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Housing Works’ Week in Review

Posted by Sunny Bjerk , March 28, 2013

Housing Works’ Week in Review

Image from siliconbayounews.com

In case you’ve been without TV, radio, internet, Facebook, or your smart phone for the last few days, you may have heard that the U.S. Supreme Court heard two cases on the future and legality of same-sex marriage, which has saturated the country’s news cycle.

But as DOMA and SCOTUS continue to trend, there have been a number of breaking news stories across the country that may have equally chilling effects for social justice. And so without further ado, here is your Housing Works’ Week in Review.

Kansas

This week Kansas’ State Senate voted to pass a bill (HB 2183) that would legalize the quarantine of people with infectious diseases, including those living with HIV/AIDS. That’s right, including people living with HIV/AIDS. The original intention behind the bill was to allow first responders (firefighters, paramedics, etc.) who have been exposed to another person’s blood, to test the other person for infectious diseases without having to obtain a court order. While the bill’s language originally excluded HIV/AIDS, the version passed by the Senate restored the disease’s inclusion, despite Senator Marci Francisco’s apt warning that the bill’s current language could usher in a new era of stigma, discrimination, and misinformation about how HIV/AIDS can and cannot be spread. Under the bill’s statues, anyone who tests positive for an infectious disease—including HIV/AIDS—can legally be isolated or have their movements restricted.

Despite the bill’s very clear entrenchment on civil liberties, the bill is expected to reach a final vote in the next few weeks. You can read the bill’s amendment restoring HIV/AIDS here.

North Dakota

On Tuesday, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple signed three bills into law, effectively taking the title of the state with the country’s most restrictive abortion laws. The first law restricts abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks, though the heartbeat can only be detected through a transvaginal ultrasound. Pro-choice advocates are calling the law abhorrent, though they strongly believe that the law will not stand up to federal court scrutiny. The second law mandates that doctors performing abortions must first obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital, effectively creating a mess of bureaucratic red tape, while the third law prohibits abortions even when a genetic defect or abnormality is present.

While many women’s rights advocates and pro-choice organizations are already ramping up to challenge North Dakota’s laws, the Governor stated that the laws will go into effect August 1. State Representative Bette Grande, the primary sponsor of the heartbeat bill, stated, “This is just a great day for babies in North Dakota,” completely unaware it’s another battle in the obviously on-going War on Women.

Condoms, Condoms, Condoms!

Boston

Safe Sites, a student group at Boston College, is facing “disciplinary action” by the university for distributing free condoms on campus. The student group, while not officially recognized by the Catholic university, has been handing out condoms on campus for four years without any threat or problems. Recently, however, the students received an email from Dean of Students Paul Chebator stating, “The distribution of condoms is not congruent with our values and traditions.”

The ACLU argues that BC is overstepping its bounds by threatening disciplinary action and is violating the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act. However, Jack Dunn, a spokesperson for BC claims that condom distribution only became a problem for the college when the condoms became a “visible and disruptive presence on campus,” with students handing out condoms in the open in front of churches or on the sidewalk.

Lizzie Jekanowski, chair of Boston College Students for Sexual Health, released a statement on March 24, saying, “We have the privilege of attending a Jesuit Catholic university so dedicated to the development of the self—both the body and the soul—that we find it both appropriate and necessary to advocate for these sexual health issues that are an integral aspect of that process.”

Both Safe Sites and the ACLU are hoping the matter can stay out of the court, and student group as a meeting with college officials on April 29th. In the meantime, you can get your free condoms at any of the 18 Safe Sites locations, which have vowed to stay open.

Seattle

With the future-oriented inventions like the Surface Tablet, Windows 8,000 (or something like that), and the X-Box, Microsoft Mogul Bill Gates wants to know why we haven’t invented a condom that has kept up with the times.

Seriously.

In fact, Bill is spearheading a $100,000 challenge to someone who can invent a new condom that “significantly preserves or enhances pleasure,” among other things.

While many are criticizing this grant proposal as sexist for its male-only perspective, (“From the male perspective, condoms decrease pleasure as compared to no condom, creating a trade-off that many men find unacceptable,” the proposal explains), the ultimate goal is to create a condom that will lead to more protected sex.

You can read the full proposal here.

Follow the Update blog on Twitter @housingworks.

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