vast killing program is unlawful, dangerous, and unwise. Amazingly, the Obama administration continues to hide its legal memos on when it believes any president can order the Pentagon and the CIA to kill people far from any battlefield.

2013 Legislative Session - Week Five Update

04 March 2013 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
With the legislative session winding down, things are picking up on the Capitol Hill. This change of pace was tangible last week, as bills started to move through the process much more quickly. This week we look at: SB 196, License Plate Reader Amendments; H.B. 44, Election Polling; S.B. 225, Immigration Trigger Dates  

2013 Legislative Session - Week Four Update

26 February 2013 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
This week we look at H.B. 43, Campaign Finance Reporting by Corporations; H.B. 127, Motor Vehicle Event Data Recorders; and S.B. 77, Availability of Government Information.  

2013 Legislative Session - Week Three Update

21 February 2013 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
Last week was as busy as ever at the Utah State Legislature, as we continued to work with law makers on several issues.  

2013 Legislative Session - Week Two Update

11 February 2013 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
This week was busy for the ACLU of Utah, as we worked with legislators on several issues concerning civil liberties.  

Wearing a Hoodie While Brown Does Not Mean You Are in a Gang

13 December 2012 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
On December 16, 2010, West High School officials in Salt Lake City, Utah invited the Metro Gang Task Force into the school to conduct a gang sweep. Students identified, searched and interrogated by the police were mostly Latino/a or, in the case of Kaleb Winston, African-American.  He was targeted by his school and by the Task Force as a potential gang member, searched and accused of being a tagger. As an artist, Kaleb had a notebook full of drawings in a backpack manufactured to look like it had been spray-painted. But because graffiti is loosely defined, if at all, the police decided Kaleb was a “gang tagger” despite his denials. Kaleb was then forced to hold up a sign with the words “My name is Kaleb Winston and I am a gang tagger.” Law enforcement officers told him that this information was being placed into a database and that the information would be removed if he did not get into trouble for two years. Kaleb was emotionally devastated by the experience. He is not and has never been in a gang. Yet, his attendance at school that day, not bad behavior, made him the subject of intense police scrutiny and…

Davis School District Sued for Removing Children’s Book About Lesbian Parents from Library Shelves

13 November 2012 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
November 13, 2012 -  The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Utah filed a lawsuit against the Davis School District after elementary schools in the district were instructed to remove a children's book about a family with same-sex parents from library shelves.

ACLU of Utah is Looking for Parents of Elementary Students in Davis School District

07 August 2012 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
If you or someone you know is the parent of a child in one of Davis School District elementary schools listed at the end of this post, we'd like to hear from you.   As you may recall, we've been investigating the District's removal of the book "In Our Mothers' House" from the shelves of school libraries and requiring parental permission to check it out. For school administrators to place restrictions on a library book because they disagree with its message is viewpoint discrimination, and violates the First Amendment.  We would like to speak to parents with children at Parkside Elementary School in Clinton, Windridge Elementary School in Kaysville, Snow Horse Elementary School in Kaysville or South Weber Elementary School in South Weber, where the book was removed. Our conversations will be confidential.  Please call John Mejia at (801) 521-9862 x.108 or email us at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..   

Disservice to Teens

15 March 2012 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
Adolescence. We've all been there, and we would bet that most everyone remembers how awkward it can be. Hormones transform bodies. And suddenly there are a lot of questions about sex. Telling teens "just don't do it," and gagging our teachers so they can't even answer questions, will not stop young people from seeking out the answers on their own.  Unfortunately, the information they cobble together is often uninformed, ill-advised, or downright wrong. Our Legislature just passed a bill that says that's the best we can do for our young people. But they're wrong.

Disservice To Teens

11 March 2012 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
Published in the Salt Lake Tribune, March 13, 2012 >> Adolescence. We've all been there, and we would bet that most everyone remembers how awkward it can be. Hormones transform bodies. And suddenly there are a lot of questions about sex. Telling teens "just don't do it," and gagging our teachers so they can't even answer questions, will not stop young people from seeking out the answers on their own. Unfortunately, the information they cobble together is often uninformed, ill-advised, or downright wrong. Our Legislature just passed a bill that says that's the best we can do for our young people. But they're wrong. Our students are best served by programs that educate and inform, not ones that dangerously limit information and mislead. They deserve education that provides them with balanced and accurate information, and supports them so they can make healthy and responsible decisions in life. The truth is that we can't be with our children all the time, but we can make sure that our schools give our students the tools they need to make informed and healthy decisions as they grow into adults. If you think that sounds like a good idea, you're not alone. The overwhelming…

Start a GSA Today

04 November 2011 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
Imagine if there were a group of students more likely than their peers to be depressed. Imagine if they were more likely to be bullied, to get low grades, to be suicidal. Imagine if they were ultimately more likely to be victims of violence.  For young people who are harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, these things aren’t hard to imagine. That’s because they’re unfortunate daily realities for many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students — and for straight or gender-conforming students who are perceived as LGBT. When school days are spent hearing homophobic slurs or avoiding transphobic bullying, it’s hard to study, to make friends, to be happy, or even to feel safe. It’s even harder when you’re trying to do it all alone.  Now imagine there’s a way to help those students.