Civil Rights

The Takeaway

Debtors' Prison: It lives in the 21st Century

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Today we’re kicking off our series, “The Color of Money,” in an effort to examine how the economic downturn is affecting minorities. We’re starting the conversation with a look at modern day debtors’ prison—a 19th century relic that is alive and well in parts of 21st century America. While imprisonment for debt was officially abolished in the 1800s, for Edwina Nowlin, it is a harsh reality. Her teenage son was kept in prison until she could come up with the funds to pay the court-ordered $104/month fee. When she couldn't pay, she was sent to jail for 30 days. It took a lawsuit by the ACLU of Michigan to get her out.

With unemployment rates higher among African Americans and Hispanics, and the median income about $20,000 lower than it is for whites, these groups run a greater risk of falling into debt and bearing the consequences. Joining us to talk about these penalties and the rise of debtors' prisons is Stephen Bright. He’s the president and senior counsel of the Southern Center for Human Rights. He also teaches at Yale and Georgetown Law School .

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The Takeaway

This one's for you, California: Iowa rules same-sex marriage is legal

Monday, April 06, 2009

Iowans spent the weekend reacting to the Varnum v. Brien court decision that made same-sex marriage legal in their state. On Friday, Iowa's Supreme Court unanimously ruled in a case brought by gay rights group Lambda Legal and threw out a law that said marriage could only be between a man and a woman. The Hawkeye State now joins Massachusetts and Connecticut as the only places in the nation where same-sex marriages are legal. While some Iowans plan their weddings, others plan to launch a campaign to amend the state's constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Iowa Public Radio Statehouse Reporter Joyce Russell joins us with the details.

Read the full opinion of the Iowa Supreme Court.
Read a summary of the decision here.


The Takeaway

California's gay marriage battle heats up again

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Today, California’s Supreme Court takes up the issue of whether Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that effectively banned gay marriage in that state, is legal or not. The hotly-contested proposition passed last year and heads to the court today over questions of constitutionality. The courthouse should be a spectacle as protesters on both sides of the issue rally and even Ken Starr is expected to make an appearance. To tell us more about the gay marriage debate in California and across the country, Kenji Yoshino of New York University Law School joins us.

For a comedic take on the gay marriage battle in California, here's "Prop. 8 The Musical":

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