American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Headquarters Location: New York, NY
Mission: The American Civil Liberties Union is our nation's guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States.
Anthony D. Romero is the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, the nation's premier defender of liberty and individual freedom. He took the helm of the organization just seven days before the September 11, 2001 attacks. Shortly afterward, the ACLU launched its national Keep America Safe and Free campaign to protect basic freedoms during a time of crisis,… See full bio.
In the case of Diane Schroer v. Library of Congress, the ACLU represented a highly decorated military veteran who thought she had found a perfect fit when she was offered a terrorism research position with the Library of Congress – until they rescinded her job offer when she told her future supervisor that she was in the process of a gender transition. In a groundbreaking decision issued in September 2008, a federal judge ruled that discriminating against someone for changing genders is sex discrimination under federal law. Schroer was awarded $500,000 in compensation by the government.
Diane’s case and her story have illustrated the crucial need for laws and legal precedents to protect transgender people from losing their jobs because they are transgender.
Expert Reviews of American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Evidence of Impact Summary:The ACLU LGBT Rights Project has worked toward legal victories for the LGBT community on the state and federal levels. In addition to litigation work, the ACLU plays a supportive role in legislation as well. Their rich history of litigation and public education has served them well.
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Organization Strengths Summary:Experts point out that the ACLU’s leadership is a strong asset. Their wide presence is another organizational strength. The ACLU has a presence in every state, D.C., and Puerto Rico. The organization's long history and deep expertise gives them a great internal network whose expertise can be drawn on for the ACLU LGBT Rights Project.
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Areas for Improvement Summary:Experts point out that the ACLU could improve by increasing collaboration and dialogue with faith-based communities. It represents an opportunity to educate allies in legal protocol. One potential problem for the organization is that recent funding cuts have limited their public education efforts and their ability to coordinate with state affiliates.
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Expert Comments: Evidence of Impact
|The ACLU has taken on several LGBT court cases with positive results.|
|The ACLU LGBT Rights Project demonstrates its impact in victories in state and federal litigation as well as in federal legislative and administrative work. The project has also had significant impact on specific legislative and policy issues in specific states, for example in the adoption policies in the state of Florida.|
|ACLU is committed to the legal fight for the LGBT community.|
|The ACLU has been working for LGBT rights since the 1930s. They have a deep history as well as a multi-tiered approach that includes education and litigation.|
Expert Comments: Organization Strengths
|The ACLU LGBT Rights Project, as part of the larger ACLU, has interconnections with the best ideas on so many other civil liberties and civil rights issues affecting all Americans. Also the leadership is very strong.|
|Strengths of the ACLU include its leadership quality and diversity, its operations in the sphere of politics and legalities, and its commitment to strategically addressing the legal concerns of the LGBT community.|
|They are the only civil liberties organization with an office in every state, D.C., and Puerto Rico. They have a long history of supporting all civil rights, including LGBT rights, that goes way back to when LGBT rights were almost unheard of.|
Expert Comments: Areas for Improvement
Connect with Religious Organizations
|The ACLU can improve its collaboration with the faith community and not be so hesitant to dialogue with and educate believers about legal protocols.|
Limited by Funding Cuts
|Funding cuts have limited their ability to provide nationwide support for their education programs and coordination with state affiliates.|
Anthony D. Romero is the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, the nation's premier defender of liberty and individual freedom. He took the helm of the organization just seven days before the September 11, 2001 attacks. Shortly afterward, the ACLU launched its national Keep America Safe and Free campaign to protect basic freedoms during a time of crisis, achieving court victories on the Patriot Act, uncovering thousands of pages of documents detailing the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. custody, and filing the first successful legal challenge to the Bush administration's illegal NSA spying program. Romero also led the ACLU in establishing the John Adams Project, a joint effort with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to assist the under-resourced military defense lawyers in the Guantánamo military commissions.
Romero has also led the ACLU in its unique legal challenge to the patents held by a private company on the human genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer; in its landmark lawsuit challenging Arizona’s anti-immigrant law that invites law enforcement to engage in racial profiling; and in its ongoing campaign to end mass incarceration, which has achieved significant victories, including the 2010 passage of the federal Fair Sentencing Act and the implementation of less punitive, evidence-based criminal justice reforms in several states.
An attorney with a history of public-interest activism, Romero has presided over the most successful membership growth in the ACLU's history and a large increase in national and affiliate staff. This extraordinary growth has allowed the ACLU to expand its nationwide litigation, lobbying and public education efforts, including new initiatives focused on human rights, racial justice, religious freedom, technology and privacy, reproductive freedom, criminal law reform and LGBT rights. In 2010, the ACLU completed the largest fundraising campaign on behalf of civil rights and civil liberties in American history. “Leading Freedom Forward: The ACLU Campaign for the Future,” along with the ongoing Strategic Affiliate Initiative, launched an unprecedented effort to build the organization's infrastructure by increasing funding to key state affiliates, enhancing advocacy capabilities nationwide and securing the ACLU's financial future.
Romero is the ACLU's sixth executive director, and the first Latino and openly gay man to serve in that capacity. In 2005, Romero was named one of Time Magazine's 25 Most Influential Hispanics in America, and has received dozens of public service awards and an honorary doctorate from the City University of New York School of Law.
In 2007, Romero and co-author and NPR correspondent Dina Temple-Raston published “In Defense of Our America: The Fight for Civil Liberties in the Age of Terror,” a book that takes a critical look at civil liberties in this country at a time when constitutional freedoms are in peril.
Born in New York City to parents who hailed from Puerto Rico, Romero was the first in his family to graduate from high school. He is a graduate of Stanford University Law School and Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy and International Affairs. He is a member of the New York Bar Association and has sat on numerous nonprofit boards.