The ACLU of Montana works on state, local and national levels to protect the Constitutional rights we all cherish, whether it be testifying in front of state legislators or city commissions, advocating for policies that protect our rights at work, home and school, or monitoring and commenting on the actions of state committees and agencies that impact our civil liberties.
Most recently, the ACLU of Montana helped promote a nondiscrimination ordinance in Missoula that protects gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people in the workplace, housing and public accommodations; worked with our reproductive freedom allies to promote and ultimately protect a new Helena public schools sex education curriculum; and joined with other members of Montanans for Safe and Healthy Families, a coalition of 25 organizations, to successfully keep off of the ballot for the last two election cycles a constitutional amendment intended to ban abortion in every circumstance (CI-100 and CI-102).
Public Advocacy highlights:
- Nondiscrimination Ordinances: The ACLU of Montana drafted the ordinance and worked with the Montana Human Rights Network and other partner organizations in 2010 to push for the adoption of a nondiscrimination ordinance in Missoula protecting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in matters of employment, housing and public accommodations. It passed on April 12, 2010, and took effect in May 2010. Now we are working with the Network on a similar ordinance in Helena.
- Missoula DUI Ordinance: When the Missoula City Council began debating an ordinance to criminalize refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test, the ACLU stood up for people's right to exert their Fifth Amendment rights without being penalized for doing so.
- Helena Health Enhancement Curriculum: The ACLU joined in 2010 with other proponents of comprehensive sex education to successfully advocate for a health enhancement curriculum that teaches youth of all ages the information they need to stay healthy and safe. Our testimony focused on the honest education our youth need and deserve. Despite vocal opposition from some, based largely on religious grounds, the Helena School Board made its decision using sound research into age-appropriate sex education.
- Voting Rights: Protecting the voting rights of all is a necessity to maintain all our civil rights. The ACLU of Montana is monitoring the work of Montana's Redistricting Commission and we advocate for the preservation of voting precincts that make polling places accessible to all voters. We opposed precinct consolidation in Yellowstone County.
- Montana Public Defender Commission: In 2002, the ACLU, acting on behalf of indigent criminal defendants from seven counties throughout Montana, brought suit alleging widespread unconstitutional deficiencies in the public defender system. A settlement was reached in which the Montana Attorney General agreed to advocate with the ACLU for a statewide indigent defense system. Legislation was passed in 2005 establishing such a system. On July 1, 2006 the new public defender system began, under the oversight of the newly established Public Defender Commission. We continue to monitor the Public Defender system and the Commission to advocate on behalf of adequate public defense.
- Montana Department of Corrections Advisory Council: Maintaining the rights of prisoners and advocating for alternatives to incarceration are fundamental principles that guide our work. We advocate for humane treatment of prisoners, access to medical and mental health treatment and rehabilitation efforts that protect the community while providing for prisoners' better reintegration into society. Read our comments on planning for the future of Montana's corrections system.
- Religious Freedom: We advocate on behalf of people's right to practice the religion of their choosing and to be free from government-imposed religion. To that end, in 2010 we wrote a letter to Montana State University-Northern protesting its selection of a pastor who proselytized at its graduation ceremony and another letter to the Billings School District for mandating that its staff and faculty attend a training session within a church. And we submitted comments to the US Forest Service opposing the renewal of a permit allowing the Knights of Columbus to maintain a Jesus sculpture on public land at the top of Whitefish Mountain.
- Safe Schools: We work with a consortium of other groups, the Montana Safe Schools Coalition, to work toward ending the bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students in Montana's schools. The Coalition provides training workshops and assists schools and school districts in writing bullying and harassment policies.
- Prescription Drug Privacy: The ACLU is committed to protecting the privacy of patients and making sure that information about their prescriptions is not compromised. We continue to oppose efforts to establish a statewide prescription drug database.
- Reproductive Freedom: Our reproductive freedom efforts include protecting access to abortion, contraception and other reproductive health care. To that end, we wrote to Montana's U.S. Senators Tester and Baucus in late 2009 to urge them to make sure reproductive freedom would be protected by health care reform. We opposed CI-108, the Montana personhood initiative as dangerous for women's health and a violation of their rights. We are happy that voters agreed with us and that the initiative failed to gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
- National Work: The ACLU of Montana works with our National offices in Washington, D.C., and New York to coordinate on stateside work that can impact national issues such as indefinite detention, the Patriot Act, Real ID and more. In 2012, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and State Sen. Lynda Moss wrote letters to Congress opposing Real ID.