We the People is a blog series that features the stories of members, supporters, volunteers, and allies of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota. Together we are accomplishing critical work in our state to protect and advance civil liberties across the Midwest and beyond.

Marcus Ireland is a senior at the University of South Dakota studying political science, criminal justice, and philosophy. After he graduates, he's planning to go to law school to become an appellate lawyer.

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Marcus Ireland. I am a senior at the University of South Dakota, studying political science, criminal justice, and philosophy with a specialization in ethics, law, and society. I was born and raised in South Dakota. My parents are educators. My mother teaches math and science and my dad taught history before becoming a school superintendent.

When did you first hear about the ACLU and why did you want to get involved?

I first heard about the ACLU while reading about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I learned that she started the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU. I looked further into what the American Civil Liberties Union means and does because of my interest in constitutional law. When I read that the ACLU is dedicated to defending and preserving the rights and liberties of individuals in this country, I found myself supporting the ACLU’s mission. While I may hold different interpretations of the Constitution, in general I agree with many of the positions of the ACLU and I support the mission to protect the rights of our American citizens.

What is your favorite Supreme Court decision?

Though it may seem stereotypical, my favorite Supreme Court decision is Marbury v. Madison. This case fully established the concept of judicial review as a power of the federal courts. In recognizing the power of the court to declare laws passed by Congress as unconstitutional and thereby striking them, this decision helped give the judiciary the teeth necessary to make it a co-equal branch of government as well as granting the judiciary the power to protect the people from government violations to the constitution. 

How does the ACLU and our work relate to you personally? Are there any issues you feel most connected to?

The ACLU relates to me personally because I am a citizen of the United States and I have rights and liberties that I want defended and preserved. As a gay male, the ACLU’s position on LGBT issues — the LGBT Rights Project — has tremendous impact on issues relevant to my life such as same-sex marriage, adoption rights, and anti-discrimination policy.

Law school is on the horizon for you. What are your plans when you graduate?

Once I graduate law school, I want to become an appellate lawyer. I want to improve my writing skills and my analytical skills in order to represent people bringing forward appeals.

What issues would you like to see the South Dakota Legislature take on?

I would like to see the state legislature trust the Board of Regents’ ability to govern our postsecondary educational institutions. The fact that legislation was introduced in 2019 with the intent to restrict the power of the BOR from creating policy in the best interest of the state, the students, and the faculty/staff is alarming. Our state created the BOR with the intent of allowing a group of people best positioned to govern our public postsecondary education institutions, to apply their expertise — knowing our state legislators lack such expertise.

What would you tell someone who is considering joining the ACLU as a volunteer or member?

I would tell everyone that they should consider joining the ACLU as a volunteer or member because we all support the protection of our individual liberties and rights. Having a group of people devoted to the protection of all citizen’s liberties and rights is a benefit to all people of the United States. When considering the high cost of litigation, having a group like the ACLU to defend the people at-large helps everyone avoid the cost most individuals could not afford. By volunteering or becoming a member of the ACLU, you join a network of people all devoted to the protection of the rights of all people.