June 17, 2013
Fabulous with a chance of rainbows: so reads the forecast for the weekend of June 28, when a crowd of hundreds of thousands will converge on Hennepin Avenue and Loring Park. Their mission? To celebrate the annual Twin Cities Pride Festival. The year 2013 marks the 41st time that LGBT individuals and their supporters have gathered for Pride, and this year, there is certainly cause for celebration. Barely six months after Minnesota became the first state to defeat an attempted constitutional ban of marriage for same-sex couples, Minnesota lawmakers turned around to legalize just that. On Aug. 1, 2013, same-sex couples will be able to legally marry in our Land of 10,000 Lakes.
As we celebrate this landmark victory with what is scheduled to be the largest Pride in Minnesota history, it’s important that we look back to see just how far we’ve come. Pride has not always been the spectacle we know and love, complete with its colorful parade, multiple concert stages, and incredible Minnesota corn dogs. But despite the extravagance we see today, Pride still can have the same powerful purpose it did in 1972, when a group of around 100 students gathered in the northeast corner of Loring Park for a picnic and small rally to remember the Stonewall riots of 1969. It was one year before the American Psychiatric Association would remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, and two years before the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul would adopt gay rights ordinances. Likely, no one from that first picnic could have imagined how the world would change, and how Pride would grow.
But grow it did. Attendance increased slowly but steadily through the ‘70s, with live music appearing in 1975. 1977 saw the rise of Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children,” and although the city of St. Paul repealed its gay rights ordinance in 1978 as a result of rising homophobic fervor, the Twin Cities Pride Festival carried on, reaching 2,000 attendees in 1980.
That same year, the Pride Committee sued the city of Minneapolis for the right to host a block party on Hennepin Avenue. With the help of the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union (the forerunner to the ACLU of Minnesota), the group persuaded a federal judge inGay Pride v. The City of Minneapolisthat it was unconstitutional to allow other groups access to the avenue, but not the Pride Festival. In 1981, the Pride Committee was allowed to close off one block of Hennepin Avenue, for just one hour.
In 1990, Pride had grown so large that the Pride Committee had to request vendor applications and began to arrange booths around Loring Lake; by 1992, annual attendance was 50,000. The mid-90’s saw the introduction of multiple music stages, and in 1995 attendance had reached 100,000. By the late 90’s, the Pride Festival began to have corporate sponsors, and in 1998 annual attendance had doubled again, reaching 200,000.
This year, the Pride Committee expects over 450,000 guests. The celebration may look very different from that first picnic in 1972, but the message is still the same. Let us celebrate the victories—such as marriage equality in our great state—while recognizing how very far we still have left to go.
Many thanks to outhistory.org for their history of the Twin Cities Pride Festival. Visit http://outhistory.org/wiki/Twin_Cities_Pride_Festival to learn more.
June 12, 2013
Looking around the world today, I am struck with the nagging suspicion that too many of us here in America take our freedoms for granted. We think that the world was always built on the ability to speak your mind without fear of repercussions from the state. We think that because we were born into an environment of stability and opportunity that everyone has the same chance to succeed, and that it is only laziness that is holding people back. We think that America will last forever because that is simply the way it has to be.
We think that if we are not personally oppressed, then everything is just fine. We wonder why so many other people are complaining.
Historically, this is not a successful mindset for citizens of a society that wants to thrive. A strong civilization builds on the abilities of all its people by including them, not by exclusion. Exclusion breeds strife, discontent, conflict, and eventual collapse. Exclusion brings us the Arab Spring, the American and French Revolutions, and the Germanic uprisings that toppled Rome. Exclusion brings us countless wars around the globe.
Exclusion brings an end to all societies, everywhere, and eventually replaces them with ones more inclusive. If they do not maintain that inclusiveness, they are replaced in return.
This is why gay marriage is important to me. This is why economic inequity is important to me. This is why basic human rights are important to me. Even though these things do not affect me personally, these ARE problems in our society that we need to fix, and too many people are caught up in the mindset of "As long as I get mine, everyone else can fend for themselves."
I do not want my children to grow up in that world. I want my children to grow up in a society that is more inclusive than the one I grew up in, not less, because to do otherwise is to set them on that same failed path so many others have walked. I want their feet to travel the road that leads to peace and security, not fear and conflict.
Gay marriage in Minnesota is a good step toward inclusion, but the journey is still long, and we have many steps left to take.
Make sure to pre-order Chris Kluwe's book, Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies, on Amazon at http://amzn.com/0316236772. Also, make sure to march with us in the Twin Cities Pride Parade. Parade Grand Marshal, Chris Kluwe, will be stopping by our contingent before the march!
May 28, 2013
Contributed by Ben Feist, Legislative Director of the ACLU-MN.
The 2013 Minnesota Legislative Session ended May 20. Looking back on the session we were excited about a number of a huge victories, and hopeful that a few bills that did not make it through this session will be passed next session.
May 08, 2013
Contributed by Angel Manjarrez, Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project Organizer
In honor of May Day, Gustavus Adolphus College chose a social justice issue to focus on that is important to the students. This year they chose immigration reform. It is a timely topic because it is currently being debated nationally in Congress. An important part of these reforms would be opening a pathway for undocumented Latino’s living in the United States to gain residency and ultimately citizenship. This rally sponsored by, Spanish-250 “Crossing the Border” and other groups took place around the entire campus of Gustavus. Led by Professor Mayra Taylor, this group of fifty students marched through the campus demanding change.. Antonio Gomez, a senior at Gustavus, and student advocate for immigrant rights had a few words regarding the event. “From my experience with talking with students, teachers, and mentors I have come to realize that there are many people out there who know very little about the issue and could often have negative presumptions about the immigration reform now being discussed. This is why I believe a march to advocate for immigration reform such as the one conducted at Gustavus Adolphus College are beneficial to spark interest or even just curiosity.”
From screaming “si se puede” (Yes we can) to singing “This land is your land”, these students embodied the importance of immigration reform and how desperately it is needed. The stance began at the heart of campus,from there the students walked throughout the class buildings and into the cafeteria, where over two hundred students heard the marchers shouting: “What does immigration look like?” with “This is what immigration looks like!” The next plan of attack for these students is to center around the town of St. Peter and march through Main Street screaming the chant that was heard around campus, “si se puede!”
May 01, 2013
The ACLU-MN is excited that Twin Cities Pride has chosen Chris Kluwe as the grand marshal for the 2013 Pride Parade. The ACLU-MN nominated Kluwe for grand marshal because of his outsanding commitment to civil liberties and his efforts in the fight for marriage fairness.
Chris Kluwe, a Vikings punter, and soon to be published author, stepped into the forefront of the marriage debate when he penned a colorful op-ed promoting marriage fairness in 2012. In doing so he became one of the first pro-athletes to publically take a stand for marriage fairness. He has since supported the ACLU-MN and other non-profits in their work to defeat the anti-marriage amendment that was on the November 2012 ballot. Thanks in part to his distinct voice that resonated with a wide variety of audiences, the amendment was defeated.
The ACLU-MN looks forward to watching him lead the parade and hopes to continue to work with him in the future. Kluwe's book, entitled "Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies" is scheduled to be released June 25, 2013, just in time for theTwin Cities Pride Celebration.
The ACLU-MN will participate in the Twin Cities Pride Parade. If you are interested in joining the contingent please contact Jana at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651.645.4097 x123.
Below is a picture of Chris Kluwe along with ACLU members at a recent ACLU event.
April 24, 2013
We need your help! The Minnesota House added two dangerous amendments onto the Health and Human Services Omnibus Bill. We need to make sure that those same amendments aren't added to the Senate Bill when it is debated on Thursday April 25th. Tweet your Senator today and tell them (below are two sample tweets for each issue, pick your favorite):
April 23, 2013
In 2012 Minnesota made history when it became the first state to vote down a ban on the freedom to marry. Now we have an opportunity to take the next step and pass legislation that would grant the freedom to marry to all Minnesotans.
On March 12, legislation passed through Minnesota House and Senate committees to secure the freedom to marry (SF925 / HF1054). Because of those key votes, these bills are now headed to House and Senate floor votes.
We're now in a sprint to ensure that legislators in both the House and the Senate are ready to vote YES to the freedom to marry by the time the floor votes are taken.
Legislators listen to their constituents, and they want to hear from you. Urge your legislators to vote YES for the freedom to marry!
December 06, 2012
Contributed by Charles Samuelson, Executive Director
These past few weeks our office, like much of Minnesota, has been buzzing with excitement over our win at the ballot box with the defeat of the two constitutional amendments that would have jeopardized the civil liberties of many Minnesotans. We would like to thank all of you for standing with the ACLU and voting no on both of these amendments.
We should be proud that we were the first state to vote down a ban on same sex marriage, 30 states had voted on bans and 30 states passed bans. We were proud to join our allies in Maine, Maryland and Washington who also celebrated victories for LGBT equality.
The defeat of the voter restriction amendment was equally as momentous. Across the country legislatures have been passing voting restriction measures, like photo ID requirements, because they were thought to be popular. We showed the country that Minnesotans recognized this amendment for what it was, a poorly written and unneeded amendment that would have disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of their fellow voters.
Despite our victories at the ballot box our work is not over. Marriage is still not legal for thousands of Minnesota families and we plan on taking the fight to the Minnesota Legislature along with our allies to ensure that all Minnesotans have the right to have their loving and committed relationships recognized.
Marriage won't be our only priority during this next two year term at the Legislature, the ACLU has many different civil liberties priorities that we will need to ensure are protected. This newly elected Legislature also needs to hear from us about what sorts of new Legislation should be put forward. So we want to hear from you, what issues should we prioritize? Police and criminal justice issues? Privacy rights? Comprehensive sex-ed? There are dozens of issues that we could be working on, but we want to hear from you, our member and supporters about what is important to you.
Write me an email with your suggestions, and we see what we can do.
Thank you and best wishes in the new year!
December 04, 2012
While Chris Kluwe has long been a supporter of civil liberties and equal rights, it wasn’t until he penned an open letter to Delegate Burns of Maryland that he became well known for those beliefs. With a sharp wit and his notoriety for being the Viking’s punter since 2005 Chris has quickly become an icon for the LGBT rights movement in Minnesota and beyond.
We at the ACLU-MN have been lucky enough to work with him on a number of occasions; he has donated a signed football, worked with us to promote fundraisers and has even attended our annual Earl Larson Award where he met with ACLU supporters to honor a noted civil libertarian from our legal community.
More is in store for Chris and the ACLU-Mn this spring. He and his band, Tripping Icarus, will be the headliners for a night of civil liberties and local music talent. Look for more details to come soon about this event.
For now we are grateful that Chris is willing to lend his celebrity and talents to help promote the important work of defending our civil liberties.
October 12, 2012
Contributed by Sandra Feist. Sandra has been a member of the ACLU-MN Board of Directors since September 2010. She is a Partner at the law firm, Grell & Feist, where she practices immigration law.
I’m not elderly. I’m not poor. I’m highly educated and an active voter in Minnesota. Nonetheless, if the proposed Voter ID Amendment were in force five years ago when I married my husband, I would not have been able to vote.
In my young, impressionable youth, I married a guy I met at a David Bowie concert – and we soon divorced. This occurred in New Orleans where I had moved following college graduation. At the time, I was not one for careful record-keeping. In addition, my departure from New Orleans, after five years of residence, was hardly an orderly affair: I evacuated from New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina with a change of clothing and my law school books as my only worldly possessions. When I returned months later to gather up my belongings, I shoveled boxes and boxes containing papers and books and photo albums into the back of a van and drove back to Minnesota.
Not surprisingly, I couldn’t locate either my marriage certificate or divorce decree once the dust settled. When I married my husband in 2007, I sent a request, with payment, to the State of Louisiana, Parish of Orleans for a certified copy of my divorce decree. With this document, I would be able to obtain a driver’s license from the State of Minnesota with my new married name. With this document, I would be able to show the chain from my maiden name to my ex-husband’s name to my current husband’s name.
I was proactive. I followed up. I submitted this request in a timely manner in order to promptly update my identification document. I didn’t count on the fact that New Orleans was still a mess, two years after the hurricane, and no certified copy of my divorce decree arrived. Ever.
I eventually found my certified copy, miraculously, and was able to obtain an updated U.S. passport and valid Minnesota driver’s license in my new married name. I don’t recall how long it took, but it was at least a year. A full year during which I could not, in spite of my best efforts and best intentions, obtain a valid, up-to-date Minnesota driver’s license.
During that year – probably longer – I couldn’t have exercised the fundamental right granted to Minnesota and U.S. citizens: the right to cast a vote for the individuals who would represent my interests and ideals at the state and federal level.
There are innumerable circumstances in which life gets in the way of our best intentions to maintain valid, up-to-date state identification:
In spite of its innocuous caption, the proposed amendment
to our state constitution would create a significant barrier to voting for many state citizens from all walks of life. This significant barrier is being justified as an essential caution against voter impersonation fraud. After two very, very close elections in Minnesota over the past few years, one would think that if this were a true problem, we’d have seen convictions for this type of voter fraud. We have not.
Despite the facts that I am healthy, educated and motivated, I had a difficult time obtaining a Minnesota identification card. I worry about those voters who have also lost things like birth certificates and divorce decrees but are less fortunate than me. So, I am voting no on this unnecessary and un-Minnesotan amendment that will restrict the right to vote.
September 25, 2012
Contributed by Teresa Nelson, Legal Counsel for the ACLU-MN
With two hotly contested constitutional amendment proposals on the November 2012 ballot many non-profit organizations, including the ACLU of Minnesota, have entered the fray to urge voters to "Vote No" on the freedom-limiting marriage amendment and the voter restriction ballot questions. Numerous non-profits have weighed in on both sides of the amendments including many churches that display "Vote No" and "Vote Yes" signs in prominent view. The ACLU-MN has received numerous calls from individuals concerned that churches are weighing in on the amendments by displaying signs. The most common question that they ask is whether or not that jeopardizes their tax-exempt status. The second concern that people have expressed is that it is improper for churches to weigh in on matters of government such as our constitution given the First Amendment notion of separation of church and state.
Both concerns are misplaced. Churches, like other nonprofit organizations, generally enjoy tax-exempt status under §501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code. The law classifies various activities related to public policy and politics into three categories: General Advocacy, Political Campaign Activity, and Lobbying. General Advocacy includes work to influence public opinion on issues (i.e. the organization's general views on voting rights and/or marriage rights), and to encourage voter participation with voter registration drives, get out the vote activities, voter guides and candidate forums. General Advocacy is permitted as an educational activity without any limitations. Political Campaign Activity includes activities that favor or oppose candidates for public office, such as directly endorsing a candidate, making contributions to candidates or PACs, public statements for or against a candidate and distributing materials on behalf of or opposition to a candidate. Political Campaign Activity is absolutely prohibited and 501(c)3 organizations risk losing their tax-exempt status by engaging in activities on behalf of candidates for public office. Lobbying activities include work to influence legislation by having direct contact with legislators and encouraging members of the public to contact legislators, and advocating for or against a public referendum. 501(c)3 organizations may conduct some lobbying activities as long as it is only a small part of the organization's activities (more detailed guidance from the IRS on this issue can be found here). Because advocacy for and against ballot proposals is considered a lobbying activity, churches and other nonprofit organizations may urge support or opposition to the proposed constitutional amendments in numerous ways including posting signs on their property and urging others to vote their preferred way on the amendments.
While the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment requires the government to remain neutral when it comes to religion, there is no corresponding requirement that religious groups remain silent about matters of government. In fact, the same First Amendment rights that protect the ACLU of Minnesota's right to urge people to Vote No in November, also protect the rights of churches to urge people to vote their way on the amendments. While it is improper for the government to enact laws to promote religious beliefs or because a particular church demands that the law be passed for religious purposes, the rights of religious groups to advocate for laws that fit their religious beliefs is firmly protected by the First Amendment.
August 17, 2012
The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota is very pleased with United States District Court's decision today to dismiss Minnesota Voter's Alliance case challenging Election Day Registration and the eligibility of individuals to vote who are under guardianship in Minnesota.
While not a party to the case, we have been monitoring the case closely because of the potential negative impact it would have on hundreds of thousands of Minnesota voters. We believe that Minnesota has a great voting system, and that Election Day Registration is an integral part of that. We consistently have the highest voter turnout in the nation, of which we should be proud. Voting is such an important and fundamental right that states should always encourage and have easy access to the ballot box for all eligible citizens.
Currently in Minnesota when you register on Election Day individuals must certify that they are eligible to vote, under threat of criminal prosecution if they do so falsely. This is a valid system that has been working well since implemented. In 2008, 500,000 voters used Election Day Registration; it is clearly well liked and used heavily and we want it to continue.
In addition the court upheld that Minnesota's guardianship laws were constitutional ensuring that individuals who are under guardianship retain their right to vote (as long as it has not been taken away). The ACLU is glad that the court affirmed t our guardianship law as well which safeguards the right to vote of some of society's most vulnerable.
August 14, 2012
Contributed by Angel Manjarrez, GMRJP South Organizer
Recently the Mankato city council was asked to endorse a resolution condemning the marriage amendment that will appear on General Election ballots in Minnesota on November 6, 2012. The council scheduled an open forum to hear from community members on the issue. Many people in the community were now given the chance to raise their voice regarding the proposed marriage amendment.
The ACLU was one of the many organizations that took a stance during this forum. Staff attorney Ian Bratlie spoke on how the freedom-limiting marriage amendment is not only an affront to civil rights, but also about the positive economic benefits cities and states have seen when supporting same sex marriage.
Mike Hruby, the community member that brought up the resolution to the council, was listed to speak first. “I would like to meet my soul-mate, get married and start a family. This amendment will not allow me to do that. We just don’t want to be treated like 2nd class citizens.” “Mankato is a progressive city. We have a successful city because we strive for diversity. Make Mankato count!” said community member Jody Swanson.
Jean Lovett, who led members of the Unitarian Universalist Out for Marriage Equality Committee, used many examples of friends and family to explain that resolution is a civil right. “This type of amendment diminishes souls” described Jean. Phillip Reitan, an attorney that has been practicing law in the Mankato area for more than 36 years, pleaded to the city council that we must change. “I have four kids and one is gay. My son has been the best man and man of honor for all three of my kid’s weddings, why shouldn’t he have the right to marry as my other children? As a legal standpoint, this is a civil right and as such, is something on which the council should take a stance.”
Steve Swanson, a military veteran who has fought in Vietnam continued to praise how time has changed. Mr. Swanson said, “I have seen many things and I know that we are a progressive city.” Pam Soper, a citizen of Mankato, had a deeper connection to the city. “My partner, Anne Walsh, gave this city 19 years of her life as a police officer. She was judged and made fun of for being a lesbian. The Captain did not approve of her sexual orientation and began to make anti-homosexual comments to her. Anne took the high road, as many of you should, and did not bring this up to anyone. After many years on the force, her armor was getting pierced.” Anne passed away a month ago thanks to ovarian cancer. During her time on in-line of duty leave, Anne and Pam were getting the support of the benefits. Since they were not allowed to legally marry each other, after the passing, Pam stopped receiving the benefits.
These few samples illustrate the passion and love that these couples, advocates and family members have for one another. The two hour long session held in the City Hall Chamber had many Mankato citizens standing because of the amounts of people during the forum was overwhelming. After the two hours of speakers, the city council decided to take the vote.
City council member Charlie Hurd pleaded to the community and council members that they are not a human rights council and should not take a stand with the resolution. City council member Tamra Rovney described that the council is here to fight for equal rights and for protecting human rights. Karen Foreman said it was appropriate for the city council to uphold the constitution. “We are a cultural diversity and want to be welcoming to everyone” said Foreman. At-large council member, Mike Laven, spoke most passionately about the resolution. “We are here to serve the greater good of the community. By not voting on this matter we are ending values. We [city council] can’t make 2nd hand citizens.”
Before the council took a vote, Mayor Eric Anderson made sure the community knew that he will not take a side on this because he doesn’t think the council should take a position at all. When it was time to vote, most of the community members where anxious and on their edge of their seats to see how the city council would vote.
City council member Jack Considine voted yes, member Charlie Hurd chose to abstain; At Large member Mike Laven voted yes, member Mark Frost abstained, while members Tamra Rovney and Karen Foreman voted yes. Mayor Eric Anderson was the only council member to vote no. Once the Mayor said the resolution passed, the community stood up and clapped for joy. Many couldn’t believe it while some where bought to tears. Their hard work of getting in front of everyone, planning weeks ahead and sharing their personal stories finally came to a successful close.
Now Mankato joins the eleven cities including Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth as the cities that endorse voting “No” this November.
August 14, 2012
The ACLU-MN Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project North set up booths this year at three northern fairs, Clearwater County, Beltrami County and Itasca County for 2012.
Our organization is aware of how important education on the Bill of Rights is for small, rural counties, so fair time is important. It is also critical this year with the two amendments being introduced for a vote on November 6.
This year at the Clearwater County Fair, based in Bagley, Minnesota it was an interesting but good event for our volunteers and staff considering the two amendments.
The history of Clearwater County tends to vote conservative. The county is predominantly white (86.4% with a 9% American Indian population) with an average per capita income of 20,913. Consequently, entering into the fair (having previously had a booth at the annual county fair) we were prepared for opposition to our vote NO position on the marriage and photo ID & elections amendments.
Aware of data and familiar with this county we were not surprised with the following event.
The morning following our first night tabling at the fair, our staff received a call from our morning volunteers informing me that our signage had been defaced. They explained that a series of "vote YES" stickers were stuck on our "Every Family Matters, Every Voter Matters, Vote No 2012" signs as well as our permanent ACLU-MN display, used at every county and state fair. Some of the stickers were easily pulled off; however, one of the campaign signs was defaced to a point we had to take it down and can no longer use it.
After, our staff person, got over my initial surprise and frustration, they called the previous nights volunteer to touch base with her about the incident. She informed me that she wasn't in the building when the vandalism occurred (it took place after she left), instead she told me: "I have to say that it was one of the more hostile political booths I've sat at before... At one point in the night some kid, maybe 17 yrs old or so, started dancing around in front of the booth with a 'Vote Yes' sign. He was covered in Republican stickers."
The act of vandalism was upsetting because it took opposition to another level—it suggested that discussion about the amendments (and subsequently informed voters) was not welcome in Clearwater County.
Despite the obvious message the act sent to fair goers, a handful of people rallied behind us because of the incident. On Sunday morning, staff was stationed at the booth when a stranger walked over and engaged me in conversation about how he was quite upset about the vandalism and wanted to know if the county fair board had responded to the incident. We subsequently had a ten minute conversation about organizing in northern Minnesota and voting NO on the marriage and voter ID amendments. He was very receptive to the ACLU-MN and we probably would not have met him had the vandalism not occurred. Thus, despite the hiccup we encountered on our first evening of the fair, more positive conversations and responses were generated on later days. To our supporters, we thank you. To those in the middle, unsure of how to vote on the two amendments, we hope you will continue to gather information and educate yourself about how these ballot questions could impact you and the people around you. We hope you will take into consideration those whose voices are too often silenced or overshadowed: vote NO to protect the rights and freedoms of all people in November 2012!
August 07, 2012
By Charles Samuelson, Executive Director ACLU-MN
In 1978 I chose to move to the Twin Cities rather than Boston, Toronto or San Francisco. I made this choice despite the fact that the Twin Cities area is in the middle of the United States and is hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Most of my friends and relatives teased me about that decision, but it was the second best choice I made in my life.
Last Fall, a group of businesses and public officials held a rally to announce a campaign to promote the greater Twin Cities area. They found that Minneapolis/St. Paul is one of the country's best kept secrets, and they felt the need to make the Twin Cities less secret. Their plan highlights all the factors that we have created to make Minnesota a good place to live and work.
There are things we can control about Minnesota, and things we cannot; like the weather. We have the greatest control over the human environment of our State. To the extent that we have created an environment that welcomes educated young people, we will prosper. To the extent that we have created an environment that welcomes diversity, we will prosper. To the extent that we have encouraged education, we will prosper.
However, there have been disquieting signs that we are becoming less interested in attracting and retaining the best and brightest people who are willing to brave our winters. We are facing two votes to amend our constitution in a discriminatory manner. If these measures pass, they will imbed discrimination into the very DNA of our State.
Research shows that welcoming diversity makes communities more economically resilient. Tolerance helps recruit and retain talent . Confidence in the people around you helps to foster innovation, investment and hiring.
Research also shows welcoming educated young people to vote and volunteer strengthens their attachment to a community. Attachment, in turn, strengthens the economy of the community. Young talent can choose to live in places without temperature swings of 130 degrees. But they can also choose to live in a place where it is easy to vote.
Minnesota is a land of innovation. Cargill. General Mills. 3M. Our Human Rights Act stands as a model of tolerance and protection of diversity. This is the home of Hubert Humphrey, the champion of our nation's civil rights laws. It is no coincidence that a state with innovative government policies is also a place of innovative businesses.
We support the goal of aligning business and government goals of business development and job creation. We also encourage everyone working towards those goals to remember that diversity, bright young people and education are vital elements to growth and prosperity. That is the Minnesota I found in 1978, and I hope that is the Minnesota we keep in 2012 and beyond.
August 07, 2012
Contributed by Carolyn Jackson, Lobbying Coordinator
Until November the ACLU-MN is investing a substantial amount of time to defeat the two constitutional amendments on the ballot. We are a part of both coalitions, Minnesotans United for All Families and Our Vote Our Future. We will additionally be doing work separately from the campaigns so we can give the message “Vote No” on both.
As one of the lead organizations in the campaign Our Vote Our Future, we have been able to help guide and shape how the campaign looks. Since that is a newer campaign here is some information about its progress.
The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 under the leadership of Hubert Humphrey as Vice President and Walter Mondale as his successor in the Senate. Mondale knows about the power to vote and the insidious effects of voter dilution and suppression.
On June 26, Walter Mondale, former Governor Arne Carlson, former Congressman Tim Penny, and civil rights leader Josie Johnson, announced that they would chair the effort to defeat the voting amendment in Minnesota. Dr. Johnson told the story of how she had petitioned to have poll taxes repealed in Mississippi, and how then-Senator Mondale had worked to make poll taxes illegal.
It is with irony, then, that we quote another Minnesotan, Dan McGrath of Minnesota Majority, who responded to the Mondale/Carlson announcement: “These guys are no election experts.”
Of course this comment ignores the number of statewide elections won by the former Minnesota Attorney General and United States Senator and the former Minnesota State Auditor and Governor.
But it also belittles the history of the Voting Rights Act. Mondale knows about precincts drawn to dilute minority votes and barriers to the ballot box like poll taxes and literacy tests. He knows what it means to defeat those limits on citizen power.
And the comment belittles the history of the other co-chairs: Carlson knows well how party extremists try to block rational candidates. Penny knows how much veterans value their franchise. Johnson knows what voting discrimination feels like.
Our country has so many freedoms that sometimes we take them for granted. Even in Minnesota, at its historic voter turnout height, over 20% of our eligible voters stayed home. One vote among millions seems so small, but each voter that stays home or is turned away abandons their most basic power as a citizen. In the end, it is the votes cast, not the money spent or the talking points fashioned, that determines who wields power in our country.
Justice is linked with power. Limiting the power to vote is a big deal. In November 2012, will Minnesota believe in justice and liberty for all?
July 06, 2012
Contributed by: Teresa Nelson, Legal Counsel
Attorneys for the ACLU-MN today submitted a reply brief in our challenge to the language of the ballot question for the proposed photo ID and provisional ballot constitutional amendment. Our petition asks the Minnesota Supreme Court to strike the ballot question from the ballot because it is unconstitutionally misleading. Our brief first rebuffs the Legislature's claim that the Minnesota Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction to decide the constitutional adequacy of a proposed ballot question. The brief notes that there is ample precedent for the Court's jurisdiction including a 1932 decision, Winget v. Holmes, that squarely addressed the issue of the Minnesota Supreme Court's role in reviewing constitutional amendment ballot questions and found that the Court does have jurisdiction, and a decision issued by the U.S. Supreme Court over 200 years ago, Marbury v. Madison, that established the bedrock constitutional principal of judicial review.
The brief also refutes the Legislature's claim that they need only "properly describe...the general subject of the proposed amendment" in a ballot question. The brief argues that the Legislature's proposed standard deviates substantially with the Court's well-established standard requiring that ballot questions must not be "so unreasonable and misleading as to be a palpable evasion of the constitutional requirement to submit the [amendment] to a popular vote." Breza v. Kiffmeyer. The brief goes on to argue that, even if the Legislature's standard were the appropriate standard, the ballot question does not dimply describe the general subject of the proposed amendment. The Legislature instead chose a ballot question that sets out to describe the meaning and effect of the amendment. As such, they cannot describe the meaning and effect of the amendment in a false and misleading way. This standard is consistent with Minnesota's common-law fraud principles. In the case of common-law fraud, even when somebody does not have a duty to speak regarding a monetary transaction, once they do speak, they must speak truthfully and not omit material facts that would tend to mislead the listener. In contrast, the ballot question contains affirmative misrepresentations and omits material facts that will mislead voters.
Oral argument in the case is scheduled for Tuesday July 17th at 1:30 PM in Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center, 25 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Saint Paul, Minnesota. A decision in the matter is expected by mid-August.
June 25, 2012
Contributed by Ian Bratlie, Staff Attorney, Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project
The United States Supreme Court decision in Arizona v. United States firmly reestablishes the Federal government's near universal power over immigration. Four sections of Arizona's law were reviewed and in three sections the Court completely ruled against Arizona, finding that Federal Immigration law preempts those state law provisions. The Court held that Arizona does not have the authority to criminalize a violation of federal registration laws or make it illegal to work while in undocumented status. Further, state law enforcement officers are not permitted to make warrantless arrests of someone on the basis of removability.
As far as the well known "show me your papers" provision of SB 1070, the U.S. Supreme Court has not said that it is constitutional, it merely said it depends on how the Arizona courts interpret the language in the law, and how state law enforcement actually implements it. In all likelihood, either further proceedings in this case, or soon-to-be restarted proceedings in other cases (including the civil rights suit brought by the ACLU and others) could lead to another injunction to stop enforcement of Section 2B.
"Show me your papers" laws violate our national values and national interests, as well as our Constitution. These laws hurt state economies communities, and reputations. Unsurprisingly, no state passed any Arizona like bills in their 2012 terms and, while six states have passed anti-immigration laws, twenty one, including Minnesota, considered and then did not pass these laws, to their own benefit. Alabama's state economy has taken a multi-billion dollar hit as a result of its law. Arizona saw a drop in sales tax revenue and a jump in the unemployment rate when S.B. 1070 first became law in 2010. Farmers have seen their crops rot and are planting less because the workers they have relied on for decades have fled in fear. Anti-immigrant laws also drain the resources of county sheriffs and local police departments who do not want the burden of serving as immigration agents while also trying to protect their communities. Immigration checks poison efforts foster trust and cooperation within all communities
While this decision is rightfully considered a victory for the Federal government, it is not without serious civil rights concerns. The Court recognized some problems with Arizona's anti-immigrant law, but should have gone farther to prevent racial profiling. The truth is, SB 1070 and other "show me your papers" laws harm citizens and noncitizens alike. It's impossible to enforce these laws without racial profiling, as people will be targeted and detained based on how they look or sound. These create divisions in communities, distrust of the government and invites discriminatory policing. The Supreme Court punted on that issue today, requiring the state courts to review the actual implementation of the law before they would rule it unconstitutional. While courts will eventually decide that issue, there will be many Constitutional violations before that decision is issued.
While lawmakers in Minnesota began to weigh in on this issue, they have wisely not yet passed an Arizona style bill, and today's ruling reinforces the wisdom of that decision. Not only did the U.S. Supreme Court strike down three major provisions of that law, but it expressed concerns that even the "show me your papers" section might very well be impossible to enforce in a manner that is not in conflict with federal law.
Check out a youtube video about what the decision means
June 20, 2012
At the Ramsey County Board meeting on June 12, Election Manager Joe Mansky laid out his estimates of the cost of administering the proposed elections constitutional amendment. He estimated the cost to be approximately $1.7 million. For a county with 288,395 registered voters, that amounts to about $5.89 per voter.
How does that compare to the cost of doing elections now? I have the breakdown of the costs of elections for the City of New Hope. Currently, it costs the City of New Hope just over $64,000 to administer an election
New Hope has 11,416 registered voters. If you take Joe Mansky's estimate per voter and apply it to New Hope, the additional cost of administering elections will be over $67,000.
That means administering this photo ID amendment will more than DOUBLE THE COST OF ELECTIONS for at least one Minnesota city.
In a study done by the Humphrey Institute, it estimates that total costs would be around 35 million dollars, while other organizations have put the cost even higher.
All this, while we are closing libraries, laying off teachers, and driving on crumbling roads, for a problem that doesn't exist.
June 06, 2012
Contributed by Carolyn Jackson, Lobbying Coordinator
In the courts, the person who wants to change things has the burden of proof. A plaintiff who brings a law suit has to prove they are entitled to relief. A prosecutor has to prove the accused committed a crime.
But the burden of proof is different in the Legislature. Politics often trumps prudence, and something that is popular can be enacted even if it doesn't relate to any problem. Sometimes, the primary consideration is whether voters will vote you out of office based on your vote for or against a bill.
Voter photo ID was one of those bills. A group called itself the Majority and lobbied for voter ID. Fortunately for them, many of the Republican legislators had also run on this issue and knew their voters would support a yes vote. But there was no burden of proof on this issue. The "Majority" is a fellow hired by a group of three people. The so-called problem was that some legislators just knew there were voting irregularities if only they had a better detection tool. There was no documented problem with voter impersonation.
Now that the voting amendment is on the ballot, the politics of the issue becomes more apparent. I have only seen five people publicly support the amendment: its co-authors, Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer and Sen. Scott Newman, the executive director of Minnesota Majority, Dan McGrath, Andy Celik of Minnesota Voters Alliance, and Lucky Rosenbloom. The secretive Jefferson Davis has commented through news releases and blogs, but his face remains hidden from the public. But if you read the websites and news comments, it is always these same players. The support for this measure is very narrowly represented.
Contrast that with the April 12 press conference where dozens of people representing thousands of members stood up to oppose voter ID. Other groups have adopted stances against this measure as well. Groups who have publicly committed to defeating the voting amendment include: AFL-CIO, ACLU, AARP, League of Women Voters, NAACP, Common Cause, Jewish Community Action, Take Action Minnesota, Minnesota Farmers Union, Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, and the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group. Many, many others stand proudly and publicly in opposition to this amendment.
I've read the question "what do these groups have to fear?" over and over in response to the lawsuit we filed on May 30. I don't think fear is a factor at all. It takes courage to stand up publicly to protect voting rights. All of these people and their members have the courage to say you cannot set up hurdles to the voting booth for the poor, the elderly, the disabled, and the young. It takes courage to speak out for those who are often overlooked.
The proponents of photo ID think the burden of proof for amending our constitution is low: Set up a lot of websites, send a couple of people out to work the press, and stir up fear and misdirection.
The ACLU thinks the burden of proof should be much higher, especially for changing a fundamental right like voting. Show us that there is a problem of voter impersonation. Show us that the proposal is narrowly tailored to stop voter impersonation. No one has made that case, and they won't because the problem doesn't exist. Voters, you get to be the judge this time. Vote no! The burden of proof has not been met.
May 30, 2012
Shannon Doty is a 28-year-old resident of Minnesota and a member of the Wisconsin National Guard. She is currently serving her country as a combat medic in Afghanistan, and while deployed, Shannon may very well become one of thousands of disfranchised voters in Minnesota.
The ACLU filed a petition today with the Minnesota Supreme Court on behalf of voters like Shannon, seeking to strike a constitutional amendment from the general election ballot in November that would require in-person voters to show government-issued photo ID. The amendment would require any voter who lacks photo ID to cast a provisional ballot, and also contains language that will make it more difficult to cast absentee ballots and might spell the end of Election Day Registration, which significantly boosts turnout. If the Minnesota amendment remains on the ballot and passes, Shannon may not get to cast a ballot during future deployments. For obvious reasons, she doesn’t carry her driver’s license with her when she deploys and, as a consequence, may well be barred from voting absentee in the future.
Enacted after Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed photo ID legislation last year, this proposed amendment is part of a wave of laws passed in the run-up to the 2012 general election which are fundamentally altering the way Americans cast their votes. From Wisconsin and Pennsylvania to Florida and Tennessee, voters are being asked to swallow some radical electoral changes, which are leaving many confused, discouraged, and disfranchised.
The risk of suppressing the voices of Americans like Shannon who have put their lives on the line for us all should fill legislators with shame, but sadly, there seems to be very little awareness of the dramatic consequences these laws are having. In this election year, the right to vote is a candle burning at both ends: early voting periods have been reduced and there are short periods after the election for provisional voters to return with ID and see that their ballots are counted. Rather than making registration and voting more streamlined and user-friendly, legislators seem determined to insert as much bureaucracy and as many documentation scavenger hunts as possible between a voter and his/her vote. Even advances that have demonstrably increased participation in our democracy, such as Election Day Registration in places like Maine and Minnesota, are facing express or covert repeals.
It should come as no surprise that the Minnesota legislature is hiding the ball on its proposed photo ID requirement for voting. Its amendment would require “government-issued” photo ID, but the ballot question put to the voters conveniently fails to mention that the IDs must be government-issued. The plain language of the amendment says it will apply to in-person voters, but says nothing so definite about absentee voters like Shannon. Nevertheless, the ballot question says it will definitely apply to “all voters.” And in the guise of applying “substantially equivalent” identification and verification procedures to all voters, it may well end Election Day Registration. Rep. Winkler noted these problems, but his words unfortunately fell on deaf ears: “It seems to me what you’re doing is trying to sell your amendment to the voters, to mislead them into believing that this is just about saying who you are on election day, when, in fact, your bill is a Trojan Horse to do a lot of other things to disrupt and cause chaos in Minnesota’s election.”
We agree, but we’ve done more than just agree – today, we’ve taken action. Join us in the fight to protect the right to vote.