A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Archive for March, 2012

Told Ya’ So, HuffPo Bloggers!

Case Closed

By LASIS Staff

We loved LASIS reporter Russell Smith’s piece back in April 2011, “Nobody is Getting Paid for Unpaid Blogging,” in which he ridiculed HuffPo volunteer bloggers for demanding payment for their work.

A judge has seen things our way.

Case closed.

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Legislating the Penis

American Penis

By Nadia-Elysse Harris

Let’s see how you like it if we legislate your penises, boys.

Because let’s face it, it takes two to tango.  Recent state laws intended to place obstacles in the way of women’s right to abortion don’t seem to notice that women don’t get pregnant without a little help from men. Meantime, on the federal side, the government did keep men in its discussion of women’s reproductive rights — by holding hearings on proposed birth control reform in front of a nearly all male panel of experts.

It’s somewhat surprising there’s a debate about legalized abortion at all.  We thought the matter was settled with Roe v. Wade , when the Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to deny women the right to have an abortion. And then in 1992, Planned Parenthood v. Casey went a step further, saying that state laws regulating abortions can’t place an undue burden on women. The friction between the rights these cases try to protect and the newly proposed legislation sweeping the nation has left many women bewildered, and indignant.

And some of our elected officials are doing something about it.

In an unconventional turn of events, some state senators and representatives have begun proposing legislation aimed at the sexual and reproductive organs – of men.  For the most part, penis-targeted legislation has been flying under the radar, but luckily for you, dear readers, we rounded up some of our favorites:   (more…)

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Not Sole-ly Truthful?

vibram-five-fingers-kso

By LASIS Staff

In October, LASIS wrote about the class action against Reebok for its claims that its EasyTone and RunTone brands made about their butt-toning effects. Reebok wouldn’t admit that the marketing was deceptive, but it did settle with plaintiffs –  and toned down some of its “scientific”  claims.

In a new class action, the five-fingered shoe company Vibram was hit with a similar suit.

We’ll keep you informed of how this one turns out, but it may be wise for the footwear company to follow in Reebok’s footsteps and settle.

 

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A Willful Misunderstanding of the Anti-Protest Law

By Russell Smith

Earlier this month President Obama signed H.R. 347 into law despite vigorous opposition from free speech activists. This “anti-Protest” law threatens serious punishment (up to one year in federal prison) for those who – in the police’s determination – cross the blurry line between peaceful protest and disorderly conduct in or around areas closed off by the Secret Service.

And where do activists typically want to protest? As close as possible to important policymakers like the President, Vice President, presidential candidates and foreign heads of state – all of whom are entitled to Secret Service protection under federal law.

These restrictions are not new. H.R. 347 amends an existing federal law that made it a crime to “willfully and knowingly” enter, block or be disorderly in or around public areas which have been closed off by the Secret Service. H.R. 347 removed the word “willfully,” so that demonstrators need to only “knowingly” violate the law.

The media and politicians alike were quick to point out what a difference the deletion of a single word makes. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog specifically noted the “difference one word can make.” Meanwhile, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan) wrote on his Facebook wall that removing “willfully” made protesting a crime “even if the person does not know it’s illegal to be in that area.” And Fox News political and legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano wrote that with the word “willfully” gone, “a person accidentally in a restricted area can be charged and prosecuted, as well.”

They’re wrong. Even though H.R. 347 is a blatant violation of Americans’ right to protest, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the word “willfully.”   (more…)

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Anti-Gay Bullying: A Matter of Life and Death

Bullying

By Meghan Lalonde

Adolescence can be tough. Realizing you’re gay makes those years even tougher. It stands to reason that growing up as a gay or lesbian teenager in a conservative area that shuns homosexuals would be even harder.

It is. I know from firsthand experience.

Jamey Rodemayer. Justin Aaberg. Samantha Johnson. These are just a few names on the growing list of high school teenagers who have committed suicide due to anti-gay bullying.

For many students, teachers are a source of comfort and refuge from the daily insults in locker rooms, hallways, and cafeterias. They were for me.

But in Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin School District – the state’s largest – four teenage students committed suicide directly due to anti-gay bullying that their teachers ignored. The teachers weren’t necessarily callous or even unkind. They were just following school policy.

The  “Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy” in effect in that school district –prohibited teachers from discussing sexual orientation with their students. Referred to unofficially as the “No Homo Promo” policy, it stated that teachers and staff must “remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation.”  Teachers who violated this policy would face disciplinary action, or could even be fired.

And so gay (or suspected of being gay) students in this school district were often demeaned, ostracized, called “fags”, “dykes”, or worse. Complaints about the behavior were ignored, as teachers and school officials looked the other way or told students to deal with it on their own.

Last July, the Southern Poverty Law Center and National Center for Lesbian Rights sued on behalf of six Anoka-Hennepin students, claiming that the so-called “neutrality” policy created a hostile environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students and failed to provide teachers and staff with clear guidelines regarding appropriate responses to sex and gender-based harassment.

School officials settled the lawsuit in Minneapolis on March 5 by a 5-1 vote of the board of education.

There has been some terrific coverage of the bullying (see especially this Rolling Stone article) but LASIS looks inside the situation through the prism of the law.   (more…)

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