Civil Rights & Liberties Policy

Our values: Freedom, liberty, fundamental rights, fundamental fairness, basic rights, constitutional rights, personal privacy, justice, equal opportunity, fairness, stopping discrimination and government intrusion

Our vision: Our nation was founded and built upon the self-evident truth that all people are created equal. That ideal calls us to defend liberty and justice for everyone, with no exceptions. In the 21st century, three policies are of foremost importance: (1) outlaw discrimination based on race, gender, age, disability, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity; (2) guarantee fundamental fairness for immigrants; and (3) protect our privacy from intrusion by governments or businesses, including the collection, use and sale of data without individuals’ active consent.

Forbid discrimination

It has been more than half a century since the civil rights movement, aided by the Warren Supreme Court, started a revolution against discrimination. That cause endures. Women and people of color continue to be underrepresented in  places of power, so some jurisdictions implement affirmative action and the private sector, while others promote more aggressive enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, especially in claims for fair and equal pay. Too often, police wrongly employ racial profiling. Most states and localities currently do not protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment and other areas, but there are many ongoing efforts to correct that. Progressives must beat back efforts to legalize discrimination, like policies that target Muslim Americans and laws which invite businesses to discriminate against our gay and lesbian neighbors.

Ensure fairness for immigrants

More than 45 million American residents are foreign-born. More than three-fourths of these are authorized residents, and yet, whether authorized or not, they often face discrimination. Millions more Americans were born in the U.S. but face discrimination because they look foreign. Progressive states and cities are responding by limiting government inquiries into immigration status, refusing some federal immigration detainer requests, authorizing driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status, making government ID cards available to all, protecting immigrants from harassment, and providing information about government requirements, programs and services in various languages.

Protect privacy from government intrusion

Many government agencies, including state and local law enforcement, are amassing vast databases about people’s personal and business relationships, where they have been, and more. Progressives are starting to push back by requiring warrants for law enforcement to access the most sensitive personal data and limiting how long data can be kept by police. In some cases, governments are limiting the collection, sale or use of government-generated data, especially information about schoolchildren.


Use government contracts to protect individual rights

States, cities and counties have routinely included language in government contracts that prevent certain types of discrimination, usually based on a few factors such as race, religion and national origin. Because the federal government is currently rolling back fundamental civil rights protections, it is important for states and localities to step in and do all they can. And one thing they can do is expand the types of discrimination forbidden to government contractors, adding factors such as gender, marital status, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression.

De-legitimize hate speech

Fueled by unhinged conspiracy theories, hate speech and hate crimes have been increasing at alarming rates. Racist, nationalist, antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ falsehoods are poisoning our communities. The Truth and Tolerance Commission Act creates an office and commission to identify hate speech and combat it by debunking lies, promoting community, and encouraging civic, business, religious and government leaders, with a united voice, to actively respond to hate with counter-speech.

Don’t participate in immigration detentions

Immigration control is a federal responsibility, yet through contracts, thousands of people are detained at local jails and private prisons. The No Involvement in Immigration Detentions Act prohibits state and local government agencies and their contractors from participating in immigration detentions for the federal government.

Help non-English speakers interact with government

Millions of residents cannot access services provided by government agencies and programs, including law enforcement and emergency services, because of a limited ability to speak or read English. This is especially true when technical or legal words are needed to describe a problem. The Access to Public Services for Non-English Speakers Act requires a jurisdiction to take reasonable steps to make translations available to people who need them.

Embrace diversity in public agencies

As a result of historic factors and, sometimes, outright discrimination, the employees in public agencies are often disproportionately white and male. Greater diversity is valuable not only to promote equity, build respect for others and better reflect the population served, but also to increase the cultural competence of any office which inevitably improves the services provided. Diversity is a strength which can be encouraged through the Public Agency Diversity Act.

Mandate diverse corporate representation

Millions of residents cannot access services provided by government agencies and programs, including law enforcement and emergency services, because of a limited ability to speak or read English. This is especially true when technical or legal words are needed to describe a problem. The Access to Public Services for Non-English Speakers Act requires a jurisdiction to take reasonable steps to make translations available to people who need them.

Require racial impact statements

States and localities routinely consider the fiscal impact, and often other impacts, of proposed legislation. The Racial Impact Statements Act creates a procedure for lawmakers to consider the impacts of proposed legislation on minority racial and ethnic communities. Nine states have developed methods to evaluate the potential impact of legislation on minority populations and similar procedures would be appropriate in cities and counties as well.

Mandate diverse corporate representation

Corporations are created and regulated by states. In exchange for a legal framework that limits liability and taxation, states require corporations to comply with rules that benefit the greater economy and the broader society. That’s why the Corporate Diverse Representation Act is warranted. It requires publicly held companies with their principal executive office in the state to have both female representation and representation from a racial, ethnic or LGBT minority.

Protect LGBT fairness

Over one-third of lesbian and gay people have experienced workplace discrimination and about one-sixth have lost a job because of their sexual orientation. Sadly, over half of states and most cities do not ban discrimination against LGBT individuals. The LGBT Fairness Act prohibits discrimination in employment, public accommodations, education, credit and housing.

Don’t ask immigration status

When immigrants believe that state or local law enforcement agents are involved in the enforcement of federal immigration law, immigrants—fearing harassment or deportation—simply decline to report crimes or suspicious activity. The result is twofold: criminals see immigrants as easy prey, and offenders who could have been caught remain on the streets, putting everyone at risk of becoming the next victim. Assigning the role of immigration law enforcer to local police both overburdens law enforcement and increases the risk of racial profiling. And local police usually lack the training needed to enforce our nation’s complex web of immigration laws. States and localities should adopt policies prohibiting government inquiry into immigration status unless otherwise required by superseding law.

End wage discrimination

Despite federal and state laws that ban discrimination in employment and pay in both the private and public sectors, wage differentials persist between women and men and between minorities and non-minorities in the same jobs, and in jobs that require equivalent composites of skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions. This discrimination continues despite the fact that equal pay legislation is extremely popular among voters. States and many localities can and should correct discriminatory wage practices with the Fair Pay Act.

Use resolutions to resist injustice

Now is the time to distinguish between right and wrong. Both political figures and government agencies are violating fundamental constitutional and human rights, engaging in racial hatred, discrimination and even violence, and violating every standard of ethics, honor and decency. We must make our morals clear. One way is to propose and enact resolutions, like one that Condemns White Supremacy, or another that confirms our historic commitment to Human Rights. Make your political opponents announce which side they’re on.

Stop racial profiling

Thirty-two million Americans have been the victims of racial profiling, according to an Amnesty International report. Racial profiling and racially motivated policing result in a breakdown of communication between police and the public, undermining law enforcement’s ability to ensure public safety. Cities, counties and states can combat these practices by prohibiting the selection of individuals for interrogations, searches and frisks based on race or other factors. Law enforcement should be required to train officers to recognize the difference between good policing and misguided stereotyping.

Prevent a constitutional convention

In late 2017, Wisconsin became the 28th state to call for an unprecedented federal constitutional convention. Under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, a national convention occurs if two-thirds, or 34, of the states formally ask for it. This effort, led by right-wing extremists, could result in the loss of our fundamental constitutional rights. Many states approved convention resolutions long ago and should now pass a Constitutional Convention Rescission Resolution, as Maryland did in 2017.

Hate crime prevention

In recent months, we have seen a wave of violence and threats of violence against people of color and anyone who supports them. Radical Right intimidation tactics will likely increase. Forty-five states already have some type of Hate Crime Prevention Act. Our model protects a full range of hate crimes targets, includes civil litigation, and is unique in covering violence against abortion providers and patients, and against unauthorized immigrants.

Threats against immigrants

Because of the new Administration’s intention to deport millions of immigrants, many will be particularly vulnerable to extortion. The Prevent Extortion of Immigrants Act specifies that it is illegal to gain something of value by threatening to expose someone’s unauthorized immigration status. Four states have already adopted such a law.

Limits on license plate databases

All over the nation, police agencies are using license plate readers that tell them exactly which vehicle was at a certain location at a certain date and time. Several states have enacted a version of the License Plate Privacy Act to limit the amount of time government agencies can hold on to those records.

Birth certificate after sex change

People who have undergone transitional surgeries often run into trouble when trying to get legal documents like marriage licenses or driver’s licenses. States are enacting legislation to allow a transgender person to obtain an amended birth certificate reflecting a change in both sexual designation and name.