September 15, 2013

What the ACLU of Virginia team accomplished this past year was significant in its impact and remarkable for its breadth. From the nation’s first statewide moratorium on the use of drones by law enforcement, to limits on use of restraints on incarcerated pregnant women, to continued efforts to challenge state-endorsed prayer, and more, we have truly been the guardians of liberty.

This year will be even more challenging. On August 1, the ACLU of Virginia, the national ACLU and Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit to overturn Virginia’s ban on relationship recognition for same-sex couples. We’ve asked the court to certify the case as a class action so that we can represent all Virginians seeking the freedom to marry or recognition of their valid marriages from other jurisdictions.

We’ll also be working to restore the proper balance between privacy and security when it comes to law enforcement use of new technologies. For example, our State Police used automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) technology to build a data base of 8,000,000 bits of information about cars and their locations, including information on every car that crossed the Potomac River on the day of the 2008 presidential inauguration. What the State Police did violated a state law that prohibits this kind of passive collection of data in the absence of a demonstrated “need.” The ALPR data base has now been destroyed, but this example illustrates the need for new and stronger state legislation that sets proper and reasonable curbs on government use of all “spying” technology whether drones, ALPR, GPS tracking (real time or past), or technologies not yet known but sure to be developed.

We have much more to do to overcome racial injustice in our criminal justice system, from shutting off the school to prison pipeline to addressing documented racial disparities in marijuana enforcement. Disparities in the criminal justice system become disparities in voting when one looks at the hundreds of thousands of Virginians who remain disenfranchised by Jim Crow era laws permanently barring any felon from voting.

Our ability to make progress in any of these areas in the year ahead is about having the support of thousands of Virginians, strong volunteer leadership, a committed and talented staff, and, most of all, a dogged perseverance that sends the signal that we will be unflinching and indefatigable in our work to secure and protect civil liberties and civil rights for all.


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