The ACLU is dedicated to protecting and advancing civil liberties, but we can't shoulder the burden of protecting the Constitution alone. We rely on organizational allies, members, donors and activists to stand with us.

And we are grateful for all they do.

That's why we honor some of these dedicated organizations and individuals each year with the ACLU of Montana's Jeannette Rankin Civil Liberties Awards.

Jeannette Rankin is a hero here in Montana -- the state she served in the U.S. House of  Representatives. She was the first woman in the nation elected to Congress. And she stood by her principles no matter what, voting against entering World War I and World War II because she believed in peace. Rankin did not care if her votes were unpopular. She voted her conscience.

In addition to being a peace activist, Rankin also advocated for workers' rights and women's suffrage. Her dedication to civil liberties spurred her to help form the American Civil Liberties Union, and she was our organization's first vice president.

So our Jeannette Rankin Civil Liberties Awards honor those who exemplify her commitment to justice.

This year the awards go to Barrie Sue Sugarman (pictured on the left) for her work to protect and promote free speech at her high school in Kalispell. When a student at Flathead High was admonished for wearing a T-shirt that said "Legalize Gay," and told to cover up, change or go home, Barrie Sue sprang into action and organized a demonstration called "T-shirts for Tinker," referencing the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision establishing that students do indeed have free speech rights.

We are also honoring Planned Parenthood of Montana for its work on behalf of privacy and reproductive freedom.

This past year we worked with Planned Parenthood to make sure that a woman in a Montana jail was able to get an abortion despite numerous obstacles put in her way by her jailers. Planned Parenthood also won its lawsuit against the state, making sure that young women enrolled in the state's health plan -- Healthy Montana Kids -- can get contraceptives as part of their prescription drug coverage.

Please join us Saturday, Dec. 1 in Missoula to honor these civil liberties stars. The event is from 6-8 p.m. at the Missoula Winery and Event Center. It is free and open to all.