The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Civil Liberties News Week Ending June 9

by Jessica Azulay

A weekly run-down of stories related to rights, privacy, etc. @ Affirmative Action at high court @ Missouri drops adoption ban @ Kids can't authorize searches @ Gay marriage bans @ Senate might strip courts' powers

New high court to hear affirmative-action case

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The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear cases concerning whether public high schools can use race as a factor when deciding attendance issues.

The justices will hear arguments in a lawsuit brought by a group opposing a Seattle policy of allowing schools to use students’ race in determining who gets coveted slots in district schools. In an effort to mitigate the effects of informal housing segregation in the city, the district allows students to apply for any high school and then considers students’ race when deciding who will attend schools with more applicants than desks.

In another case, the justices will hear a challenge from a Kentucky parent who says her white child was unfairly denied admission to his school of choice because of the districts’ attempts to desegregate schools.

In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled 5–4 that universities could use race as a factor in admissions. The makeup of the court has since changed, however, with the appointment of Samuel Alito, a conservative, in place of retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a relative centrist.

Missouri drops gay-adoption ban

After lawmakers nixed an anti-sodomy law from the Missouri books, the state’s attorney general has said there is now no legal basis for preventing gays from adopting children.

The American Civil Liberties Union had recently won a victory in a case challenging Missouri’s policy of using sexual preference to deny would-be parents the ability to adopt children. State Attorney General Jay Nixon said Wednesday the state would not continue to appeal the ruling in favor of the ACLU.

The anti-sodomy law had been unenforceable since a 2003 Supreme Court ruling.

Mont. court says kids can’t okay home searches

In a decision that could be seen as a victory for privacy rights or a blow to youth rights, Montana’s highest court departed somewhat from the federal government and most states in deciding people under age 16 cannot provide consent for searches of the family home.

The ruling overturns an initial district-court ruling that, by leaving a minor "in charge" of the household while adults are absent, a guardian empowers so-designated kids to grant police authority to search the premises. On appeal, the Montana Supreme Court disagreed, deciding instead that "a youth under the age of sixteen lacks the capacity or the authority to consent to a search of her parents’ home."

Unlike the "Miranda warning" against self-incrimination, police are not required to inform decision-makers that they have a right to refuse the search of their property.

Gay-marriage bans spread in states, stall in Congress

The US Senate refused to vote Wednesday on amending the Constitution to ban gay marriage. Senators voted 49–48 not to consider the ban. Sixty votes were needed.

Ant-gay-marriage amendments were passed, however, by voters in Alabama and by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives this week. Reuters counts 45 states that have passed laws against same-sex marriage.

Senate considers further enshrining Pledge of Allegiance

The US Senate is considering a measure that would bar courts from hearing cases involving the Pledge of Allegiance. A similar bill was passed by the House of Representatives last year.

The Pledge Protection Act of 2005 would strip nearly all courts of the power to hear or decide any "interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution of, the Pledge of Allegiance… or its recitation."

In recent years, courts have heard multiple challenges to the constitutionality of the Pledge, since it contains the words "under God." But the American Civil Liberties Union warned in a press statement that the bill would not only bar such cases brought on religious-freedom grounds, but also challenges over requiring recitation of the Pledge in schools.

The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

This News Digest originally appeared in the June 9, 2006 edition of The NewStandard.
Jessica Azulay is a staff journalist.

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