Colorado Rights Blog


  • Cedric Watkins is a father, uncle, entrepreneur-in-training, and a vital community pillar for many others. While behind bars, he has tirelessly devoted himself to serving his peers and his community. He developed gang disaffiliation programs for other incarcerated individuals and is currently involved with Defy Ventures. He sends letters and calls his daughter as much as he can.

    Cedric is currently in prison at Sterling Correctional Facility. He was convicted of aggravated robbery, burglary, kidnapping, theft and sentenced to 80 years; no one was seriously injured or killed. For comparison, a person convicted of second-degree murder in Colorado faces a maximum sentence of 48 years. Cedric has already served 20 years and has fully rehabilitated during that time.

    It’s time to bring Cedric home: Redemption is real. Clemency is compassion.

  • On November 21, 2016, 13 Aurora police officers responded to a simple noise complaint at Alberto Torres’s home. As happens all too often, Aurora police officers escalated this minor issue into a brutal affair. They beat Mr. Torres solely because he delayed exiting his garage to ask his wife to interpret for him. With that beating, the lives of Mr. Torres and every member of his family were changed and he has yet to recover. ACLU of Colorado fought to obtain justice for Mr. Torres, and Aurora has now paid him $285,000. But money is not justice, and the brutality of the Aurora Police Department against people of color has continued unabated.

    It doesn’t have to be this way.

    Imagine, if instead of 13 officers being dispatched to Mr. Torres’s home for a noise complaint, the City of Aurora sent a civilian-led response team to check on his welfare and ask that he and his friends lower their sound, resulting in a non-violent solution to a minor issue?

    ACLU Settles Case With Aurora After Police Brutalize and Unlawfully Arrest Alberto Torres

  • Hope is a discipline. It’s a commitment that together, we can create a more perfect union. We won’t rest until we fulfill the promise of equal rights for ALL people in the United States.

    Join us in our fight to fulfill this promise and move forward with hope by donating to the ACLU of Colorado. Your donation supports the ACLU’s strengths that make our work effective and collaborative.

    Donate now at

  • Anthony Martinez is 84-years-old and suffering from renal failure, as well as other serious medical conditions including dementia. He is currently incarcerated in the Sterling Correctional Facility, site of one of Colorado’s largest COVID-19 outbreaks with almost 600 active COVID-19 cases. He and his family are understandably terrified that he will catch the virus and die.

    In the midst of this public health crisis, incarcerated people as vulnerable as Anthony, could and should be immediately released to safely live out their remaining years with family.

    Read more about Anthony Martinez and other at-risk incarcerated people. 


Settlement resolves ACLU lawsuit on behalf of Palmer High School Gay-Straight Alliance against Colorado Springs School District 11

November 22, 2005

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Colorado announced today a settlement agreement in a federal lawsuit it had filed against Colorado Springs School District 11 on behalf of the Palmer High School Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in 2003. The school board approved the settlement at its meeting Monday evening.

“This agreement guarantees that the Palmer High School Gay-Straight Alliance will enjoy the same privileges and benefits as all other student clubs,” said Alf McDonnell, of Arnold & Porter, who represented the GSA as an ACLU volunteer attorney. “The students acted in the best American traditions of fairness and respect for their fellow citizens. This is a great day for students’ rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association.”

Student-led and student-initiated gay-straight alliances exist at 50 high schools in Colorado and over 3,000 high schools around the country. Among other activities, they work to reduce anti-gay harassment in schools and facilitate discussion on such subjects as harassment, discrimination, and bias based on sexual orientation between gay students, straight students, and those who are questioning their sexual identity.

The ACLU lawsuit was filed in 2003 after Palmer High School denied recognition to the newly-formed GSA. Without recognition, the lawsuit asserted, the student group could not meet on school property on the same terms as other student groups; could not post club-related information at the school; could not use the public address system to make announcements; and was omitted from the school’s yearbook and official list of student-organized activities.

The lawsuit relied in part on the Equal Access Act, a federal statute that outlaws discrimination against student clubs. The law applies to when schools allow “non-curricular” student organizations, which are clubs that are not directly tied to the subject matter taught in the school’s courses. According to the law, if a school permits even one non-curricular student club to use school facilities, then it must permit all non-curricular clubs. When the lawsuit was filed, Palmer High School recognized a number of non-curricular student clubs, and the ACLU argued that it must therefore recognize the Gay-Straight Alliance.

Soon after the lawsuit was filed, the school board announced a new “two-tier” policy for student clubs The new policy granted full privileges to clubs deemed to be related to the curriculum, but denied many privileges to a new a category of student clubs which were called “Independent Student Groups.”

“Applying this new policy, the school classified the GSA as an “Independent Student Group” and thereby assigned it a second-class status,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “Unlike other student clubs, the GSA could not announce its meetings, was forbidden to post announcements on most bulletin boards, and was not allowed to appear in the school yearbook.”

The school contended that this new policy treated all “non-curricular” student clubs equally and therefore did not discriminate illegally against the GSA.

“This new two-tier student club policy was invented and implemented solely because of the GSA and this lawsuit,” Silverstein said. “Unfortunately, almost a dozen other non-curricular clubs, such as a book club, a chess/strategy club, and a mountain biking club, also lost privileges because of this new policy. With this settlement agreement, District 11 has agreed that all student clubs will be treated equally. That is a welcome relief not only to the GSA, but to all other student groups that were treated less favorably under this now-abandoned two-tier policy.”

In addition to McDonnell and Silverstein, Michael Rollin, of Hoffman, Reilly & Pozner, also served as an ACLU cooperating attorney working on behalf of the GSA.

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