Monday, December 1, 2008

Maryland prepares to repeal a bad law from the civil rights era

The Baltimore Sun
By Laura Smitherman
November 30, 2008

An effort is under way to repeal a Jim Crow-era law that makes it illegal in Maryland to receive any kind of payment, including bus fare, for participating in a protest against racial discrimination.The law was aimed at discouraging Freedom Riders from traveling to the state to agitate against segregation and racism during the height of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.As part of a compromise that through the lens of history appears unseemly, lawmakers inserted the provision into an anti-discrimination law after rioting in Cambridge focused national attention on the Eastern Shore town.Although the law has never been enforced, Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, in an opinion this month, concluded that courts would likely find that the 44-year-old statutedoesn't pass constitutional muster under the First Amendment.Legislative leaders plan to introduce legislation to repeal the law during the General Assembly session that begins in January, and Gov. Martin O'Malley's office said he would support the bill.If not for the work of a committee assigned the yeoman's job of reviewing that particular section of the Maryland annotated code, the law might have remained in obscurity.

Full story:,0,5709774.story

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