This week in wins: NASA makes history with first all-woman spacewalk


The good news never stops: More Kentuckians can vote easier, the House passed a bipartisan bill supporting democracy in Hong Kong, and more.

It's been a great week for Kentucky voters, with 175,000 of them restored to voting rolls. The New York Democratic Party has amended its rules to be inclusive of nonbinary folks, and, in a moment of bipartisan collaboration, the House of Representatives declared its support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Read on for this week's wins.

NASA astronauts conduct first all-women spacewalk

Early Friday morning, just before 8 a.m., two American women stepped out of the International Space Station to replace a power unit. The spacewalk, undertaken by American astronauts Jessica Mier and Christina Koch, is the 221st at the ISS, and the first NASA expedition in the agency's 61-year history to feature only women. 

The five-and-a-half hour walk is being livestreamed. Koch and Mier join the ranks of other historic space-faring women, like Eileen Collins, who became the first woman shuttle pilot in 1995, and Soviet cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya, who became the first woman spacewalker in 1984.

The walk was originally scheduled for March, but a deficit of appropriately sized spacesuits for the two women forced it to be postponed until October.

"I think it's important because of the historical nature of what we're doing," Koch said. "In the past, women haven't always been at the table. It's wonderful to be contributing to the space program at a time when all contributions are being accepted, when everyone has a role. That can lead in turn to increased chance for success."

Nearly 200,000 Kentuckians can vote again

A federal court ruled in a lawsuit Monday that 175,000 Kentucky voters had to be moved from an "inactive" list — which would have made it more difficult for them to vote — back to the active voter rolls. 

The suit, brought by the Kentucky Democratic Party, contested the state's Board of Elections' moving more than 100,000 Kentuckians to the inactive list over the summer. 

In November, the state will hold a gubernatorial election, pitting unpopular Republican Gov. Matt Bevin against Democratic opponent Andy Beshear.

"We're very pleased with Judge Wingate's quick ruling to restore all voters back to a single master voter list and believe this decision was necessary to protect Kentucky voters and ensure the integrity of the 2019 election," said chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party Ben Self.

New York Democrats remove gendered language from party rules

The New York State Democratic Committee approved a rule change Tuesday that will make party bylaws more inclusive of nonbinary people. The measure replaces references in party rules to specific genders with nonspecific language. 

For example, instead of each district electing "one male and one female" to the state committee, they will now elect two people of "different" genders.

Emilia Decaudin, a 20-year-old senior at the City College of New York, first proposed the resolution. 

"By passing this resolution, the New York State Democratic Committee has placed itself at the forefront of non-binary and gender non-conforming inclusion across the nation," said Decaudin, the party's youngest and first openly transgender member.

House passes bipartisan bill supporting Hong Kong protests

The House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday in support of democracy in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act found broad bipartisan support, and comes in the wake of increasing violence and tension in the city.

The movement began as a series of protests against a bill in the Hong Kong legislature that would have allowed extradition to mainland China. However, after the bill's defeat in June, the protests quickly became a movement fighting for broad democratic reform.

"Democrats and Republicans in the House and in the Senate stand united with the people of Hong Kong," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "If America does not speak out for human rights in China because of commercial interest, then we lose all moral authority to speak out for human rights anyplace in the world."

Governors agree to plan to legalize marijuana

Four governors of Northeastern states agreed Thursday to a sweeping set of shared principles for marijuana legalization. New York's Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut's Ned Lamont coordinated the summit, which was attended by New Jersey's Phil Murphy and Pennsylvania's Tom Wolf. Officials representing Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Colorado attended as well.

The policies highlighted the racial inequalities in the emerging cannabis industry and declared the need to focus on "social equity initiatives to ensure industry access to those who have been disproportionately impacted by the prohibition of cannabis." 

"Cooperating as a coalition of states on these issues is the best path forward—as we not only share borders, but we share economic interests, public health priorities, and a joint understanding that the more states that work together on these kinds of issues, the better the policy results will be for our residents," Lamont said.

California protects public land from gas and oil exploitation

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill last Saturday to prevent oil and gas infrastructure, like pipelines, from being built on state property. The move follows the Trump administration's attempt to open public land to oil and gas production nationwide. 

"In a perfect California, we wouldn't be producing or using oil at all, and we hope to get there soon," said Ann Alexander, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "But in the California we live in now, the governor and the legislature have recognized the need to protect our citizens from the threats that the oil industry poses to our health and environment." 

Check back next week for more good news.