Equal Rights

For decades after our country’s founding, entire groups found themselves left out of the promise of equality for all. Not until the abolition of slavery, the extension of the right to vote to African-Americans and women, and passage of the 14th Amendment—which guarantees due process and equal protection of the law—did the Constitution specifically begin to address issues of equality and discrimination.

Decades more passed before courts and Congress passed major civil rights legislation to begin protecting people from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, or at the polls—and today, new attempts to undermine those advances show us that civil rights victories don’t always stay won. We cannot take them for granted.

The ACLU works to protect and ensure the achievement of full equality for all groups that have historically been denied their constitutional rights and targeted for oppression. We fight discrimination and profiling on the basis of characteristics that include gender, race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, religious affiliation and socio-economic background.

Our work includes pioneering breakthroughs. For example, the ACLU of Massachusetts played a key role in establishing and defending our state’s pioneering breakthrough for marriage equality. And at the national level, ACLU client Edie Windsor defeated the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013.

The ACLU’s work also includes women’s rights, reproductive freedom, and laws to protect people from discrimination based on gender identity. The ACLU demands fair treatment and accountability from law enforcement. And the ACLU works to protect and expand voting rights. The ACLU’s mission spans the entire spectrum of work for equal rights, in Massachusetts and across the nation.

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