Hey! It’s Our 80th Birthday!

Helen MarstonThe ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties has been in San Diego a very long time—since 1933. We have been fighting for equal protection under the law for all for 80 years. (Pictured: Helen Marston, our founder.)

Since it’s pretty rare for a couple to reach their 80th anniversary, there isn’t a traditional gift (like paper for your first, cotton for your second, etc.). But if you’re wondering what to get us…you couldn’t do anything better than beginning or renewing your ACLU membership! If you’re reading this today, June 7, 2013, you can come to our 80th anniversary cocktail party, where you’ll get free membership for the price of admission, and a drink and terrific appetizers.

Our predecessors were visionaries and pioneers.

  • Our founder endured vigilante threats (and beat-downs) in the early 30s.
  • Our first attorney faced the wrath of a nation caught in the trauma of Hitler’s advances, and challenged the internment of 120,000 Japanese immigrants and U.S. citizens.
  • We became a formal ACLU chapter in the mid-50s, in the midst of ugly integration battles locally and nationally.
  • In the 60s, we took on McCarthy-era anti-communism hysteria, winning an injunction for Pete Seeger to perform to a packed house at Hoover High without first signing a non-communist loyalty oath.
  • We challenged racial and economic segregation in San Diego city schools resulting in an integration order and decades of monitoring.
  • Working with legendary San Diego attorney Tom Homann, we challenged the discharge of a transsexual from the U.S. Air Force in the 1980s.
  • To this day, we are fighting a decades-old battle over the use of public dollars to maintain Latin crosses on public property.
  • On behalf of all protesters past, present, and future, we successfully challenged the Republican National Convention to prevent the relocation of protesters to a distant “free speech zone.”
  • We won a permanent injunction against Escondido for its rental ban on immigrants, then helped pass a state law—the first in the nation— prohibiting localities form enacting similar anti-immigrant ordinances.
  • A priority is ensuring that people who are incarcerated—as violators of immigration laws or those convicted of crime—have access to counsel, medical care, and humane conditions.
  • In the last seven years, our staff has more than tripled. We have grown in strength and effectiveness because of our relationships with the community, lawmakers, the media, and supporters. We help all of these San Diegans move closer to their vision of a more just and fair society.

We’ve been in San Diego, fighting for 80 years now. But today, we think of ourselves as a new kind of ACLU. We are becoming a unique hybrid between a traditional civil liberties legal advocacy organization and a community based grassroots organizing organization. This means—with our affiliate and community partners—leading on immigration reform, border abuses, voting rights, educational equality, criminal justice reform, LGBT equality, women’s rights, and reproductive freedom.

We can only keep this up when we have informed, engaged, active ACLU members…like you! If you haven’t yet joined or your membership has lapsed, please get onboard!

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