Shepard's Mom Makes Appeal for Hate Crimes Legislation
The mother of slain gay college student Matthew Shepard appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday in attempt to convince members to support the Hates Crimes Prevention Act, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.
The proposed bill would strengthen existing hate crimes legislation so that the federal government could prosecute individuals who commit violence crimes based on a person's race, religion, national origin, gender disability, or sexual orientation.
Judy Shepard told committee members, "My son Matthew was the victim of a brutal hate crime and I believe this legislation is necessary to make sure no family again has to suffer like mine."
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Orrin Hatch indicated that he thought the bill might be deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, and urged revisions. Yale Law Professor Akhil Reed Amar has suggested that hate crimes language be used to determine penalties, rather than to influence prosecution. Amar also suggested that the federal government might assist states in prosecuting offenders rather than trying them in separate courts.
Russell Henderson was convicted and sentenced to two life sentences for the murder of Matthew Shepard. His accomplice, Aaron McKinney, will be tried in August and could face the death penalty.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .