ACLU Welcomes Maine Statewide Patriot Act Resolution; Becomes Fourth State to Vote for Civil Liberties

March 23, 2004 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – In a move indicative of ongoing nationwide disquiet over the state of civil liberties since 9/11, Maine today became the fourth state to pass a resolution asking Congress to revisit the Patriot Act and other civil liberties infringements. The American Civil Liberties Union welcomed the vote, calling it further proof that Americans of all political stripes want to stop terrorism, but maximize civil liberties.

“With the passage of this pro-civil liberties resolution, the legislature has proudly put Maine on record as committed to principles of liberty and privacy,” said Louise Roback, executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union. “Our legislators are to be commended for standing up and joining a continually growing number of diverse communities across the United States who have demanded that our basic freedoms be upheld.”

“We strongly hope that our Senators — Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins — hear their constituents’ calls for restoration of our essential civil liberties even as we fight terrorism,” Roback said. “We can be both safe and free.”

The Maine state senate passed the resolution today by a vote of 18 to 15, with one Republican voting with 17 Democrats. The House of Representatives approved the measure on Friday after defeating a move to indefinitely postpone consideration of the measure by a vote of 51 to 73. In that vote, three Republicans crossed the aisle, and one – Rep. David Trahan of Waldoboro – delivered a forceful floor statement in favor of the resolution.

The Maine resolution follows state-wide measures in Vermont, Alaska and Hawaii. Statehouses in New Mexico and several other states have considered similar pieces of legislation. Most urge the U.S. Congress to revisit the USA Patriot Act, passed in haste a mere eight weeks after the attacks, and try to prevent local authorities from engaging in racial profiling and other civil liberties abuses.

Maine, like Alaska, has a strong conservative base, reflected in its two Republican Senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.

The Maine resolution puts the tally of communities that have passed such resolutions at 275, encompassing almost 50 million Americans in 38 states. The list is diverse, encompassing large urban centers like New York and Los Angeles, and small towns like Castle Valley, Utah. The political makeup of the movement is also quite mixed, with many conservative-led resolutions reflecting the broad right-wing libertarian discontent with the Bush administration’s civil liberties policies.

“As our polling has shown, when people, especially on the right, are informed about these issues, they get concerned,” said Charlie Mitchell, an ACLU legislative counsel. “Maine’s vote is a reflection of that dynamic.”

For more information on the resolutions movement, see:

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