A photo display of aid-in-dying supporters that was taken down last month after complaints from House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero will be going back up Thursday morning.
Unbeknownst to Compassion & Choices, the organization that put up the display in the concourse between the Legislative Office Building and the state Capitol, the ACLU took up their cause with the Office of Legislative Management.
In a letter to Legislative Management, ACLU Attorney David McGuire said he was concerned the display came down “because of objections to the viewpoint” expressed in the advertising.
“The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits such viewpoint discrimination regardless of whether the area in question is a limited public forum, as we believe it to be, or a nonpublic forum,” McGuire wrote.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Cafero said that in his 22 years as a lawmaker he’s never seen a display in the concourse that advocated for an issue pending before the legislature. He said he happens to be against the aid-in-dying legislation, but said even if it was an issue he supported he would have complained. He said it’s not appropriate to advocate for or against something on state property.
He said the standard that it can’t be offensive to a school-aged children needs to be reviewed.
Jim Tracy, executive director of the Office of Legislative Management, informed Tim Appleton, campaign manager for Compassion & Choices, on Tuesday evening that the display would be going back up.
Appleton said he was disappointed when it came down a week early, but was pleased to see that it was going back up.
“Every one of these individuals had the courage to commit their names, faces, and their words to this photo display, we met every requirement for hanging it, and we were stunned when it was taken down,” Appleton said. “Re-installing the display is the right thing to do, and we encourage the public and decision-makers to see for themselves why this diverse group supports death with dignity legislation.”
Appleton acknowledged that it’s an emotional issue.
On Monday, the Public Health Committee held a day-long public hearing on a bill that gives doctors permission to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to a mentally-competent, terminally ill individual. Opponents of the legislation worry that it may lead to abuse of the elderly and disabled.
“Surveys reveal that many Dutch doctors now consider having a long-term disability with a ‘poor prognosis’ for improvement as justification for writing a lethal prescription,” James McGaughey, executive director of the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, said. “Those examples are real and somewhat frightening for those of us who advocate for people with disabilities.”
The display will go back up Thursday and is scheduled to come down March 26. Last month, the display was taken down a week earlier than expected.
The Public Health Committee has until March 28 to decide whether to forward the bill to the House or another committee.