Advocates Cite Milestone Year’ for Marsy’s Law, Hoping Supreme Court Upholds Voters
Via Ky Forward:
2018 was a milestone year for crime victims’ rights in Kentucky thanks to courageous legislators, determined advocates and hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians. Marsy’s Law was the first bill to pass in the General Assembly and then went to the ballot winning support from 63% of Kentucky voters.
These were the fruits of a three-year campaign to educate Kentuckians about Marsy’s Law and why our state needs it. The campaign involved events, media interviews, social media, rallies, legislative hearings and more. Kentucky voters responded loud and clear on Election Day with a resounding YES.
More than 800,000 Kentuckians agreed that crime victims deserve equal rights. Something the majority of other states in our great country already provide.
We are closer than ever to ensuring Kentucky crime victims are treated fairly and with the respect they deserve from our legal system. I am hopeful that 2019 will be the year we finally give victims’ a much-needed voice in the criminal justice process. But we have one last bridge to cross.
The fate of Kentucky crime victims now rests with the seven elected justices of the Kentucky Supreme Court who will hear oral arguments about Marsy’s Law on February 8. The question before them is not whether Marsy’s Law is needed in Kentucky, but instead whether voters understood the question put before them.
More than 800,000 voters said they understood full well what they were voting for on Election Day. Hopefully the justices will listen.
Regardless of the outcome in the courts, one thing is certain, we never could have gotten this far without the brave testimonies and dedicated support of survivors, victims’ advocates, 40,000 online petition signers, and public officials from all corners of the commonwealth. Despite the last-minute setbacks, these supporters have remained resolute in their fight to give crime victims the constitutional rights they deserve.
Too many crime victims have been forced to navigate a criminal justice system that is confusing and crippling. With Marsy’s Law in place, the criminal justice system will no longer be a place of further re-victimization, but rather a place promising hope and healing.
Marsy’s Law ensures crime victims are afforded commonsense rights. Rights that any of us would want if we were ever in their situation. These include the right to notification of future court proceedings, notification when their accuser is released and the right to be heard, among others.
Kentucky is one of the only states without constitutional rights for crime victims. We’ve denied our crime victims the rights they need for long enough. It’s time we join the vast majority of other states who have already protected victims’ rights in their constitutions.
There is a popular quote by author Roy T. Bennett: “Do what is right, not what is easy.” This could very well be the theme for the Marsy’s Law campaign. While a majority of Kentuckians agree that Marsy’s Law is the right thing to do for victims in our state, some will stop at nothing to deny victims’ these rights for their own selfish gain.
Passing Marsy’s Law has always been right, but it’s never been easy. Thankfully, we only have one hurdle left.
As the Supreme Court considers certifying the Election results, I hope they see that adding a victims’ bill of rights to the constitution is clearly the will of the people. 2018 was filled with big victories for crime victims, if the courts listen to the voters and certify Marsy’s Law, 2019 will bring the biggest victory yet.
Emily Bonistall Postel is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Sociology and the Center for Research on Violence Against Women at the University of Kentucky; Eileen Rectenwald is the Executive Director of the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs; and Caroline Ruschell is the Executive Director of the Kentucky Association of Children’s Advocacy Centers.