Salon Shorts: Teen Sex and Free Speech

Things come in twos this week. Salon is carrying two interesting articles on civil rights. In Raped by statute, Ayelet Waldman takes a look at the nation’s statutory rape laws, and how they are applied and mis-applied. Their inconsistent wording and application reveals not only an undercurrent of racism and homophobia, but the legislative expression of enduring ambivalence over teenage sexuality.

Meanwhile, in a follow-up piece, Leslie Weise continues to press for answers from the Bush administration about the exclusion of non-violent, non-disruptive citizens from the administration’s touted ‘town hall conversations’ on Social Security privitization. Questions continue to linger about how and way ‘volunteers’ were allowed to take on the powers of, and in some cases impersonate, Secret Service agents working these events.

According to Weise, at least 47 people are now known to have been excluded from the administration’s ‘open’ events based on their party affiliation, expressed opinions, and, in the most publicized case, their bumper sticker. Lawmakers from both parties have begun enquiries into why, at a public, tax-payer funded event, valid ticket holders were apparently excluded based solely on their perceived political views.

The administration’s response so far:

Notably, last week the White House changed its label for these events from “town-hall conversations” to “invitation-only, round-table discussions.” Is this meant to better assure the administration that the “diversity of views” represented includes only people who sport the correct messages on their bumper stickers?

This sort of name-game is simply not acceptable when it comes to free speech, or any of our other fundamental rights. Blaming the ubiquitous ‘overzealous staffer’ is not an acceptable excuse for infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens.

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