But one reason that it's great to be a card-carrying member of the ACLU is that this organization works for equality across the country. The Mississippi prom controversy over the last couple of weeks is a perfect example.
This is an ACLU case. The ACLU stepped in to help Constance McMillen, the high school senior who simply wanted to bring her girlfriend to her school's prom.
In an amazingly heavy-handed response, her school decided to cancel the whole thing. This has made McMillen a celebrity, rallied more than 400,000 people to her cause on Facebook, and left people everywhere wondering what the big deal is.
This week, a federal judge declined to force the school to go ahead with the April 2 prom and allow McMillen to wear her tuxedo and bring her date, in part because an alternative prom has already been organized to take the place of the original. But he did rule that the Itawamba County School District violated her rights. A trial will take place at a later date.
There are also lots of other examples of ways in which the ACLU is at work for LGBT equality across the country:
- The ACLU got involved in the work to overturn California's unconstitutional Prop 8, the ban on marriages for lesbian and gay couples, immediately after election day in 2008;
- The ACLU represents the family of Florida resident Martin Gill, who, with his partner, has been raising two foster children of the state since 2004. In late 2008, a juvenile court judge granted Gill's right to adopt the boys. The state of Florida's appeal is still pending;
- And the ACLU represented Diane Schroer in her sex discrimination lawsuit against the Library of Congress. When Schroer, a highly decorated veteran with a 25-year career in the Army, accepted a position as a terrorism research analyst at the Library of Congress, she told them that she was in the process of transition from male to female. They then rescinded her job offer.
This kind of work is why I joined the ACLU in 2003, a few years before actually coming to work here.
Of course, there's certainly still work to do in Massachusetts when it comes to LGBT issues. For instance, it's about time that we finally added gender identity to the state's nondiscrimination law.
But when it comes to other issues, it's not just a matter waiting for the rest of the country to catch up to states like Massachusetts on equal treatment for gay and lesbian people. Being a member of the ACLU supports work all across the country -- for LGBT equality, and across the full spectrum of civil rights and civil liberties.