(OP-ED by Dr. Emily Bonistall Postel – Director of Outreach, Marsy’s Law for Kentucky)
In this time of significant uncertainty, we commend the Kentucky General Assembly for moving forward on an effort to once again allow voters to decide what rights should be afforded to victims of crime.
Following successful bipartisan Senate adoption and House committee approval, SB 15 (Marsy’s Law) is poised for passage by the full House of Representatives in the coming days. House members should do the right thing and give Kentuckians an opportunity to have their say once again — let the people vote.
More than 800,000 Kentucky voters (an overwhelming 63 percent) approved Marsy’s Law in 2018, but had their decision overturned by the seven members of the state’s Supreme Court. The justices rejected Marsy’s Law not on any substantive grounds, but simply because of a ballot technicality. Tragically, those harmed by this unprecedented judicial ruling were the very people most needing support and protection — tens of thousands of Kentucky crime victims.
Kentucky voters deserve an opportunity to reaffirm their intent in November of 2020. We believe they will once again support Marsy’s Law because it provides the critical certainty of constitutional rights for all those who unwillingly become victims.
Most Kentuckians are well acquainted with Marsy’s Law — a vital constitutional amendment that has been discussed and dissected in exhaustive detail over the past five years here in Kentucky. Regardless, we encourage all Kentuckians to become informed about Marsy’s Law and decide for themselves. The full text of the constitutional amendment — exactly what will appear on your ballot — is available on our website at www.VictimsRightsKY.com/Our_Efforts.
We believe you’ll find that Marsy’s Law is a straightforward, commonsense tool to correct a troubling imbalance in our justice system: While individuals who are accused and convicted of crimes currently possess constitutional rights, Kentucky crime victims who have had their lives forever changed are not afforded similar protections.
Marsy’s Law provides victims the constitutional right to be notified, to be heard, and to be present in the process that seeks to hold their offender accountable to society for the wrong committed against the victim.
In my work with courageous survivors across the state, I hear one common refrain: They desperately want to have a voice in the criminal justice process, and their current lack of constitutional standing often leaves them feeling vulnerable and retraumatized all over again.
Thanks to tireless legislative champions and an army of victims’ rights advocates from every corner of the Commonwealth, though, hope is not lost. In fact, only one crucial step remains before Kentuckians can once again make their voices heard on this critical issue: approval by our House of Representatives.
On behalf of the brave crime victims and dedicated advocates I work alongside every day, I ask you to join us in this worthy endeavor. Please contact your State Representative today and encourage them to take a stand for Kentucky crime victims and their loved ones: vote yes on SB 15.
Now more than ever, our fellow Kentuckians who are frequently relegated to the shadows of society need our support. Let’s give the citizens of the Commonwealth an opportunity to make their voices heard — in support of those who too often are not given a voice of their own.
(Dr. Emily Bonistall Postel is the Director of Outreach for Marsy’s Law for Kentucky. She is an educator and activist with more than a decade of experience teaching, researching and advocating on behalf of crime victims.)