Welcome to the Twentieth Civil Liberties Review …and Thank You Grassroots Lobbyists!
The 2011 edition of the Civil Liberties Review is our twentieth. Not that we weren’t lobbying and reporting on the sad state of Virginia’s legislative affairs long before 1992, but since that time the Review has become the annual cap on a continuously expanding and influential ACLU of Virginia lobbying project that puts staff and other experts on the ground at the Capitol and energizes grassroots lobbyists from around the state to voice their opinions to elected representatives.
Back in 1992, before email or the internet, the most difficult and least effective legislative activity in which we engaged was grassroots lobbying. Communications with grassroots lobbyists during the legislative session, which moved just as fast then as it does today, was by regular postal service, and the number of participants seldom exceeded 100. Today, our grassroots lobbying list is closer to 2,000, and many more use our web-based lobbying updates to assist with their lobbying efforts.
The ACLU has been the premier defender of civil liberties in the state legislature for the last 20 years. Our reputation, our expertise, and the voices of our grassroots lobbyists have time and again thwarted legislation that jeopardized free speech, religious liberty, due process, privacy, and equal rights.
Typically the ACLU is way ahead of the curve in straight-line Virginia. We lobbied for years against Virginia’s discriminatory sodomy law, until the U.S. Supreme Court declared all such laws unconstitutional. In our work to curtail the death penalty, we lobbied against laws allowing the execution of mentally disabled persons and minors, and eventually the Supreme Court nixed those laws as well.
Today we lobby for equal treatment for gay men and lesbians, for abolition of the death penalty and for the elimination of felon disenfranchisement, the one official stain of Jim Crow that still haunts our slow-moving state. That we will win these battles is inevitable. It is mostly a matter of perseverance. The victories may come in Virginia, in Congress, or in the Supreme Court. But they will come, and every grassroots lobbyist who made a call or sent an email will know he or she played a part.
Thank you ACLU of Virginia grassroots lobbyists. You make a difference...and you are appreciated.