ACLU of Washington Foundation Programs
While Washington is generally not considered a very religious state, it is estimated that nearly one-third of hospital admissions statewide are to religiously-affiliated hospitals – hospitals that are required by their religious doctrine to restrict access to, and even information about, reproductive health and end of life health care options. And the number of these hospitals is growing by leaps and bounds. In recent years, there have been several hospital mergers with religiously-affiliated health care corporations in Washington. Already, in certain counties and parts of Washington, the only hospitals serving the public are religiously-affiliated, and several more mergers are currently pending state approval. The ACLU-WA is working to ensure that no Washington residents are denied access to medical care because of religious restrictions imposed by religiously-affiliated health care corporations. Religious institutions cannot be allowed to dictate and limit the health care of our residents or deny health care rights established by law by controlling health care systems which are often financed by public dollars.
States across the country have passed measures to make it harder for Americans – particularly African Americans, the elderly, students and people with disabilities – to exercise their fundamental right to vote. Here in Washington, the ACLU-WA filed the state’s first case under the Voting Rights Act last year. We are suing to ensure all Yakima residents have a meaningful voice in elections. Forty-one percent of Yakima’s population is Latino, yet no Latino has ever held a position on the City Council due to a vote-diluting “at-large” system.
Resisting the Surveillance Society and Protecting Privacy
Across the country, police departments are obtaining surveillance equipment through the Department of Homeland Security, without policy makers even considering the equipment’s actual value for policing or the privacy concerns of law abiding community members.
With pressure from the ACLU-WA and allies, Mayor Mike McGinn cancelled the City’s drone program altogether – a move that made ripples across the country. Twenty states are now considering restrictions on law enforcement use of drones.
These are just three examples of the ACLU's broad range of work for freedom, justice, and equality for all.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
As the fight for full LGBT equality shows, it can take years, even decades, to achieve the changes we believe in. One of the ACLU’s strengths is that it is here for the long haul. The past year we saw a major victory with the passage of the Marriage Equality bill, first in our state legislature, and then by the people through referendum. But this was far from the ACLU’s first win (or loss) in the fight for LGBT rights. It was 1971 when the ACLU-WA first sued King County for a gay couple’s right to marry, and there have been many other steps along the way to full equality. The ACLU was a leader in the coalition efforts that drove each of these achievements.
The ACLU-WA has worked for years toward the reform of our unfair and ineffective drug laws. Before Washington’s historic marijuana regulation legislation went into effect, Washington was arresting around 10,000 people a year, a disproportionate percentage of whom were minorities, for simple possession of marijuana. Thoughtful, responsible implementation of this historic law is critical to its success, both in Washington and nationally. The ACLU-WA is deeply engaged in the process, meeting with the Liquor Control Board, participating in public forums across the state and briefling policy makers.
The strength of the ACLU is that we are at the ready to respond to ANY and all civil rights and liberties violations wherever and whenever they arise. While protecting the most vulnerable we are pushing forth the boundaries of fairness and equality.