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The Voter’s Speakeasy featuring unbiased reporting and insight into life at Vote Smart from our staff, interns, and volunteers.

“Blue Lives Matter” Bills

2016 September 14

“Blue Lives Matter” Bills

On May 26, 2016, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed into law HB 953, or what media outlets are dubbing the “Blue Lives Matter” bill. The first of its kind, HB 953 prosecutes crimes against law enforcement and other first responders as hate crimes, increasing their penalties and punishments.

It succeeded in the Louisiana State Legislature, passing unanimously in the House and with only three “nays” in the Senate. This bill was introduced and passed back in April and May, months before the shootings of five police officers in Dallas, the death of Alton Sterling, and the death of Philando Castile.

These recent tragedies, however, have inspired many other “Blue Lives Matter” bills akin to Louisiana’s, as well as some comparable backlash against them. The resulting conflict has created an atmosphere of opposition between law enforcement and the black community.

Even the bill’s nickname, “Blue Lives Matter,” is politically charged itself. A phrase borrowed from the movement starting in 2014, Blue Lives Matter has set out to protect law enforcement officers and their families in response to the then recent killings of New York Police Department officers, and to anti-police brutality rallies started by some Black Lives Matter protesters.

Black Lives Matter, on the other hand, is a movement that got its start online in 2012 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in his trial for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Created out of frustration with law enforcement’s seeming unwillingness to protect black citizens, a fundamental goal ...

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Bathroom bills bearing down on states across America

2016 March 11

 Emerging onto the floor of numerous state legislatures across the United States of America is a new and divisive kind of legislation: “bathroom bills.” Bathroom bills are proposed legislation that address whether individuals may use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender they identify with or with the gender they were assigned at birth. 

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