Personal Liberty Issue Update: Top 10 Personal Liberty Stories of 2010

Happy 2011 liberty lovers! As we make resolutions and look back on last year, it’s clear that 2010 was an exciting time for constitutional and personal liberty issues. From landmark Supreme Court cases to the Wikileaks controversy to the Tea Party, Americans expressed their passion for liberty in many different ways. The midterm elections gave small-government Tea Party candidates a mouthpiece while the gay rights movement saw huge victories at the federal and state levels. Let’s take a look back at the Top 10 Personal Liberty Stories of 2010!

  1. Wikileaks: In 2010, nothing tested the limits of freedom of press and speech like Wikileaks’ release of thousands of U.S. documents and cables relating to the war in Iraq and diplomatic relationships around the world. To some, the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, is hailed as a protector of free speech and to others, a criminal. (Rap News provides Wikileaks info in the form of auditory deliciousness.)
  2. “Obamacare” and the Individual Mandate: In December of 2010, a federal judge in Virginia ruled that the individual mandate portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- which would require Americans to purchase health insurance -- is beyond the power of the federal government. (Politico: Healthcare Mandate Ruled Unconstitutional)
  3. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal: Just in time for the new year, Congress passed repeal of DADT, ending the 17-year-old policy that barred gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. Repeal took all year to get passed and drew support from many musicians like Lady GaGa, who seemed to become the musical spokesperson for DADT repeal. (Watch President Obama sign DADT repeal into law.)
  4. The Tea Party: Demanding smaller government, this loosely organized group of self-defined political outsiders made liberty a rallying cry in 2010 and sent dozens of new members to Congress.(Check out the 2010 Tea Party Candidates Interactive Map.)
  5. Prop 8 Ruled Unconstitutional: This summer, a federal judge ruled that California’s Proposition 8, the voter-approved initiative that repealed gay marriage throughout the state, is unconstitutional. This was a huge victory for gay rights activists in and outside of California, while others said it was an example of an “activist judge” overruling the will of the people. (Check out the Prop 8 Trial Tracker for everything you need to know about this issue.)
  6. TSA Scanners and Pat Downs: “Don’t Touch My Junk” will likely be one of the most memorable phrases from 2010 after air traveler John Tyner recorded his incident with TSA during a pat down. The use of new scanners -- which can see through clothing -- have prompted serious concerns about the 4th Amendment of the Constitution which protects Americans against unreasonable search and seizure. The fabled invasiveness of the pat down procedure does the same. (Steven Colbert weighs in on the scanners and the pat downs.)
  7. 2nd Amendment Trumps State Gun Laws: In June, a landmark decision by the Supreme Court clarified that the constitutional right to bear arms cannot be suppressed by state or local gun control laws. The decision could have far reaching effects on state and local laws. (Reason magazine compiled a list of libertarian responses to the decision.)
  8. Net Neutrality: The fight to keep the net free was a prominent issue in 2010. Some fear that allowing the government to regulate the internet could result in censorship and limits on what we see on the net. Others fear that without regulation, large Internet service providers will censor the Web on their own. (Read more about Net Neutrality from the Electronic Freedom Foundation.)
  9. Marijuana Law Reform: Washington, D.C. ended its ban on medical marijuana. Arizona became the 15th state to legalize medical marijuana. California voters rejected a measure to legalize outright, but, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did sign a bill into law decriminalizing under one ounce of pot. And, Willie Nelson was arrested on pot charges. Again. (Marijuana Policy Project highlights the Top 10 Marijuana Victories in 2010.)
  10. Juan Williams Firing: Longtime NPR political analyst Juan Williams was fired after saying on the “O’Reilly Factor” that he becomes nervous when flying with people dressed in Muslim garb. The firing raised serious concerns over NPR’s respect for free speech and balanced media. (The Daily Beast weighs in on Juan Williams Firing.)

What a year! What do you think 2011 has in store for the personal liberty issue?