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American Civil Liberties Union
HeadquartersNew York, NY
Membership550,000 members[1]

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) consists of two separate non-profit organizations: the ACLU Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization which focuses on litigation and communication efforts, and the American Civil Liberties Union, a 501(c)(4) organization which focuses on legislative lobbying.[2] The ACLU's stated mission is "to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States."[1] It works through litigation, legislation, and community education.[1] Founded in 1920 by Crystal Eastman and Roger Baldwin, the ACLU was the successor organization to the earlier National Civil Liberties Bureau founded during World War I.[3] The ACLU reported over 500,000 members at the end of 2005.

Lawsuits brought by the ACLU have been influential in the evolution of Constitutional law.[4] The ACLU provides legal assistance in cases in which it considers civil liberties to be at risk. Even when the ACLU does not provide direct legal representation, it often submits amicus curiae briefs.

Outside of its legal work, the organization has also engaged in lobbying of elected officials and political activism.[5] The ACLU has been critical of elected officials and policies of both Democrats and Republicans. However, Republicans consistently rank lower than Democrats in regard to supporting ACLU goals as seen in ACLU voting guides.[6]

Involvement with LGBT rights

  • Full civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, including government benefits for same-sex couples equal to those provided for heterosexual ones.

Defense of free speech for anti-gay groups

  • The ACLU fought for the Westboro Baptist Church and Shirley Phelps-Roper after legislation prevented the group from picketing outside of veteran's funerals.[7] The Westboro Baptist Church is infamous for their picket signs that contain messages such as, "God Hates Fags," "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and "Thank God for 9/11." The ACLU issued a statement calling the legislation a "law that infringes on Shirley Phelps-Roper's rights to religious liberty and free speech."[8] The suit was successful. [9]


  • William A. Donohue, The Politics of the American Civil Liberties Union (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1985) ISBN 0-88738-021-2
  • Peggy Lamson, Roger Baldwin: Founder of the American Civil Liberties Union (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976) ISBN 0-395-24761-6
  • Samuel Walker, In Defense of American Liberties: A History of the ACLU (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990) ISBN 0-19-504539-4

See also

  • American Center for Law & Justice
  • Freedom (political)
  • National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee
  • New York Civil Liberties Union
  • Southern Poverty Law Center


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 About Us. American Civil Liberties Union web site. ACLU. Retrieved on 2006-05-03.
  2. ACLU and ACLU Foundation: What Is the Difference?. American Civil Liberties Union web site. ACLU. Retrieved on 2007-09-05.
  3. William Alfred Eddy Papers, 1859-1978: Finding Aid, Princeton University Libraries.
  4. ACLU Supreme Court Cases. Retrieved on 2006-10-14.
  5. Saunders, Dylan. "Mock filibuster cut short after Senate calls it quits", Michigan Daily, University of Michigan, 2006-01-31. Retrieved on 2006-08-16. 
  6. American Civil Liberties Union. Project Vote Smart. Project Vote Smart. Retrieved on 2007-04-19.
  7. Garance Burke, "ACLU Sues for Anti-Gay Group That Pickets at Troops' Burials", Washington Post, July 23, 2006.
  8. ACLU, "ACLU of Eastern Missouri Challenges Law Banning Pickets and Protests One Hour Before or After a Funeral", July 21, 2006.
  9. American Civil Liberties Union : ACLU of Eastern Missouri Applauds Decision In Free Speech Case

External links