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With the Oscars ceremony up in the air, it seems like a good time to review the Best and Worst of 2007 in civil liberties.

Civil liberties, of course, are those fundamental freedoms that the government must respect, as well as your right to be treated fairly and equally by the government. (More.)

Let’s start with the Best of 2007 and focus on local issues. (For national bests and worsts, see this great list.)

Here are the nominees for 2007 Most Hopeful Developments for Civil Liberties in the San Diego area.

City Council Marriage Vote/ Jerry Sanders’ Emotional Reversal: I wouldn’t call Mayor Sanders’ emotional about-face on equal marriage rights “courageous” After all, he stood up for his own right to give away his daughter in marriage. But it was very, very important. To win fair, equal marriage for all, it will take many more changes of heart like Jerry Sanders’. The ACLU and allies have a marriage rights case pending before the California Supreme Court, but we may have to win this battle in people’s hearts rather than in the courtroom.

Ban on Escondido Anti-Landlord, Anti-Immigrant Ordinances: Local governments can’t go after landlords and immigrants the way Escondido did anymore, thanks to a new state law that landlords and the ACLU lobbied for.

Cleaning Up the Sheriff’s Department: After a series of fatal shootings, the sheriff commissioned an extensive, external audit of its use of force policies and practices. The audit is leading to good things, and, significantly, the sheriff agreed to bring back the outside auditors to report on how they are doing.

Reigning in the Lawless County Supervisors : The county’s defiance of state laws on medical marijuana continues, but the first rulings in the litigation have been good for those favoring the rule of law, science, and medicine (over ideology). Further isolating our cowboy county board, the city of San Diego has decided to file an amicus brief in support of adhering to state law.

Free Speech : It is startling just how much the government tries to take away free speech, and how much erosion of free speech would go unchecked but for local vigilance. Here are a few examples with happy endings from 2007.

Fashion Valley Mall : This one started with striking Union-Tribune workers at and ended with a great California Supreme Court decision affirming that shopping malls are modern public squares that must honor the freedom of speech.

UCSD Speech Code : UCSD tried to zone out and water down free speech, but, the ACLU weighed in and students took action. The school seems to be reversing course.

Holding Signs in Poway: Trying to stamp out the scourge of sign-spinning, Poway drafted an ordinance that would have swept in just about anyone holding a sign on a sidewalk. ACLU reminded them of the First Amendment, and the council backed down … for now.

Did I leave anyone out, dear reader? The next category will be Worst of 2007, after these messages.

— KEVIN KEENAN

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