Judge rejects request to block passport marker law

AP News
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Posted: Apr 13, 2016 3:10 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal judge declined Wednesday to immediately block a law that requires a marker to be placed in the passports of people convicted of sex offenses against children.

Since the marker provision has not yet gone into effect, deciding whether to block it over constitutional issues would be premature, U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton said.

"It is not clear, for example, what form the identifier will take, which citizens will be required to carry a passport with the identifier, or whether the identifier will appear on the face of the passport or will be readable only by a scanner," she said.

Opponents of the marker have called it a "Scarlet Letter" that would wrongly imply that passport holders had engaged in child sex trafficking or child sex tourism and subject them to danger.

Janice Bellucci, the attorney challenging the law, said she wasn't sure yet whether she would appeal Hamilton's ruling. Bellucci had requested a preliminary injunction against the law.

Bellucci said the judge missed a primary argument for blocking the law.

"It doesn't make any difference what the identifier is and how it's applied to a passport," she said. "The fact is any identifier violates the constitution."

Bellucci has said a marker would unlawfully compel speech.

The passport marker is part of the so-called International Megan's Law that President Barack Obama signed in February. It also requires that other countries are notified that registered sex offenders are traveling there.

The Department of Justice says the law attempts to address cases where people evade such notifications by traveling to an intermediate country before going to their final destination.

In her ruling, Hamilton also rejected a request to block the notification provision, saying federal authorities were already notifying countries when sex offenders travel there.