• Public-Policy Reform
  • 1986

Since establishing its LGBT Project in 1986 (to expand lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights), the American Civil Liberties Union has received about $20 million of earmarked donations to support that work. Lawsuits brought by the organization have upended numerous public policies at both the state and national level. ACLU litigation was crucial, for instance, in eventually undermining voter initiatives passed in California (barring same-sex marriage) and Colorado (barring the granting of protected status to homosexuals), effectively blocking popular verdicts on these issues. In 1997 an ACLU suit in New Jersey established the first right of gay couples to adopt children. ACLU lawsuits in scores of states were vital in gradually creating a right to same-sex marriage. And it was an ACLU case that invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act that had been passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton. The organization’s LGBT Project continues to have strong effects on law, policy, and public opinion in all of these areas, along with a growing advocacy for individuals who decide to change their sex—helping them in child custody, college housing, military service, health-insurance, public-restroom usage, and other disputes.