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The Story of ACLU Action

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July 3, 2013

In the three months since ACLU Action launched, hundreds of thousands of us have stood together to secure crucial victories in the fight for civil liberties. So before we all go off to enjoy fireworks and family barbecues for the Fourth of July, we want to take a moment to celebrate all that we’ve done together:

  • We smashed CISPA. After we learned CISPA would have allowed private companies to hand over our personal information to government agencies (setting the stage early on for our most recent fight against NSA spying), over 50,000 ACLU Action supporters and a big coalition of partners demanded that President Obama promise to veto CISPA if it passed Congress. Then to turn up the heat, hundreds of us chipped in money to take out a full-page ad in Politico, which hit the desks of almost every politician on Capitol Hill. It worked. President Obama issued his veto threat and CISPA failed to move.
  • DOMA is history. Edie Windsor had been married to her partner Thea Spyer for years, but after Thea’s death they were treated as strangers under federal law. Last week, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Edie and deemed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. This was an incredible moment in a long journey (the ACLU took its first LGBT rights case in 1936), but the fight is not over. In 37 states same-sex couples still cannot marry, so we’ve just launched a major push to fight for marriage equality in states across country.
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  • Animal abuse whistleblowers in Tennessee won’t be jailed. Ag-gag bills that seek to suppress undercover investigations of the inhumane treatment of animals in factory farms have been popping up in a number of states. With our allies in the animal welfare community, over 30,000 ACLU Action supporters pressured Tennessee Governor Haslam to stop ag-gag legislation, ensuring that whistleblowers are not criminalized for practicing free speech. On May 13th, the Governor vetoed the bill.
  • Bayli Silberstein secured her right to form a Gay-Straight Alliance. After her year-long fight to form a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club at her school, over 50,000 ACLU Action supporters stepped up to stand with 14-year-old Bayli against the school board’s proposal to ban all extra-curricular clubs. We flew a plane banner over their board meeting, packed with hundreds of supporters, to make sure they heard our message. The board finally relented when faced with a lawsuit and Bayli’s GSA is now able to meet, affirming Bayli and other students’ right to organize freely against homophobia.
  • Private companies can no longer patent our natural DNA. Myriad Genetics’ patents on two important genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2) make critical tests for genetic predisposition to cancer inaccessible for many people — like our client, Kathleen Maxian, who is now living with late-stage ovarian cancer. Kathleen’s story became the centerpiece of our petition demanding the United States Patent and Trademark Office stop issuing gene patents. Soon after, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in our favor that companies like Myriad cannot patent genes, opening the door for more women like Kathleen to be fully informed of their cancer risks.

This is only the beginning of what we as a community can achieve when we come together to defend all of our rights and liberties. Between last week’s Supreme Court decision to curtail the power of the Voting Rights Act, our ongoing struggle against the surveillance state and the battle raging in Texas right now to limit the personal health decisions of women, we know there is still much left to do.

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