Tags: ACLU | Fails | Stop | English-Only | Law

ACLU Fails to Stop English-Only Law

Wednesday, 05 September 2001 12:00 AM

ACLU said late Tuesday that it had decided to end its appeal of a March 5 court decision because the judge had ruled there were limitations to the law and the attorney general's office had pledged to guard against the law being used to discriminate against non-English speakers.

"We sat down and said, 'As a practical matter, we have a 99-percent victory here,' Stephen Clark, ACLU's legal director in Utah, claimed to the Salt Lake City Tribune. "There is very little possibility that someone will try to use the statute to discriminate against those with limited English proficiency."

The law was approved by Utah voters last fall and was aimed at making English the official language of the state government. ACLU, however, went to court because, it said, of concerns about the constitutional rights of government employees and elected officials.

In March, a 3rd District judge had "dramatically limited the law," the ACLU said, by ruling that it may not be used to prohibit government employees from speaking a language other than English or ending essential services, including driver's license tests, in languages other than English.

"That ruling, along with Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's commitment to investigate any claims that the statute is being abused, accomplishes the goal of the litigation -- namely to ensure that government agencies do not deny non-English-speaking minorities equal access to government processes, programs, and services based on a misreading or misapplication of the statute," the ACLU said in a release.

Advocates of English-only laws saw ACLU's decision to drop its appeal as a validation of their arguments that such laws do not discriminate.

"As we have said from the very beginning, having a law declaring English as the official language for government business discriminates against no one," K.C. McAlpin, executive director of the organization ProEnglish, said Wednesday in statement. "Rather than being divisive, having an official language promotes the cause of unity, community, and common understanding among people of different backgrounds."

Attorney General Shurtleff, who opposed the law when it was on the ballot, said he felt it would be prudent to appoint someone to keep an eye out for supposed potential conflicts or abuses.

"We agree that the district court's opinion should effectively forestall any effort to silence those who are not yet proficient in English, or to cut off their access to government," Shurtleff said in an ACLU release. "Just in case, though, we think it is fair and prudent to designate a person in our office to advise state agencies and employees on any question that might arise with respect to the English statute." Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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ACLU said late Tuesday that it had decided to end its appeal of a March 5 court decision because the judge had ruled there were limitations to the law and the attorney general's office had pledged to guard against the law being used to discriminate against non-English...
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2001-00-05
Wednesday, 05 September 2001 12:00 AM
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