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Date: July 17, 2014
Location: Charlotte, NC

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By Dr. Craig Fischer, Professor of Film and Cultural Studies at Appalachian State University

On Saturday, June 21, I hosted an ACLU of North Carolina-sponsored panel on “Comics Regulation and Comics Censorship” at Heroes Con, the Southeast’s longest running comicon. The well-attended discussion addressed instances when political and public outrage over the content of comic books clashed with the First Amendment.

The panel began with a discussion of a recent controversy in South Carolina, where legislators in the House of Representatives threatened to reduce state funding to the College of Charleston as a penalty for using Alison Bechdel’s lesbian-themed graphic novel Fun Home (2006) in a campus program. Present for the Fun Home discussion were Dr. Conseula Francis, a comics scholar and professor of English at the College of Charleston, and Christopher Brook, ACLU-NC Legal Director. Brook and Francis discussed the literary merits of Fun Home, the importance of protecting academic freedom, and the ways in which the “comic books are for kids” stereotype make adult graphic novels more susceptible to attack.

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice will present arguments in federal court on Monday, July 7, asking that North Carolina's voter suppression law be placed on hold for the 2014 midterm elections.

"The bottom line is that North Carolinians should be able to vote in the November election without having to navigate the obstacles imposed by this discriminatory law," said Chris Brook, legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina.

The ACLU, the ACLU of North Carolina, and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice challenged the law last August, but the case is not expected to reach trial until summer 2015. The groups filed a preliminary injunction motion in May to block key portions of the law from being in effect prior to the trial.

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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled in favor of closely held corporations that sought an exemption to a federal law requiring employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception. The owners of the plaintiff companies – Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma-based craft supply store chain, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania furniture company – cited religious objections to contraception as a reason not to comply with the law.

The American Civil Liberties Union, religious organizations, other civil rights and women’s health groups, business leaders, and members of Congress filed friend-of-the-court briefs arguing that the companies’ owners cannot impose their personal religious beliefs on employees to withhold coverage for health services with which they disagree.

"This is a deeply troubling decision. For the first time, the highest court in the country has said that business owners can use their religious beliefs to deny their employees a benefit that they are guaranteed by law," said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU. "Religious freedom is a fundamental right, but that freedom does not include the right to impose beliefs on others. In its ruling today, the Court simply got it wrong."

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RALEIGH – North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory today said he will sign legislation that will allow neurologists to recommend a marijuana-extract oil to patients suffering from intractable seizures and epilepsy. House Bill 1220, which would allow such patients to use an oil derived from a strain of marijuana that is high in the cannabinoid CBD (cannabidiol) but low in the psychoactive cannabinoid THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), was overwhelmingly approved by both chambers of the General Assembly. No other conditions would be covered by the law.

“It’s very encouraging to see North Carolina take this first step toward more compassionate medical marijuana laws, but this bill overlooks countless North Carolinians suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDs, multiple sclerosis and other serious conditions who could benefit from safe and legal access to medical marijuana,” said Sarah Preston, ACLU-NC Policy Director. “The General Assembly and Governor McCrory should be applauded for demonstrating compassion for sufferers of epilepsy, but under current state law, other patients who use marijuana to relieve their symptoms are still wrongly treated as criminals. We urge lawmakers to extend their compassion to other patients who could benefit from safe and legal access to marijuana by either approving or putting on the ballot a proposal for a well-regulated and more inclusive medical marijuana system in North Carolina.”

Another N.C. bill, HB 1161, sponsored by Rep. Kelly Alexander, would place a constitutional amendment on November’s ballot that would allow licensed doctors to recommend marijuana for patients suffering from cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, ALS, and other debilitating conditions, and would create a regulated system so patients could access their medicine safely.

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