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Chinn Case Is Just The Tip of the Surveillance Iceberg

Well, that settles it – government surveillance without suspicion is a costly endeavor. The case surrounding the false arrest of Phil Chinn –the Olympia activist targeted for surveillance based on his political associations – has come to a close. Unfortunately, a new ACLU report on political spying shows that coordinated efforts to target political activists for surveillance persist not only throughout Washington, but throughout the country. Read More »

Meth? Only [fill in the blank] People Use That Drug

Last week, Seattle's weekly Stranger newspaper reported on the launch of a new meth outreach program: For 16 years, Seattle Counseling Service (SCS), an LGBT mental-health- and addiction-­counseling center, has focused its meth outreach on gay men. A month ago, the organization started something different: Women OUT, a weekly meth-abuse support group for lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LBTQ) women. This is a good thing. Rates of current (past-month) use of methamphetamine by women and men have been equal in recent years. Why the previous focus on gay men? According to a 2004 report published by the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors and the National Coalition of STD Directors, evidence suggested that meth use increased the likelihood of engaging in risky behavior like unprotected sex. Well, yes, that shouldn't have surprised anyone. Read More »

Can’t Pay? Go Directly to Jail.

You might have thought that “debtors' prisons” were extinct. But people are still being jailed in Washington all too often simply because they can’t pay their court-ordered financial obligations in a criminal case.

The Washington Supreme Court recently agreed with ACLU-WA that it is not fair to “automatically” send a person to jail for failure to pay these financial obligations, without a hearing to determine if the person has the ability to pay.

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All Things Being Equal: Are They?

Fair Play in Community Sports

This summer marks the one-year anniversary of the Washington Fair Play Law, the law that requires community sports programs to provide equal benefits and opportunities to girls in sports. While the federal Title IX law has long prohibited discrimination in school sports, community sports programs could - and did - discriminate with impunity. So the Fair Play Law was passed to deal with persistent inequities that played out in community sports programs throughout the state.

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Justice Sandra Day O'Connor Wants You to Play Video Games

iCivics is the vision of former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is concerned that students are not getting the information and tools they need for civic participation, and that civics teachers need better materials and support. So, she created a bunch of video games to teach civics to middle school students. These look to be excellent teaching tools, but are they any good as games?

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Tweet If You See Our Bus Ads

It's the 75th anniversary of the ACLU of Washington, and we've put up ads all over the city of Seattle to celebrate!  If you see one, tweet the location to @aclu_wa with the hashtag #freedomfwd.  We will enter you in a prize to win an ACLU gift basket.

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Street speech

Street Speech: Demonstrating How to Protect the Rights of Marchers

Like publishing ideas in books or newspapers, demonstrating in the streets has been one of the fundamental outlets for speech throughout our nation’s history.  The Supreme Court has long held that speech gets maximum protection in certain kinds of public places, like parks, sidewalks, and streets.  People with soapboxes need somewhere to put them, after all.

In these public places, speech may be limited only for narrow and very specific reasons.  States are allowed, for example, to prohibit demonstrators from blocking access to buildings like hospitals or fire stations.  We allow the government to make and enforce laws designed to keep those vital public services operating, even when it might limit people’s right to demonstrate in certain areas.  Courts call these “time, place, and manner restrictions,” and as long as they meet certain criteria, they’re constitutional.

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Pride in Government

The first Pride Parade I ever attended was in 2003, just days after the Supreme Court ruled on Lawrence v. Texas, a groundbreaking decision that struck down the Texas law which criminalized sodomy. I was in San Francisco. Marchers held signs, “I had sodomy for breakfast.” As I had only come out less than two years prior, the immense outward free expression of pride and celebration of equal rights was overwhelming—in a good way. As Pride month culminates here in this weekend’s festivities and annual parade, I reflect on a couple recent developments that are cause for celebration—personally, with respect to future aspiring parenthood and to professional growth and inspiration.
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Stand Up for Students. Stand Up Against Racism.

In a recent e-mail exchange among Marysville School Board members, a disturbing discussion took place. A board member argued that the achievement gap could not be remedied because some groups of students are genetically less capable due to their race. You can help us support the school board members who stood up against this shockingly racist assertion.

Various students learn in different ways and have different strengths, but all students can learn. That was the message delivered by community members, including the NAACP, Tulalip tribal leaders, and others who packed the room at a recent school board meeting. The majority of the Marysville School Board agreed, issued an apology, and made clear their commitment to educate all students.

Sign the petition today to thank these school board members for setting an example for school boards across the state. Read More »


Tales from the DEA: Project Deliverance or Project Folly?

On June 10, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) proclaimed a major victory in the War on Drugs. As stated by Attorney General Eric Holder, Project Deliverance “struck a significant blow against the [Mexican] cartels…, [albeit] just one battle in what is an ongoing war.” The numbers involved certainly are impressive, 2,226 arrests (including 23 here in Washington), 74.1 tons of illegal drugs seized, and $154 million in apprehended assets. However, Project Deliverance is about more than just flashy photos of seized drugs and stern quotes from law enforcement officials, it is a snapshot of the futility of the War on Drugs. 

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