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by Madeline Bailey

Last week, NPR featured the story of Raymond Towler, a 52-year-old man who was released from prison on May 4th after spending nearly 30 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit.  After being sentenced to life imprisonment in 1981, Towler waited faithfully for justice. Thanks to the Ohio Innocence Project and their work to obtain DNA testing, he was finally proven innocent –29 years too late. Read the rest of this entry »


What does it mean to defend something? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, to defend is to “resist an attack on; protect from harm or danger.” What exactly is the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) intended to defend against?

If I didn’t know better, I would guess that a law in defense of marriage was intended to protect same-sex partners who are married in states that recognize same-sex marriages and who then relocate to states that do not. Sadly, this is not the case. It is instead intended to defend a very specific definition of marriage and to deprive same-sex couples of the rights extended to heterosexual couples across the nation. Rather than defend the very personal decision to commit one’s self to another, it seems that the federal law has effectively mangled the sanctity of marriage for many same-sex couples. Read the rest of this entry »

Rabbi Irwin Kula’s April 30th blog post in The Huffington Post is a thought-provoking discussion on the rate of social change. It inspired me to consider how different things were in this country just a short time ago. I am aghast at how recently my fellow Americans enslaved other humans, at how fiercely plantation owners fought to hold onto their rightful living, breathing property. I am angry that respected leaders and thinkers fought against equal rights for anyone who was not a white male property-holder. I am horrified that, less than 70 years ago, FDR authorized the internment of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans for no other reason than their national heritage. I am ashamed that some states banned interracial marriage until 1967 when the Supreme Court finally ruled anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional.

Appalling as they may be, these practices (and many others) are a part of our nation’s history. They represent brutalities and inequities, violations of the very principles our country stands for. Recalling these events conjures great sadness, but one from which I can also cultivate hope. I experience a moment of grace at the realization that, despite overwhelming inertia, change is possible. Not only is it possible, it is inevitable. Read the rest of this entry »

As the U.S. Democrats push for immigration reform laws that recognize the contribution of the many non-citizens residing within U.S. borders, border states are taking matters into their own hands. Arizona’s newly passed legislation originally required that police officers question individuals who they believe may be in the country illegally. A Phoenix police officer effectively sued in response, saying that the new law would require him to stop school children in the area he patrols during the day to inquire about their citizenship. Arizona state lawmakers seemingly predicted resistance from some police precincts: the law includes a clause that enables the state to sue police departments that do not enforce the new mandate. The law was amended on May 1 to only allow questioning of people who police stop, detain or arrest, but civil rights advocates say that police can and have invented all kinds of reasons for stopping people they want to question. President Barack Obama has voiced concern and is exploring strategies to challenge Arizona’s new legislation.

In the meantime, some policymakers in Utah are hoping to implement similar legislation. Although Utah lawmakers may have been entertaining such legislation before Arizona established its new law, they have certainly been influenced by the dramatic actions of their neighboring state. Read the rest of this entry »

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