This Week Online: Free Speech in Detroit & Other Stories 1/23-1/30

January 30, 2015

ACLU of Michigan to sue Detroit's Campus Martius Park for 'assault' on visitors' constitutional rights (MLive)
The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan has plans to announce Wednesday it is suing Detroit's Campus Martius Park for what it claims is "an assault on the constitutional rights of park visitors."

An ACLU of Michigan press release sent Tuesday to MLive.com says the organization will sue both the both the private conservancy that manages Campus Martius Park and its security firm. See other reports in The Detroit News, WDET, Deadline Detroit, and The Detroit Free Press.

State police float Michigan-wide drone use (Detroit News)
Mindful of the negative image drones have created for some citizens, the Michigan State Police had the American Civil Liberties Union's Michigan chapter review its policies for operating its drone, Bush said.

"We have no qualms really with the state police," said Shelli Weisberg, legislative affairs director for the ACLU of Michigan. "We understand it's a good tool for them to use for accident reconstruction." See other reports at WILX.

Southfield Passes Non-Discrimination Ordinance (Between the Lines)
Southfield City Council unanimously voted Jan. 26 to pass a city-wide non-discrimination ordinance that would add gender identity and sexual orientation protections to a list of protected classes.
Southfield joined 35 other Michigan cities and townships which provide non-discrimination protections to its citizens by passing an amendment to it's human rights ordinance.

Other members of the community who spoke include Jay Kaplan, the ACLU LGBT Project's staff attorney and longtime Southfield resident; Cindy Clardy; Julia Music, organizer of Ferndale Pride; Beth Green; Faith Robinson, Chair of the Jewish Gay Network of Michigan; Stephanie English; and Barbara Seldon.

Abortion Restrictions, Religious Exemptions, and 5 Other Reproductive Rights Issues to Watch in 2015 (Pacific Standard)
Some state lawmakers, meanwhile, have taken inspiration from the Hobby Lobby decision to fight back against the stunning gains of the marriage equality movement since Windsor. They have introduced a deluge of RFRA-type bills that would allow business owners, local government officials, and health care professionals to refuse to provide services to gay people—rent a banquet hall, issue a marriage license, perform in vitro fertilization—that violate their religious beliefs.

Same-sex marriage may be the immediate target, but state RFRAs would likely have a much broader impact, said Katherine Franke, co-director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia, granting "a kind of blanket indemnity from compliance with all sorts of otherwise applicable laws." That could erode not just reproductive and gender rights but eventually, Franke said, protections against race discrimination as well.

Catholic hospitals—engaged in high-profile battles with the ACLU in Michigan and elsewhere over limits on reproductive care—would also benefit.

Mass Killings of Blacks by Cops: An Absence of Outrage (Black Agenda Report)
Nobody who is familiar with the case of Milton Hall – shot to death by 8 police officers on July 1, 2012 in Saginaw, Michigan – should be surprised that the US Justice Department will not be bringing any charges against Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot Mike Brown, an unarmed teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri, last August.

Last October, amidst protests over the Ferguson killing, the Michigan ACLU released footage obtained from the Hall family’s lawyers and used it as part of its testimony before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an organ of the Organization of American States. You can view the video here.

New Michigan FOIA Caps Per Page Fees, Drops Costs Further If Agencies Miss Response Deadlines (TechDirt)
This capped per-page amount should prevent entities like the ACLU being charged a half-million dollars for a records request. Not to single out the Michigan police, but it seems to be one government agency that treats FOIA requests like get-rich-quick schemes.

Southeast Michigan project to help LGBT older adults is a model for the nation (Oakland Press)
The three Southeast Michigan Area Agencies on Aging have established a precedent-setting system to help their agencies more effectively serve people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. The project was created by the LGBT Older Adult Coalition, a project of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.