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Utah Governor Signs Porn Filter Mandate

Lawmakers in Utah want every smartphone and tablet sold in the state to be equipped with filters.


Gov. Spencer Cox signed a bill to mandate these filters into law this week. Under HB 72, tablets and smartphones must automatically enable filter requirements for “material that is harmful to minors.” Violators will be fined $10 every time they fail to do this, with a cap of $500. The bill empowers either the state or private individuals to bring action under the law.


The law does not take effect immediately, though. For the state to begin enforcing it, five other states would have to enact it.


Supporters of the law argue that it’s necessary to protect children from pornography. They say that mandatory filters will help parents keep objectionable material away from their children. Critics counter that this mandatory filtering is unconstitutional. They also argue that if parents want to police what their children are doing online, there are already multiple ways for them to do this.


Do you think that the government should mandate automatic filtering of content on smartphones to keep children away from pornography?

House Passes Bill to Ban Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity

Last week the House of Representatives passed a bill that expands federal discrimination protections to individuals based on their sexual orientation or their gender identity.


By a vote of 224-206, the House passed HR 5, dubbed the EQUALITY Act. Here is how VoteSpotter describes HR 5:


To enact a new federal law that would prohibit discrimination in public accommodations, employment and public education based on an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill would also prohibit a business, school, or other location from denying access to a bathroom, locker room, dressing room, or other facility based on an individual's gender identity.


Supporters of this bill say it is necessary to have a federal ban on this type of discrimination. They argue that gays, lesbians, and transgender individuals are being denied basic rights and should be protected by law. Opponents contend that this will infringe upon the religious beliefs of those who think that homosexuality and being transgender are sinful. They contend this is federal overreach.


Currently, some states have laws banning discrimination based on someone's gender identity. These laws can include a requirement that individuals can use the bathrooms or dressing rooms of their gender identity not their biological sex. The Supreme Court also ruled in 2020 that the Constitution forbids anti-gay discrimination.


It remains unclear if the Senate will consider this legislation. With Democrats having control only through Vice President Harris presiding over the chamber, many controversial bills like this face an uphill battle there. It is unlikely that if considered it could garner the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster.

Do you support a federal ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity?


Biden Lifts Transgender Military Ban

This week, President Joe Biden is expected to lift the ban on transgender individuals serving in the military. 


In 2017, President Trump issued a memorandum that prohibited openly transgender individuals from serving in the armed forces. This reversed a 2016 action by the Obama Administration which allowed such individuals to serve. President Trump’s ban has been tied up with legal challenges, although the Pentagon did issue orders in 2019 for the ban to go into effect.


President Biden supported reversing this ban during his campaign for office. His newly-confirmed Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, said during Senate hearings that he also supported ending the ban on transgender troops.


Supporters of allowing transgender individuals to serve in the military say that banning them is sex discrimination. They also contend that if a member of the military is performing well, it should not matter if that person is transgender. Opponents contend that such troops undermine morale.


Do you support allowing transgender troops to serve in the military?

Iowa Considers Anti-Abortion Constitutional Amendment

This week an Iowa legislative subcommittee advanced a resolution that would clarify that the state constitution does not protect the right to an abortion.


Pro-life legislators want the state constitution to be clear that it does not protect the right to an abortion. For them, it's important to clarify this because judges have ruled that certain abortion limits violate the state constitution. In addition, they would like the state constitution to have this language in case the Supreme Court ever overturns Roe v. Wade. If that occurs, then each state would be able to set limits on abortion or even ban it as long as their state constitutions permit this. 


Supporters contend that states should be free to restrict abortion, which they consider murder. Pro-choice legislators, however, contend that these restrictions discriminatory against women. They say that this amendment would take away the right of women to control her sexual health.


Last year, the Iowa Senate passed a resolution with similar wording. However, the House did not. This year, the resolution is beginning in a House subcommittee. If both legislative chambers approve the resolution, it will go to the voters for approval.


Do you think that state constitutions should protect women's right to an abortion?

Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples' Day?

Today is Columbus Day -- or maybe it's Indigenous Peoples' day. It depends on where you live.


Since the late 1800s, Italian-Americans had pushed for a federal holiday that honors Christopher Columbus. In 1966, they succeeded, and the second Monday in October is now Columbus Day. However, many Native Americans and others have long held that Columbus is not worthy of celebration, and have worked at a state and local level to declare the same day as Indigenous Peoples' Day.


The controversy over Columbus concerns what his detractors claim is his role in promoting slavery and genocide. They argue that his arrival in the Americas led to the enslavement and death of Native people. Columbus's supporters, however, say that he should be celebrated because his voyage was vital to the settling of the New World by Europeans.


Starting in 1989, various state and local governments have either changed their recognition of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day (or Native American Day) or have commemorated both. Currently 13 states recognize the day as Indigenous Peoples' Day. These efforts have generally been opposed by Italian-American groups.


Do you think that Columbus Day should be replaced by Indigenous Peoples' Day?

Judge Blocks Idaho Transgender Athlete Law

A federal judge has prevented Idaho from implementing a law that would prohibit transgender athletes from competing unless they compete in leagues that match their gender identity at birth.


The law was passed as an attempt to stop transgender girls from competing in girls' sports leagues. Sponsors say that it is necessary to stop unfair competition. They contend that transgender athletes have unfair biological advantages over competitors. Legislators passed the law earlier this year and Gov. Brad Little signed it into law.


Critics immediately sued to stop its implementation. They argue that this law mandates unlawful discrimination based on someone's sex, and federal judge David Nye agreed that these arguments are likely to succeed. He said that Idaho could not enforce the law while the legal case was ongoing, noting that the law seems to contradict recent Supreme Court decisions.


The issue of transgender athletes has been controversial in recent years. Athletic leagues have different rules for how transgender individuals can compete, but all allow such competition if the transgender athlete meets certain conditions. The Idaho law did not take these conditions into account, instead saying that if someone wanted to compete in school athletics, they must do so according to their gender at birth. The law also established a process to investigate this issue if there were a controversy over someone's gender.


The legal case against the Idaho law will continue to be decided by federal courts.

Do you think that transgender athletes should only be allowed to compete in leagues that match their birth gender?

Judges Block Strict Abortion Laws

Lawmakers in two states passed strict abortion laws, but federal judges put them both on hold this week.


In Georgia, a judge issued a permanent injunction against a law that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat was detectable. This law, passed last year, has been the center of legal squabbles. And in Tennessee, another judge issued a temporary injunction against enforcing a law that would have the effect of banning nearly every abortion in the state.


These two laws are similar to other states’ laws that are aimed at curbing abortions. Sponsors of these bills say they are necessary to protect the lives of unborn children. They argue that once a heartbeat is present, a fetus should be considered a viable human. Opponents, however, say these laws infringe upon a woman’s constitutional right to privacy.


Federal judges have largely agreed with those who are fighting these laws. These judges have concluded that the laws do indeed go further than Supreme Court decisions, such as Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey, allow. The judges in these two cases point to other successful challenges of similar laws in their injunctions.


Some supporters of these stricter abortion laws also admit to a strategy of passing laws they know will set up a judicial showdown over whether the laws are constitutional or not. Their hope is to use the court fights over the new abortion laws as an avenue to have the Supreme Court get involved an issue a ruling that is more favorable to abortion opponents.


Do you support stricter abortion laws?

Supreme Court Rules Anti-Gay Discrimination Illegal

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that federal anti-discrimination laws cover gay and transgender individuals.


The high court ruled that when the law uses the word “sex,” it also protects people from being fired for being gay or transgender. Writing for the majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch concluded that the plain reading of the text leads to the conclusion that sex discrimination is not limited to ensuring that men and women are treated equally in the workplace. Instead, he noted that if an employer fired a man for being in a relationship with a man, but did not fire a woman for being in a relationship with a man, then that is a clear case of an employer discriminating against someone based on sex.


In his decision, Gorsuch wrote, “an employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision…”


The three dissenting justices disagreed. Justice Samuel Alito pointed out that in the decades following the enactment of the federal anti-discrimination law, no one thought it covered gay or transgender individuals. He said that the majority was re-writing the law, not interpreting it. In his dissent, he wrote, “If every single living American had been surveyed in 1964, it would have been hard to find any who thought that discrimination because of sex meant discrimination because of sexual orientation — not to mention gender identity, a concept that was essentially unknown at the time.”


The case concerned three individuals who were fired for being either gay or transgender.


The justices joining Gorsuch in the majority were Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kagan, Sotomayor, Breyer, and Ginsburg.


Do you support the Supreme Court ruling that federal law protects gay and transgender individuals from discrimination?

Some States Shutting Down Abortions as Non-Essential Services

Across the nation, governors are shutting down businesses they deem as offering non-essential services. Some states have labeled abortion clinics are being non-essential. Now Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) is saying that more governors should shut down abortion clinics around the nation.


According to Sen. Kennedy, abortions are not a necessity during this time. He also says these clinics are diverting medical professionals from caring for people sick with COVID-19, and that these clinics have medical supplies that could be used elsewhere.


Four states have included restrictions on abortions in their lockdown orders. Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union have sued to stop these restrictions, with federal courts mostly siding against the shutdown orders. In Texas, a federal court ruled against the state shutting down abortion clinics, then another court reinstated the shutdown order.


Planned Parenthood and the ACLU argue that women still need abortions during the coronavirus crisis, and shutting down clinics would result in harm to these women. Other critics of these orders say that these governors are using this crisis as a pre-text to advance an anti-abortion agenda.


Do you think that abortion clinics should stay open during the coronavirus epidemic?

Ban on Gay Discrimination Faces Uphill Battle in Nebraska

A business coalition is pushing Nebraska legislators to enact a law to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Legislators and the governor are cool to the idea, however.


The business owners supporting this bill say it will help the state attract workers. They argue that in a world where businesses are competing for employees in a tight labor market, such a law would bolster the state’s reputation. That, they argue, will draw new workers.


Gov. Pete Ricketts is skeptical, however. He notes that many states with high-performing economies do not this type of anti-discrimination law. His spokesperson also said that such laws can be used to attack businesses whose owners have faith-based objections to performing certain transactions.


Legislators seemed more aligned to Gov. Ricketts’ position than the stance being taken by business groups. As in past sessions, there is a bill that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. And, just like in past sessions, it seems destined to be voted down. In previous years, however, there has not been a push by the statewide chamber of commerce or business groups in favor of the bill.


There are 25 states that have laws banning anti-gay discrimination.


Do you think that it hurts a state’s economy if that state does not have a law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity?

Senate Fails to Pass Abortion Ban Bill

A majority of senators voted in favor of two bills to limit abortion this week. But the votes were not enough to overcome a Democratic filibuster that prevented the legislation from advancing.


Here’s how VoteSpotter describes the two bills:


U.S. Senate Bill 311: Require care for child born after an abortion

To mandate that health care workers must provide a reasonable degree of care to a child born after an abortion or an attempted abortion and immediately admit that child to a hospital. This motion is to invoke cloture, which requires 60 votes, and would mean ending the debate and proceeding to a vote on the bill.


U.S. Senate Bill 3275: Ban abortion after 20 weeks

To prohibit a doctor from performing an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless it is to save the life of the mother or the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. This vote is to invoke cloture, or to end debate on the bill, so requires 60 votes to pass.


On S. 311, Democratic Senators Bob Casey (PA), Joe Manchin (WV), and Doug Jones (AL) joined the Republicans in supporting it on a 56-41 vote. On S. 3275, Sen. Manchin broke with his party to support it while Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Susan Collins (ME) joined the Democrats in voting “no.” The tally for that bill was 53-44.


These two roll calls were not actual votes to pass the bill. Instead, they were votes for cloture, or to cut off debate on the bills. A cloture motion requires 60 votes to succeed. The failure to end debate means that the Democrats can continue to filibuster the bill, or refuse to allow a final vote.


The use of this technique to stop legislation was once used sparingly. Today, however, any action of significant interest is subject to a filibuster. Then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) ended the filibuster for lower court judges when Republicans were subjecting them to filibuster during President Obama’s time in office. Current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has ended the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees during President Trump’s term. The filibuster for legislation continues, however.


Do you think that the federal government should ban abortion after 20 weeks?


Court Allows Rule Defunding Planned Parenthood to Take Effect

A federal appeals court has rejected calls that it block a Trump Administration regulation that prohibits federally-funded family planning services from referring women for abortions.


This rule, issued in 2019, bans organizations that receive federal family planning funds from referring women to an abortion provider or from being associated with organizations that provide abortions. This regulation had a big effect on Planned Parenthood, which received significant federal family planning funding. After this rule went into effect, Planned Parenthood stopped accepting this money.


The federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Planned Parenthood and other plaintiffs who urged the court to block this rule. The court instead held that, given past Supreme Court precedent, the rule was likely to survive legal challenge and so courts should not stop it from going into effect. The Supreme Court had upheld similar restrictions on the use of federal money in the past.


Supporters of this rule argued that taxpayers should not be subsidizing the operation of organizations that provide abortions or counsel women to get abortions. They said that Planned Parenthood and other groups should be cut off from taxpayer dollars. Opponents countered that this rule would penalize poor women who use Planned Parenthood for family planning services unrelated to abortion.


There are still ongoing lawsuits over the ultimate fate of this regulations.


Do you think that the federal government should fund organizations like Planned Parenthood that refer women for abortions?

Florida to Require Parental Consent for Abortions

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is poised to sign a bill into law that will require minors who want an abortion to obtain parental consent. Abortion proponents are vowing to sue, saying it violates the state constitution.


Under the bill that legislators approved on Thursday, girls who are under 18 must obtain the consent of a parent prior to an abortion. Girls could seek a waiver from this requirement in cases of rape, incest, abuse, or when a parent may cause harm to the girl. Doctors who perform abortions without this consent would be guilty of a felony.


Supporters say that other medical procedures require parental consent, and abortion should be no different. They argue that an abortion is not a decision that a child should make alone. Opponents say that girls in this position should be free to make the best choice for them, and not to face repercussions from parents who may disapprove.


Those fighting this law also say that it violates the state constitution’s right to privacy. The point to a 1989 decision by the Florida Supreme Court holding that invalidated a parental consent statute.


Twenty-six other states have similar laws.


Do you support requiring that girls under 18 seek parental approval prior to an abortion?


Virginia Legislators Tackle Gun Control, Abortion, ERA

With Virginia voters last year giving Democrats complete power in Richmond, this year’s legislative session has seen the passage of numerous bills on hot-button issues. Here are some of the notable bills that were discussed or passed by legislators this week:


  • Enacting gun control. The House of Delegates passed legislation that would impose background checks on private gun sales, limit the purchase of handguns to one per month, and allow police to seize the firearms of someone they deem a threat. Similar legislation had already passed the state senate.
  • Loosening abortion restrictions. Both houses of the legislature have passed bills that would end the 24-hour waiting period before a woman can get an abortion, the requirement that doctors show a woman an ultrasound prior to abortion, and certain mandates on abortion clinics.
  • Passing the Equal Rights Amendment. The House of Delegates took a final vote to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Although the congressionally-mandated deadline has passed to ratify the amendment, Virginia becomes the last state necessary to add it to the Constitution. There will now be a legal fight over whether Congress can put a time limit on ratification.
  • Ending legislator immunity from arrest. After a state delegate was stopped on suspicion of drunk driving but was let go without being arrested, it prompted many to call for a change to the state constitution. A current provision in the constitution gives legislators immunity from arrest while the legislature is in session. This week, a senator introduced a constitutional amendment that would end that immunity.


Do you support ending the 24-hour-waiting period for abortions? Should handgun purchases be limited to one per month? Should legislators be immune from arrest during session?

Arizona Legislators Consider Banning LGBTQ Discrimination

This year’s legislative session in Arizona features two bills that would place legal limits on state residents’ ability to refuse service to gay, lesbian, or transgender individuals.


Currently, the state does not ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Some cities in the state have anti-discrimination laws, but a recent decision by Arizona Supreme Court established that business owners do not have to provide services for same-sex weddings. This has prompted statewide supporters of an anti-discrimination law to renew their efforts in the legislature.


Under the bills being considered, it would be illegal for business owners to refuse service to individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity in many circumstances. Under this bill, an employer could not fire an employee due to that employee being gay or a landlord could not refuse to rent to a transgender person.


Supporters say this bill is necessary to help ensure that Arizona law protects all Arizonans. They also argue that businesses will be attracted to the state because of it. Opponents counter that this could infringe upon the rights of religious Arizonans to conduct their businesses in line with their beliefs.


There have been anti-discrimination bills considered in previous legislative sessions, but none have advanced. It remains unclear what the prospects of this year’s legislation will be.


Do you think the law should prohibit business owners from discriminating against gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals?

Marijuana Legalization May Be Coming to New Mexico

If Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has her way, New Mexico will become the 12th state to legalize the sale and possession of marijuana for recreational uses.


Gov. Lujan Grisham is backing legislation that would legalize marijuana for adults in the state and set up a way to tax it. The state Senate is considering legislation this week that embodies the governor’s goals.


Legislators also considered bills last year that would have legalized recreational marijuana. While such proposals did gain some bipartisan support, they failed to pass. This year, legalization legislation is encountering some pushback from those who supported the previous year’s bills. Republicans and moderate Democrats are expressing skepticism about this year’s plan.


Supporters of recreational marijuana legalization note that other states have removed legal restrictions on the drug, and are not seeing problems because of it. They also point out how much the state can raise in tax revenue from legalized marijuana. Opponents argue that this will set up conflicts with the federal government. Those who oppose this year’s legislation also have differing views on how it should be sold and regulated.


New Mexico legislators began a 30-day session last week. It is unclear if Gov. Lujan Grisham will have enough support to accomplish her goal of marijuana legalization this year.


Do you support legalizing recreational marijuana for adults?

Trump Appears at Annual March for Life

Today is the 47th annual March for Life. But this year, the marchers have a special guest who has never joined them before – the president of the United States.


The March for Life is a yearly demonstration in Washington, D.C., near the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. That decision legalized abortion nationally. Republican presidents in the past have spoken before the March for Life, but have never appeared in person. This week, President Trump tweeted that he would join the marchers.


The march is occurring as anti-abortion legislators are enacted a raft of bills restricting the practice nationwide. These include laws that impose a host of new regulations on abortion clinics to outright bans after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Federal judges have prevented most of these laws from going into effect. Supporters hope that the Supreme Court will take up one of these cases and use it to overrule Roe v. Wade and other decisions that have found that abortion is a constitutionally-protected right. If this occurs, then states would be free to legalize or ban abortion.


At the federal level, however, there is little momentum for nationwide laws dealing with abortion. Annual spending bills have a provision, known as the Hyde Amendment, that bars federal money from being used to pay for abortion except in limited circumstances. Some Democratic lawmakers want to see this removed, but have yet to succeed in doing so.


Do you support placing more restrictions on abortion, or banning it completely?

Equal Rights Amendment Passes in Virginia

After years of partisan disagreement over the Equal Rights Amendment, the Virginia legislature this week finally ratified it. Legislators’ action on this amendment now sets up a fight over whether or not this amendment should be added to the U.S. Constitution.


The Equal Rights amendment states:


Section 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Section 2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3: This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.


Congress passed the ERA in 1972 and sent it to states for ratification. The original resolution required that the necessary number of states (38, or three-fourths of the states) must act within 7 years or the amendment would die. Not enough states ratified the amendment within that time, so Congress extended the deadline to 1982. Even with this extended deadline, the ERA still failed to meet the necessary number of states for ratification.


During this time, 35 states ratified the ERA. However, as controversy grew over the amendment, 5 states rescinded their ratification. Since 2017, 3 states (including Virginia) have ratified the ERA. Democratic Virginia legislators have been attempting to pass the ERA in recent years, but their efforts were thwarted by the Republican majority. In last year's elections, Virginia voters gave Democrats the majority in the legislature.


The issue of whether states can rescind their ratification is a controversial one, with many experts saying that these rescissions are not valid. The statutory deadline for ratification is also under question. The Trump Administration has issued an opinion stating that even with 38 states ratifying the ERA (which does not count states that have rescinded their ratification), the congressionally-imposed deadline should bar the amendment from being added to the Constitution.


Virginia legislators were aware of these controversies, but dismissed them. They argued that it was their job to pass the amendment to support equal rights, recognizing that there will be a legal battle over whether the amendment will become part of the Constitution.


Supporters of the ERA say it is necessary to have a constitutional bar against discrimination based on sex. They argue that this is the only way to ensure that women’s rights are protected. Opponents counter that the Constitution already prohibits discrimination and that this amendment could lead courts to strike down restrictions on abortion.


Do you support the Equal Rights Amendment?

Tennessee to Debate Bill Setting Rules for Transgender Athletes

How transgender athletes play school sports is at issue in this year’s Tennessee legislative session.


Under HB 1572, schools that allow a transgender boy to compete on a girls’ team or a transgender girl to compete on a boys’ team would be penalized. Schools that do not assign transgender athletes to teams of their birth sex would lose state funding.


This legislation comes in the wake of growing concerns among some that transgender athletes have a competitive advantage when competing in gender-specific sports, especially transgender girls competing in girls’ sports. Some critics allege that these transgender athletes have a biological edge that sets them apart from other athletes.


Opponents of this legislation push back, saying that transgender girls are girls, and should not be discriminated against. They argue that this will single out transgender children and set back the effort to provide them equal rights.


If Tennessee legislators pass this legislation, the state will likely face a lawsuit.


Do you think transgender athletes should only be allowed to play on sports teams that align with their birth gender?

Ohio Legislature Considers Death Penalty for Abortion Doctors

If Ohio Republicans have their way, abortion will soon be banned in Ohio.


A third of the House GOP caucus in the Buckeye State have cosponsored a bill that would impose a total ban on abortion in the state. Under the legislation, there would be two new crimes in the state: abortion murder and aggravated abortion murder. The penalty for these crimes could be the death penalty.


This legislation would go far beyond Ohio’s current abortion law, which restricts abortions after six weeks of viability. This legislation, also known as the fetal heartbeat bill, has been stopped from going into effect by a federal judge.


Some pro-life leaders in the state, as well as Gov. Mike DeWine, are slow to embrace a total abortion ban. They note that this legislation will certainly face legal challenge. Unless the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the law would not be constitutional.


 Supporters of the bill say that the time has come for a legal challenge to Roe v. Wade, the decision that legalized abortion nationwide. They argue that this bill could be the vehicle under which the Supreme Court reverses precedent and allows states to once again have the authority to allow or ban abortion.


Do you support an abortion ban? Should doctors who perform abortions face the death penalty?

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