Protecting the Important Right to Vote

JSPAN Newsletter - February 10, 2012
Jewish Social Policy Action Network

In this Issue:
Newsletter: February 10, 2012
Protecting the Important Right to Vote
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court broke with past practice by reviewing the Legislature's 2011 redistricting map for compliance with the requirement that voting districts minimize divisions of counties and municipalities, and struck down the plan. Criticizing tactics of the Legislative Reapportionment Commission that delayed and complicated the case and left too little time for judicial review, Chief Justice Castille joined with the three Democratic appointees on the Court to disapprove the new map.

In ringing terms (at least in the context of judicial opinions) the Court ruled: "... the LRC reads into our cases a restriction on the scope of review that does not exist and is contrary to settled notions of litigation and judicial review. ... the LRC cannot claim justifiable reliance upon a truncated scope of review which arises from a misreading of prior decisional law. We are also not persuaded by the LRC's claim that its existence and task requires that we deem alternative plans to be irrelevant and beyond our scope of review. The Constitution confers upon aggrieved citizens a right of appeal, measured by substantive standards specified in the charter. Such appeals must be meaningful, not illusory. The importance and difficulty of the LRC's task -- a common burden in government - does not insulate its undertaking from the normal avenues of legal challenge, including arguments premised upon alternatives." Holt et al v. 2011 Legislative Reapportionment Commission, No. 7 MM 2012 (Pa. February 3, 2012).

Based on a showing by citizen protesters that a plan could be devised that would split fewer counties and municipalities, while producing more contiguous and compact districts, the Court reversed the LRC redistricting map and remanded the case to the LRC for preparation of a new redistricting plan.


... But Not to Strip Minority Rights
In a decision attracting national attention, the Ninth Circuit overruled a California initiative (referendum) amending the state constitution. In 2000 California voters adopted a law requiring that marriage be between a man and a woman, but this discrimination between gays and heterosexual couples was held to be unlawful under the California state constitution. So until 2008, the state allowed marriage between opposite and same sex partners alike.

The referendum on Proposition 8 changed that, this time amending the state constitution to preclude marriage between same sex couples. Challenged under federal constitutional law, the Ninth Circuit held that Proposition 8 violates equal protection under the federal constitution.

"Although the [United States] Constitution permits communities to enact most laws they believe to be desirable, it requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different classes of people differently. There was no such reason that Proposition 8 could have been enacted." Perry, et al v. Brown, et al, 2012 WL 372713 (9 Cir., Feb. 7, 2012).

The court considered whether "domestic partnership" available under California law is a suitable substitute for marriage, and decided that it is not equal in social status or symbolism. Lacking a rational basis - other than disapproval of gay life styles - the court held that Proposition 8 denies equal protection of the law to same sex couples.

The Ninth Circuit ruling does not answer important questions: it prevents a state that allows same sex marriage from taking away that right. But it does not rule on whether a state that never granted the right must now adopt same sex marriage. And in all likelihood the Ninth Circuit case will go to the United States Supreme Court before it is over.


Act Now to Support Reauthorization of VAWA
By Deborah Weinstein, JSPAN Board

JSPAN strongly supports reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, S 1925 (VAWA), as amended by the End Abuse Later in Life Act, which expired in 2011. We encourage our members and others to contact their Senators and urge support for this critical bill. Now is the time for Congress to again demonstrate its commitment to the victims and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking and elder abuse voting to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

1994, when first authorized, VAWA was a giant step forward for the county. Its passage meant that our federal government finally acknowledged that domestic and sexual violence cause tremendous harm to our society, and invested real resources into helping victims and survivors. Millions of people, including children and families, are better off as a result. This historic measure increased options for victims and enabled many survivors to leave abusive relationships. It also improved the criminal justice system's response to violence by training police and prosecutors to respond more effectively.

[read more]

How to Contact Your Senators to Urge Passage of VAWA

To show your support and encourage your Senators to vote for passage, simply go to the following web addresses that are set up to facilitate the process:

National Council of Jewish Women

Jewish Women International


Fight the Gun Lobby Stealth Attack
All attention this week focused on the budget address from Governor Corbett. Running silently under the radar - making headway through the Pennsylvania House without public comment or hearings - is a gun lobby project to eliminate all remnants of local gun control. The legislature is fast tracking a bill attempting to penalize cities and towns that take local action to crack down on illegal gun trafficking.

Years ago the state "preempted" cities and towns from adopting laws to control the lawful possession of guns. Since then 30 Pennsylvania cities and towns have adopted laws to deal with unlawful possession of guns, by requiring a gun owner to report any lost or stolen gun. The aim is to cut down the illegal trafficking in stolen weapons, an important line of commerce for those who cannot pass the background check to purchase a gun lawfully.

The proposed law, H.B. 1523, would authorize individuals to bring actions for a variety of actual and imagined money damages, against municipalities that have adopted or adopt a gun control ordinance. It passed the House Judiciary Committee on Monday this week and was scheduled for a floor vote on Wednesday. You can still contact your state representative and your state senator to express your views, directly or through CeaseFire PA.

JSPAN supports the efforts of CeaseFire PA to oppose illegal use and possession of firearms and to encourage the adoption of local ordinances against the misdirection and misuse of firearms. - Ed.


Washington Post Editorial: The Citizens United Catastrophe
By E.J. Dionne Jr.
Published: February 5

We have seen the world created by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, and it doesn't work. Oh, yes, it works nicely for the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country, especially if they want to shroud their efforts to influence politics behind shell corporations. It just doesn't happen to work if you think we are a democracy and not a plutocracy.


The strongest case against judicial activism - against "legislating from the bench," as former President George W. Bush liked to say - is that judges are not accountable for the new systems they put in place, whether by accident or design. The Citizens United justices were not required to think through the practical consequences of sweeping aside decades of work by legislators, going back to the passage of the landmark Tillman Act in 1907, who sought to prevent untoward influence-peddling and indirect bribery.

The Citizens United justices were not required to think through the practical consequences of sweeping aside decades of work by legislators, going back to the passage of the landmark Tillman Act in 1907, who sought to prevent untoward influence-peddling and indirect bribery.

[read more]


Imposing an Asset Test on SNAP Food Stamp Recipients in Pennsylvania Still Under Consideration
State Representative Frank Dermody (D - Allegheny County) issued a detailed indictment of the Corbett Administration proposal to restore an asset test for eligibility to receive food stamps under the federal SNAP Program. In a letter to the Governor, Dermody writes that this proposal "is among the most harmful policies yet proposed by your administration ..."

To read the full text of letter, click here.


Food Stamp Politics
JSPAN President Gralnick comments on the needs test in the Post-Gazette

The decision that led Gov. Tom Corbett and his political appointees at the state Department of Public Welfare to place an asset test for food stamps isn't about fraud, waste or abuse -- it's about blind ideology.

DPW officials first publicly mentioned an asset test 10 months ago, yet to date, no consideration, no study or assessment has been done on the implications of such a decision.

Food stamps are a voucher entirely paid for by the federal government, but the state pays for the program's administration costs, which will only be more cumbersome. It's clear Pennsylvania taxpayers will pay more and Pennsylvania seniors will get less. There very well may be no net savings.

Meanwhile, the governor risks collapsing the statewide network of food banks, further overwhelming county assistance offices with red tape, shifting costs to other safety-net programs (or what's left) and starving the retail industry and farmers of revenue. This is poor policy we can ill afford.

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
Elkins Park, Pa.


COEJL: Jewish Institutions Fight Global Warming: 50 Jewish Leaders Celebrate Tu B'shvat With Program to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) announced, in honor of Tu B'Shvat, that fifty Jewish leaders have signed a pledge to fight global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The pledge states:

"We are fully aware that the issues before us impact all Americans - indeed, all Earth's inhabitants. We weep at the heavy burden that climate change imposes on the world's poor, we mourn its impact on the diversity of God's creations, we tremble at the harm we impose upon our own descendants - and we are alarmed by our own vulnerability, here and now."

The goal of the pledge is a reduction of one-seventh of all greenhouse gas emissions by 2014, the seventh or Sabbatical Year in the Jewish calendar. The signatories include the heads of the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation; the Jewish Council for Public Affairs; the National Council of Jewish Women; the American Zionist Movement; the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; the Rabbinical Assembly; the Shalom Center; the Orthodox Union; and,United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

[read more]


Jerusalem Post: Husband Denies Wife a Get, Ten-year Sentence Extended to "Indefinite"
In groundbreaking ruling, rabbinical court decides Meir Gorodetzki will not leave prison until he grants wife a "get."

The supreme rabbinical court of appeals upheld a life sentence handed down to a man who has refused for ten years to give his wife a bill of divorce.

Meir Gorodetzki was imprisoned by the Jerusalem rabbinical court in 2001 for refusing to allow his wife to divorce him and has spent the last ten years in jail for his ongoing refusal to give his wife a bill of divorce, or get.

Rabbinical courts have sole jurisdiction in matters pertaining to marriage and divorce, and have the ability to mete out punitive measures to convince a husband to give a wife a bill of divorce.

[read more]


JTA News Service: Girls' faces blurred in toy store ad in Beit Shemesh
February 7, 2012

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- The faces of young girls modeling Purim costumes in a toy store ad were blurred in a haredi Orthodox newspaper in Beit Shemesh. The Red Pirate toy store chain said the ads in the Hadash BeBeit Shemeh newspaper were altered without its knowledge, Ynet reported. The faces of boys in costume were not altered.

The chain issued a statement saying that the newspaper's kashrut supervisor decided to blur the ad. The statement also apologized to anyone who was offended by the ad, according to Ynet.

[read more]


JSPAN President Speaks Out on the "Year of the Bible"
The Pennsylvania General Assembly is set to declare 2012 "The Year of the Bible," a not very subtle government endorsement of (certain) religions. Jeff Pasek, President of JSPAN, has issued the following statement to the Jewish Exponent on the subject. - Ed.

We believe it is inappropriate for the Legislature to adopt such a resolution which flies in the face of the Establishment Clause. JSPAN intends to monitor the House to challenge any follow up action by the House.

We are disappointed that members of the State Legislature would devote time, attention and state resources to adopting a "Year of the Bible" resolution. While we recognize the important role that Scripture plays in the lives of many people, we also are keenly aware that there are different versions of the Bible. The Jewish, Catholic and Protestant Bibles differ significantly from each other and any generic attempt to encourage people to "read your Bible" smacks of an attempt to endorse religion over non-religion or Biblically based religions over all other faiths. As Americans, we take strength in our faith in our homes and in our churches, synagogues and mosques. We neither need nor want the government to tell us when or how best to serve our faith.


Progressive Summit This Weekend
The third Progressive Summit in Philadelphia begins Friday night with a debate between Kathleen Kane and Patrick Murphy at 6:30 pm at Arch Street United Methodist Church, 55 N. Broad St. (just north of City Hall).

On Saturday and Sunday there will be workshops and panels about critical issues progressives are working on this year, and some of the best practices in progressive organizing. Saturday evening is a night of comedy and a variety of parties. The full agenda is here. Here is a link to register for the Summit.

The Summit is a place to build relationships and network with other progressives. Start with JSPAN Board member Marc Stier who will be on two panels, Don't Stop Believing: Managing Activism Fatigue, and Building Coalitions That Win.


Your Opinion Counts
The editors of the JSPAN newsletter welcome reader's comments regarding the content and format of the newsletter. We want to know what you like and dislike. Are we providing a perspective and service that you find informative and worth reading? Do you have comments on specific articles or items? Let us know what you think! Send all comments to


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JSPAN Officers
Brian Gralnick

Lynn Zeitlin
First Vice President

Judah Labovitz
Vice President

Ruth Laibson
Vice President

Kenneth Myers
Vice President

Mark Newman
Vice President

Stephen Applebaum

Stewart Weintraub
Secretary & General Counsel

Susan Myers
Policy Centers Chair

Jeffrey Pasek
Chair of the Board of Directors

Irwin Aronson
Susan Bolno
Adam Bonin
David Boonin
David S. Broida
Deanne Comer
Hon. Ruth Damsker
Marshall Dayan
William Epstein
Kenneth Fox
Paula Green
David Gutin
Raechel Hammer
Rabbi Elliot Holin
Margot Horwitz
Rhoda Indictor
Joanna Klein
Nathan Kleinman
Lazar Kleit
Marlena Kleit
Rabbi Robert Layman
Richard I. Malkin
Theodore Mann
Jay Meadway
Mark Newman
Maureen Pelta
Adena Potok
Audrey Ann Ross
J. Sanford Schwartz
Daniel Segal
Burt Siegel
Marc Stier
Rabbi David Straus
Ilene Wasserman
Rabbi Joshua Waxman
Deborah Weinstein
Alex Urevick Ackelsberg
Jill Katz Zipin
Gail Zukerman

Judah Labovitz
Ken Myers
Mark Newman
Deborah Weinstein

Ira Goldberg


The newsletter contains articles and links to articles that we think will be of interest to JSPAN members. They are included for informational purposes, but unless otherwise stated, they do not necessarily reflect official JSPAN policy.

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