Whether it’s defending the First Amendment right to peacefully protest, establishing new privacy protections for our digital age, or preserving the right vote or the right to have an abortion, the ACLU takes up the toughest civil liberties cases and issues to defend all people from government abuse and overreach.
But no matter the issue, there’s one question we at the ACLU get asked more than others: Are you going to sue?
That’s right. Everyone always wants to know whether or not the ACLU is going to pursue litigation. And it’s a fair question. With nearly 200 staff attorneys and thousands of volunteer attorneys throughout the nation, the ACLU does spend a lot of time in court, defending and preserving our rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.
Founded in 1920, the ACLU has been at the center of nearly every major civil liberties battle of the last 10 decades, and time after time, our work has played a defining role in protecting and advancing individual rights and the rule of law. From the beginning, the ACLU has been involved in of one critical, history-making court case after another, participating in more Supreme Court cases than any other private organization.
But the fight for civil liberties won’t be won in the courts alone.
Real, lasting change is not just granted from judge’s bench. Change is also rooted in our neighborhoods, where the people who bear the burden of oppression and dehumanization nurture the belief that the world could be different and grow those beliefs into movements.
That’s why the ACLU of South Dakota also spends a considerable amount of time focused on advocacy work across the state – getting people to the capital, putting pressure on decision makers through communications, and doing the work organizing on the ground before issues get to a vote or get to court.
While we won’t stop litigating or lobbying in the legislature, the work sometimes needs to look different to make our criminal justice system more fair, to fight for LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit equality, and to defend the rights of Native Americans and tribes to be free from discrimination and governmental abuse of power, among other important issues.
People are hungry to do meaningful and impactful work — to make a big difference. People are excited to do more. So we have the opportunity — an obligation, really — to engage people differently and to bring them closer to our work.
Through this campaign-based model, the ACLU of South Dakota is building power where it matters: in impacted communities.
We believe that when we exercise our rights, we exercise and expand our power. By moving to a campaign-based model, our capacity to create change is bigger than ever – and it’s exactly what we need in South Dakota to fight new threats to freedom head on – and win.