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social sciences

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ACLU LGBT & AIDS Project  
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The Project has been particularly aggressive in compelling high schools to protect glbtq students from harassment and discrimination, sometimes winning large damages from school boards that turn a blind eye to the bullying of students perceived to be gay or lesbian.

The ACLU has also been insistent that school boards enforce established court rulings that require them to recognize gay-straight alliances on the same basis that other non-curricular clubs are recognized. It also recently threatened suit against the Nashville school district to force it to end censorship of gay educational websites.

Sponsor Message.

In Schroer v. Library of Congress, the ACLU has recently won a major victory for transgender rights. The case involved a highly decorated Special Forces officer who had begun the process of transitioning from male to female after retiring as a Colonel in the U. S. Army. She was offered a position as a terrorism research analyst at the Library of Congress, but when she told her future supervisor of her plans to transition, the job offer was abruptly rescinded.

In 2008 a federal district court judge ruled that the Library of Congress had illegally discriminated against Schroer, holding that discriminating against someone for changing genders is against federal law. In 2009, the same judge ordered the government to pay Schroer almost $500,000 in compensation. The Obama administration has announced that it will not appeal this judgment.

The Project has also been involved, either directly or indirectly, in most of the lawsuits seeking relationship recognition and marriage equality, including in California's historic "In re Marriage" case and in the attempt to overturn Proposition 8, the initiative that ended marriage equality in the Golden State. It has also litigated to overturn the bans on adoption by gay men and lesbians in Florida (In re Gill) and Arkansas (Cole v. Arkansas).

In May 2009, the Project joined Lambda Legal, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Human Rights Campaign, and other groups to oppose the suit announced and then filed by Republican former Solicitor General Theodore Olson and Democratic attorney David Boies that seeks to overturn Proposition 8 in federal court (Perry v. Schwarzenegger).

Arguing that the Olson-Boies strategy was risky and that a loss at the U. S. Supreme Court may have long-term negative effects for the quest to achieve marriage equality, these groups counseled that a more limited challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act and a return to the ballot box in California were likely to be more successful than a federal lawsuit challenging Proposition 8. However, these groups later reversed this position when it became apparent that Olson and Boies had a carefully considered strategy that may prove successful in restoring marriage equality to California and perhaps lead to a landmark Supreme Court ruling.

As apparent from the joint declaration about the Proposition 8 lawsuit, the Project works closely with the other public interest legal organizations concerned with glbtq rights, especially Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Even when it is not directly involved in litigating with them, it frequently submits amici curiae briefs in cases brought by these groups.

In addition to the national Project, which is headquartered in New York City, several ACLU affiliates also have glbtq projects or at least attorneys who focus on glbtq legal issues and educational efforts.


Over the last four decades, the ACLU has grown from a timid defender of gay rights to an organization that regards glbtq rights as central to its mission as the nation's leading public interest law firm and foremost defender of civil liberties. Not only has it been at the forefront of the legal battle for glbtq rights, but it has lobbied legislators and the public on behalf of fairness and equal rights.

Many of the advances that glbtq people have made over the past decades are attributable at least in part to the advocacy of the ACLU and its insistence that institutions and governments and individuals recognize the rights of others.

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