The ACLU is our nation's premier civil rights and civil liberties organization. We are the unwavering voice of freedom, fairness and equality for all people in America and have been at the forefront of virtually every major battle for freedom and justice in the country for a century. We work in the courts, the legislatures, and communities across the nation to protect and extend basic rights for everyone. The ACLU is fueled by more than a million members and supporters as well as thousands of volunteers. We are people-powered, and take no government funds. 

The ACLU of Montana, an affiliate of the national ACLU, was founded in 1972. Being part of a nationwide organization allows us to have an even greater impact in our state. 

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Highlights of Our Work

Indigenous Justice
Windy Boy v. Big Horn County (1982) was the first lawuit to apply the federal Voting Rights Act to protect Native Americans' right to vote by challenging processes that diluted Indigenous communities' voting strength. After the case, an Indigenous person was elected to the Big Horn County Commission for the first time in history.

Old Person et alia v. Brown (1996): Fought to create majority minority legislative districts to see that Indian voting strength was not diluted in a statewide redistricting plan.

Criminal Justice
In White v. Martz (2002), we challenged the State of Montana and various counties regarding inadequacies of the county-run public defender system. The settlement resulted in the creation of a state-wide public defender systm intended to embody the ideals of providing defense for people who need it. 

Langford v. Bullock (1995): Class action suit on behalf of inmates at MT State Prison following 1991 riot, challenging numerous areas of mistreatment, including lack of medical care, training, rehabilitation and work programs, and failure to comply with ADA. 

In 2019, we worked to pass a law ending debt-based driver's license suspensions. This a step toward ending the criminalization of poverty in Montana.

LGBTQ Equality
Through grassroots organizing, advocacy, and the courtroom, we defeated the anti-transgender ballot initiative I-183.

We achieved marriage equality in Rolando v. State (2014); health insurance for same sex partners in Donaldson and Guggenheim v. Montana (2004) and Snetsinger v. Montana University System (2003); and parental rights for same sex couples in Kulstad v. Maniaci (2009).

Reproductive Freedom
Each legislative session, we work with allies to kill any bill that would restrict access to abortion. In our current case, Weems v. State, we seek to remove restricting Advanced Practice Registered Nurses from providing abortion care.

History

  • The ACLU, established in 1920, chartered the Montana affiliate in 1972. 
  • In 1980 an office was established in Billings, staffed part-time. Since its inception, the ACLU of Montana has impacted public education, litigation and legislation.
  • In 1988, Scott Crichton was hired as the ACLU of Montana’s first full-time executive director.
  • In 1989, the ACLU of Montana Foundation was incorporated with the Montana Secretary of State and was granted its 501c3 status by the IRS. 
  • In 1991, a full-time administrative assistant was hired. 
  • In 1997, the staff expanded to three employees with the addition of a staff attorney. In 2003, the ACLU moved operations from Billings to Helena. An additional half-time position of intake coordinator was added the next year.
  • In 2006, the Montana affiliate was selected as one of five ACLU state affiliates for special consideration as part of the Strategic Affiliate Initiative (SAI) to provide additional resources and staffing. Montana was selected because we demonstrated a track record of being ambitious, accountable, collaborative, disciplined and strategic.
  • In 2015, Caitlin Borgmann became our second executive director.
  • Today we operate statewide with three offices – Missoula, Livingston, and Wolf Point. 

 

 

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