Among the reasons I've been an American Civil Liberties Union Member for as long as I have is the organization's understanding that it is our Constitution and not the whims of voters that must, in the end, determine fundamental rights under law.
This is a brief look, in the ACLU's own words, at how and why the the organization emphasizes LGBT civil rights in its work.
The ACLU's defense of LGBT rights began as far back as 1936. (More on that early date tomorrow!)
(Check out the link to the map at bottom.)
"The mission of the ACLU LGBT Project is the creation of a society in which lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people enjoy the constitutional rights of equality, privacy and personal autonomy, and freedom of expression and association.
The ACLU has a long history defending the LGBT community. We brought our first LGBT rights case in 1936 and founded the LGBT Project in 1986. The ACLU’s LGBT rights strategy is based on the belief that fighting for the society we want means not just persuading judges and government officials, but ultimately changing the way society thinks about LGBT people. To end discrimination, the ACLU seeks both to change the law and to convince Americans that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination is wrong. The ACLU carries out this work in five priority areas:
Basic Rights and Liberties,
Relationships and Marriage,
Youth and Schools, and
The ACLU works to ensure that LGBT people have equal opportunity to participate fully in civil society. No LGBT person should experience discrimination in employment, housing, or in businesses and public places, or the suppression of their free expression or privacy rights. The ACLU seeks new laws against discrimination in states and at the federal level, and resists all attempts to weaken the impact of existing nondiscrimination laws. With the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” our current federal priority is passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Fighting restrictions on parenting by LGBT people is critical because this discrimination causes serious, enduring harm to the lives of LGBT people and their children. The ACLU challenges policies and laws that prevent qualified and caring LGBT people from foster parenting or adopting kids. We also strive to change laws or practices that interfere in custody and visitation relationships between LGBT parents and their children. Our work debunks myths about the undesirability of same-sex couples raising children – myths often heard in the nationwide debate over marriage.
The ACLU believes that LGBT people, like everyone else, should have the freedom to build the kinds of personal, intimate relationships most meaningful to them without risking that their families will be disregarded or harmed by the state. Our goal is to obtain full recognition of same-sex relationships through marriage, in every state and at the federal level. In some states, the ACLU works for domestic partnership protections as a first step towards the full recognition and complete protections offered only by marriage.
The Youth and Schools program strives to make public schools and other state institutions for young people safe and bias-free for LGBT kids and teachers. We team up with students to fight for their free expression rights, to establish gay-straight alliances, and to advocate that LGBT kids be able to attend school dances with same-sex dates and dressed in gender nonconforming ways if they choose. We believe that all kids should be taught in an environment respectful of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
The ACLU strives to eliminate discrimination against transgender and gender nonconforming people and to create a society in which the full range of gender identities and expressions is respected and affirmed. We focus our efforts on ending discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, parenting, and schools. We also challenge legal barriers to transgender people obtaining government identity documents appropriate for their gender identity. Through our legal work, we help transgender people better understand their emerging legal rights and develop public education campaigns to persuade the general public about the importance of treating transgender people fairly.
LGBT & AIDS Project Cases: Here you’ll find overviews, case documents, and the latest news on all of our ongoing, as well as concluded litigation.
ACLU and the History of LGBT Rights & HIV/AIDS : Beginning with our defense of The Children’s Hour, a play banned in 1936 for a suggested lesbian relationship, this comprehensive timeline illustrates the ACLU’s long history of protecting the rights of LGBT Americans (scheduled to be updated soon).
Windsor v. United States: Edie Windsor Challenges DOMA: Our challenge to Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
LGBT Youth and Schools Library: Some of the best information from the ACLU and other organizations on students' rights and what you can do to make your school a safer, more welcoming place.
Too High a Price: The Case Against Restricting Gay Parenting: The updated second edition of “Too High a Price: The Case Against Restricting Gay Parenting,” compiles decades of social science research, the positions of the major child health and welfare organizations, and government data to show how children are hurt by restrictions on parenting by lesbians and gay men.
Transgender People and the Law: Frequently Asked Questions: This online guide is intended to help you better understand what legal rights transgender people now have throughout the country.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA): Learn more about ENDA, pending federal legislation that would ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity."
This map shows the state of play:
TOMORROW: An ACLU-LGBT Timeline, 1936--Present.