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Civil Rights Newsletters

Children’s Internet Protection Act

The Children’s Internet Protection Act requires a public library to use “filtering” or “blocking” software on computers that are available to the public. A library that fails to do so would lose certain federal funds.

“Defense of Marriage” Laws

About 38 states enacted “Defense of Marriage” laws after the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) became law in 1996. The federal DOMA defines marriage only as a union of a man and a woman. Some of the state Defense of Marriage laws explicitly refuse to recognize a civil union or same sex marriage entered into in another state or country. Some state laws go even further by making no legal recognition of same sex couples. Currently, only Massachusetts permits same sex marriage. Vermont law provides for civil unions.

Marriage Protection Act Proposed

As civil rights advocates voiced their disapproval of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and similar state measures, supporters of such laws realized that challenges to the constitutionality of the laws were inevitable. Hoping to avoid these challenges, some federal legislators wrote a bill called the Marriage Protection Act of 2004. In July 2004, the United States House of Representative passed the Marriage Protection Act. As of November 2004, the bill had not yet been passed in the Senate. It is anticipated that proponents of the bill will likely face an uphill battle in the Senate. Civil rights advocates say that if the Marriage Protection Act does become law, it would be the first time that Congress has completely “stripped” all federal courts from considering a federal law.

The Privacy of Cellular Telephone Numbers

Six of the seven largest wireless telephone carriers say that they will move forward with a plan to compile a directory of wireless telephone numbers. The Wireless 411 Privacy Act has been introduced in Congress to prohibit wireless telephone carriers from including in a published directory the cellular phone numbers of those subscribers who do not give their consent.

The Right to Vote

The right to vote is a “civil right” that is protected by the United States Constitution. In addition, the Voting Rights Act prohibits voting discrimination against all people, including minorities and people with limited English speaking skills.