The ACLU of Kentucky has more than 8,000 members statewide. It is governed by a Board of Directors elected by the membership and its work is accomplished through a network of volunteers, coordinated by staff working out of its Louisville office.
Our Mission: Preserving Liberty
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky (ACLU) is freedom’s watchdog, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people by the Constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth of Kentucky:
Our right to freedom of speech, association, assembly, and the press;
Our right to freedom of religion, supported by the strict separation of church and state;
Our right to be treated fairly by the government whenever life, liberty or property is at stake;
Our right to be free from unwarranted government intrusion into our personal and private affairs; and
Our right to equal protection of the laws, regardless of race, gender, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, age, disability or other such classifications.
The ACLU also works to extend rights to those who traditionally have been denied them, including:
Black, Indigenous, and people of color,
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals,
people who have experienced incarceration or entanglement with the justice system,
people with disabilities,
and young people.
Sixty years ago when Jim Crow segregation was the law, the ACLU of Kentucky was founded, and the new organization’s legal docket was designed to address racial discrimination. We have defended communities of people who have been historically, and are currently, denied certain rights that are extended to others. These communities continue to endure discrimination and inequality denying them access to resources and opportunities.
Racial justice has been, is now, and will continue to be central to our mission. We dedicate ourselves to pursue cases designed to have a significant and wide-reaching effect on communities of color, to work in coalition with other civil rights groups and local advocates to lobby in local and state legislatures, and to support grassroots movements. Through these efforts, we strive to educate and empower the public on how racism impacts the issues that we work on – including but not limited to justice reform, reproductive freedom, LGBT and immigrants’ rights – and we commit to consider racial impacts when making hiring, policy and administrative decisions for the organization.
The National ACLU was founded in 1920 – at a time when freedom of expression and the right to equal protection of the laws, despite their presence in the Constitution, had yet to be recognized by American Courts.
Those opposed to U.S. involvement in the First World War were jailed for the mere expression of their views. Labor unions were denied the right to organize. Jim Crow was the law of the land and state-sanctioned violence against African Americans was routine. Gender discrimination was firmly institutionalized. Constitutional rights for people with disabilities, lesbians and gay men, the poor, and many other groups were literally unthinkable.
The ACLU, as the first public interest law firm of its kind, set to work breathing life into the Bill of Rights. Since then, it has grown into a national organization with unsurpassed expertise in defending civil liberties, both in and out of the courtroom. Many of the fundamental rights that Americans take for granted today were the direct result of litigation and advocacy on the part of the ACLU.
In 1955, the Kentucky chapter of the ACLU was founded by a group of dedicated women and men who saw an alarming crisis in our nation and state. McCarthyism, anti-Communist hysteria and opposition to the growing civil rights movement posed new and serious threats to the constitutional rights of Kentuckians. The first cases brought by the KCLU (as it was then known) defended the free speech rights of civil rights activists and anti-war protestors.
Since its founding the ACLU of Kentucky has been, and continues to be:
A prime mover in all Kentucky’s school desegregation efforts and an outspoken proponent of affirmative action;
Kentucky’s only constant advocate for the separation of church and state, freedom of speech, and the right to privacy;
A strong supporter of equal rights for all Kentuckians regardless of race, gender, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression or disability;
The primary legal resource for Kentucky’s abortion rights movement;
A staunch defender of the rights of individuals caught up in Kentucky’s criminal justice system;
A steadfast advocate for abolition of the state’s death penalty;
A supporter of equal marriage rights for Kentucky’s same-gender couples;
A partner with Kentucky’s labor community in defending civil liberties in the workplace.
More About the ACLU of Kentucky:
Most ACLU clients are ordinary people who have suffered an injustice and decided to fight back. In some cases, the right in question belongs to people or causes that are unpopular or extreme. But the ACLU does not shy away from defending civil liberties just because a cause is controversial. History has shown that fundamental freedoms are often denied first to the most vulnerable and despised in our society. The ACLU believes that once the government is empowered to violate one person’s rights, it can use that power against everyone.
The ACLU is strictly non-partisan and never takes electoral positions – liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, left or right. It is funded exclusively by voluntary contributions from individuals and organizations who believe in the importance of defending the Bill of Rights.