Make Colorado a Civil Liberties Safe Zone
(Also published on the Huffington Post at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/582c94c5e4b08c963e3439c9?timestamp=1479318036366)
The rights and freedoms promised in the U.S. Constitution are the pride of our nation, and our history is defined by a constant struggle to make those promises real for all people, not just for some. For nearly a century, the ACLU has been at the forefront of defending and advancing these civil liberties, with many landmark successes.
Now our Constitutional rights have been placed in serious danger with the election of a President who has threatened to resume torture, deport millions of immigrants, expand stop-and-frisk practices, enact a ban on Muslims entering our country, restrict freedom of the press, overturn abortion rights, allow LGBT rights to be gutted, and much more. The ACLU is readying itself to fight against multiple national challenges to our civil rights and liberties in the months and years ahead, and the ACLU of Colorado will be deeply engaged in that struggle.
At the same time, we must all work together to advance civil liberties in our home state, a task now more important than ever. There is plenty to build upon here. Colorado is a diverse state with a reputation for valuing personal freedom and a fair chance for everyone. In the aftermath of the Patriot Act in 2001 and the threats to privacy and freedom that it unleashed, several Colorado communities declared themselves Civil Liberties Safe Zones, illustrating Colorado’s belief in civil liberties. Now with many Colorado residents feeling less safe than ever, the ACLU of Colorado calls upon our local and statewide leaders to make all of Colorado a Civil Liberties Safe Zone—and to act to make that promise real!
What would it look like for Colorado to be a Civil Liberties Safe Zone? It is not words that matter, only the policies we actually adopt and follow. And there are real opportunities to protect and advance civil liberties in Colorado regardless of how our national fight unfolds. It is time to affirm our state identity at its best and declare our commitment to these and other civil liberties:
· Freedom of Speech, Protest and Press. Colorado must never tolerate attacks on the rights of all people to gather and express their views in this state, even—or especially—when critical of our government or leaders.
· Voting Rights. Colorado has some of the best voting laws in the nation, but there are still ways to improve those laws so all adult citizens can vote, and we must hold the line against voter suppression.
· Rights in the Criminal Justice System. Colorado must not accept ongoing mass incarceration, excessive force or racial bias in policing, shortcuts around due process, any expansion of the war on drugs, criminalization of poverty, or excessive punishments on children or adults, including torture, extended solitary confinement, unnecessarily long sentences, and the death penalty.
· Immigrant Rights. Colorado must honor the lives and rights of all people living in our communities, resisting any attempts at mass deportation that would rip families apart, wreck communities and our state economy, and co-opt local police as federal agents.
· Privacy and Freedom from Government Surveillance. Colorado boasts a growing technology community that makes our state a focal point for defining privacy rights and holding the line against intrusive government surveillance of our digital and personal lives.
· Reproductive Rights. Colorado voters have repeatedly affirmed women’s reproductive freedom, including abortion and contraceptive rights, and it is critical that Colorado remain a safe haven for these rights no matter what happens in other states or in the U.S. Supreme Court.
· LGBT Rights. Colorado must not allow hard-won marriage rights to be reversed or dissolved, and discrimination against LGBT persons must be stopped.
· Religious Freedom for All. Colorado should be a safe place for people of any or no religion, never allowing government to attack any one religion, impose religious practices, or promote discrimination in the name of religion.
No matter what happens nationally, Colorado can use our state courts, state Constitution, and state legislature to build upon our culture of freedom and civil liberties. Our state has worked across partisan lines to advance criminal justice reform, voting rights, LGBT rights, drug policy, privacy, and the rights of people living in poverty. There is so much more we need to fight for, and every victory in Colorado will help us win nationwide. We will never give up, and neither should our leaders. Colorado and our nation must keep moving forward, not backwards.
Already, we are seeing signs of a groundswell of support for civil liberties in Colorado. More than ever, we need Coloradans to come together in vigilant support of civil rights and civil liberties for everyone. Let’s make all of Colorado “A Civil Liberties Safe Zone!”
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