Tag Archives: ACLU

ACLU of PA to Congressman: Stop Shutting Out Your Constituents

ACLU, March 12, 2018 [elevator version: Can a political officeholder legally obstruct criticism by banning constituents from speaking their views in his public meetings and social media?]

PHILADELPHIA – The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania delivered a letter to Congressman Ryan Costello today urging him to stop blocking constituents who disagree with him from his official Facebook page and to cease denying them entry to his public town hall meetings. Writing on behalf of nine constituents from the 6th congressional district who have protested or criticized the congressman, the ACLU of Pennsylvania warned Costello that blocking residents from his social media pages and his community meetings based on their opposing views is prohibited by the First Amendment.

“In our democratic form of government, an elected official represents all of his constituents–even those who disagree with him,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “We commend Congressman Costello for creating forums for his constituents to express their views, but he does not have the right to pick and choose which viewpoints he gets to hear.”

The constituents who have been blocked by Costello have expressed their opinions to him on a wide range of issues, including net neutrality, the environment, his support of President Trump, and his unwillingness to condemn racist, alt-right rhetoric. Most of the constituents named in the ACLU’s letter have been prohibited from commenting on Costello’s Facebook page, and at least three were denied admission to his town hall meetings, including one in Wyomissing, Berks County, where there were empty seats.

The letter from the ACLU cites Supreme Court precedent explaining that the First Amendment prohibits public officials from censoring speech based on the viewpoint expressed. The ACLU has offered Costello the opportunity to take corrective action but has also left open the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the congressman.

“Our clients simply want to be heard by their elected representative in Congress, and to have the same access to the congressman’s social media pages and events as his other constituents,” said Molly Tack-Hooper, staff attorney with the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “It’s unconstitutional for a member of Congress to censor, block, and exclude his critics.”

The residents cited in the letter are represented by Tack-Hooper, Witold J. Walczak, and Michelin Cahill of the ACLU of Pennsylvania and Professor Seth F. Kreimer of the University of Pennsylvania Law School. The letter that was sent to Costello is available at aclupa.org/Costello.

Whitewood v. Corbett

ACLU, July 9, 2013

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the American Civil Liberties Union, and volunteer counsel from the law firm of Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller have filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of 21 Pennsylvanians who wish to marry in Pennsylvania or want the Commonwealth to recognize their out-of-state marriages. The lawsuit alleges that Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act and refusal to marry lesbian and gay couples or recognize their out-of-state marriages violates the fundamental right to marry as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. …

read more at ACLU

City woman is lead plaintiff against Pa. voter ID

By Amy Worden and Jan Hefler, Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/3/12

HARRISBURG – Wartime welder, civil-rights marcher, world traveler, voter – Viviette Applewhite of Philadelphia’s Germantown section can boast of having been all those things.

On Tuesday, she added another title: plaintiff.

Applewhite, who is 93 and uses a wheelchair, became the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed here in state court by the ACLU and the NAACP challenging Pennsylvania’s new law requiring voters to produce a driver’s license or other photo identification before they are allowed to vote.

Applewhite says she has voted since 1960, when she cast her first presidential ballot for John F. Kennedy. But she doesn’t have a driver’s license. And since she has been unable to obtain a birth certificate from the state, Applewhite says, she will not meet the law’s requirements and therefore will be barred from voting in the Nov. 6 presidential election.
Story continues below.

The suit seeks to overturn what it calls a “draconian” law, a measure the plaintiffs and their lawyers contend will lead to the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of voters – including Applewhite.

“It stinks,” she said in a video prepared by the ACLU and aired Tuesday at a news conference in the Capitol. “They are taking our rights away.”

The suit was filed in Commonwealth Court on behalf of 10 plaintiffs, among them three elderly women who say they cannot obtain necessary ID because they were born in the Jim Crow South, where states have no records of their births.

“What we’re not talking about here is just any right, we’re talking about the right to vote,” Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said at the news conference. “Two hundred years ago, we actually fought a war for this right. This is an extremely important right.”…

The fact that Americans who once marched for civil rights might be turned away at the polls was not lost on critics of the law. “It’s more than ironic that people fought courageously for the right to vote in the civil-rights era would have it stripped away by this bill,” said Marian Schneider, a lawyer with the Washington-based Advancement Project, a civil-rights advocacy group….

keep reading at Philadelphia Inquirer