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RALEIGH – Almost 40 years after two Forsyth County magistrates refused to perform their civil marriage ceremony by citing religious objections, Thomas and Carol Ann Person, an interracial couple from North Carolina, are now speaking out against proposed legislation that would allow magistrates to refuse marriage services to any couple if they voice a religious objection.

Senate Bill 2, which is scheduled to be heard by the House Judiciary I committee today, would allow sworn government officials to refuse to provide marriage services to couples based on what the bill calls “sincerely held religious” beliefs.

“Nobody has a right to tell anyone who they can marry,” said Carol Ann. “I will never forget how painful it was to be told by government officials that they would not give Thomas and me a civil marriage ceremony because of the color of our skin. It was supposed to be a happy day, but instead we were turned away because of somebody else’s religious views and treated like second-class citizens. I hope those lawmakers in Raleigh stop Senate Bill 2 so that no other couple in North Carolina ever has to go through what we did when they want to marry the person they love.”

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The ACLU of North Carolina joins countless people from across our state and around the world this week in expressing sorrow over the tragic killing of students Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, in Chapel Hill on February 10.

While the details are still being investigated, several sources, including family members of the victims, have suggested that an underlying motivation in the killings was the three victims’ Muslim faith. That is why the ACLU of North Carolina is supporting Muslim Advocates and more than 150 civil rights, faith, community, and civic groups in urging U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to open a full and rigorous federal hate crime investigation.

“With hate crimes against Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim alarmingly on the rise in recent years, your leadership is crucial to help stem the tide of hate,” reads to letter to Holder. “…Federal leadership is necessary in this case in order to send the strongest message to the public that acts of violence like this have no place in civil society and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

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GREENSBORO – To commemorate the 50-year anniversary of its founding in Greensboro in 1965, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU-NC) is unveiling a 10-panel history exhibit, “ACLU of North Carolina: Fifty Years of Protecting Liberty,” which chronicles the nonprofit civil liberties organization’s work defending civil liberties in North Carolina over the past half century.

The exhibit, which recounts the ACLU-NC’s work on eight key civil liberties issues – free speech, voting rights, privacy rights, criminal justice reform, LGBT rights, women’s rights, racial justice, and religious liberty – is opening at the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro, which celebrates its fifth anniversary on Feb. 1. An opening reception for the exhibit is planned for 6 to 8 p.m. on  Thursday, January 15.  

“This exhibit provides the public with an opportunity to learn about the history of civil liberties in our state and the unique role the ACLU of North Carolina has played in many important struggles for individual rights over the last half century,” said Jennifer Rudinger, who has served as executive director of the ACLU-NC since May 2004. “Much has changed in North Carolina over the last fifty years, but the core principle guiding the ACLU-NC has remained the same: If the rights of society’s most vulnerable members are denied, everyone’s rights are imperiled. Those who see this exhibit will hopefully walk away remembering that freedom can’t protect itself, and that the ACLU of North Carolina, while controversial to some, has spent five decades working on the front lines to protect and advance civil liberties for all North Carolinians.”    

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The Top 10 ACLU-NC Stories of 2014

Posted on in Legal News

As another year in the fight to protect civil liberties draws to a close, it’s time to look back at the ACLU-NC’s Top 10 stories from 2014, in reverse chronological order:

  1. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a decision blocking a 2011 N.C. law that would have required doctors to show a woman an ultrasound and describe the images in detail four hours before performing an abortion, even if the woman objects. The ACLU and other groups had challenged the law on behalf of health care providers.
     
  2. The ACLU-NC won two federal lawsuits giving LGBT couples the freedom to marry and to adopt their partner’s children.
     
  3. The ACLU-NC helped uncover information about law enforcement’s use of secretive Stingray surveillance technology in Charlotte, Durham, Raleigh, and Wilmington.
     
  4. ACLU lawyers twice argued against North Carolina’s voter suppression law, widely considered the worst in the country, in federal court. The full trial will take place this summer. 
     
  5. The ACLU released a report finding that the majority of SWAT raids in N.C. and other states are for low-level crimes and disproportionately target people of color.
     
  6. The N.C. House passed a bill to “raise the age” of juvenile jurisdiction so that 16 and 17 year olds charged with misdemeanors would no longer be automatically sent to adult prisons following advocacy from the ACLU-NC and others. 
     
  7. An ACLU-NC report showed that virtually all of North Carolina’s county jails failed to comply with new federal regulations set by the Prison Rape Elimination Act.
     
  8. The ACLU-NC and others helped protect the freedom to read by defeating a ban on Isabel Allende’s “The House of the Spirits” at Watauga High School in Boone. 
     
  9. A federal appeals court unanimously ruled North Carolina’s one-sided “Choose Life” license plate law unconstitutional. ACLU-NC Legal Director Chris Brook argued the case.
     
  10. The ACLU-NC teamed up with student Basil Soper to persuade Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College to allow transgender students to use their preferred name on public documents.

Help the ACLU-NC keep up the fight for civil liberties in 2015 by making a tax-deductible donation today!