In Ohio and across the nation, civil liberties issues are constantly evolving. New and unique cases come up everyday, cases that may not fit neatly into any previously defined issue.
What's Happening in Ohio
Since 9/11, Muslims have been subjected to unlawful state surveillance, profiling, and deportation for imagined threats to the United States. This treatment has permanent consequences for individuals and their families and is a stain on our collective conscience. In his first days in office, President Donald Trump acted on his campaign promise of “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” by implementing anti-immigrant executive orders.
By January 27th, 2017, three executive orders were signed by the president concerning immigration. The “Muslim Ban” restricted immigration from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen for 90 days, suspended all refugee entry for 120 days, and suspended Syrian refugee entry indefinitely. After numerous court cases, including one filed by the ACLU, federal courts stepped in to stop the “Muslim Ban” from being implemented.
Weeks later, the president signed a revised executive order, dubbed by the media “Muslim Ban 2.0.” The revisions removed Iraq from the list of banned countries as well as language about preferential treatment to non-Muslims, and exempted all visa and green-card holders. It also replaced the complete ban of Syrian refugees with a 120-day freeze. What stayed the same? The discriminatory and unconstitutional core of the executive order. As of March 16, federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland stopped the Trump administration from refusing to grant visas from six predominantly-Muslim countries on the grounds of religious discrimination. In Hawaii, the judge went further to also stop the freeze of Syrian refugee entry.
The ACLU will remain vigilant as we fight against unconstitutional and discriminatory legislation, policy, and executive orders. Learn More
Every day nearly 450,000 people languish in jail without ever being convicted of a crime. Ohio’s punitive bail system is costly, racially biased, counterproductive, and a key driver of mass incarceration. People suffer in local jails while awaiting trial, and low-level offenses such as drug possession cause many working Ohioans to lose their jobs. Most importantly, putting bail out of reach for thousands of low-income people violates our fundamental principle of innocent until proven guilty. The ACLU of Ohio recommends reasonable and achievable reforms to end this unjust practice.
Read our resource Bail Reform: A Civil Liberties Briefing.
From seeking employment, housing, or simply trying to use the bathroom, transgender and gender-nonconforming people are arguably the most vulnerable segment of the LGBT community. Ohio has no non-discrimination protections for LGBT people, and we are one of just three states that does not allow transgender individuals to update the gender marker on their birth certificates to match their true identity. The ACLU believes that everyone has the right to be themselves and that people should not be discriminated against based on their gender identity.
Visit our Transgender Spotlight webpage which includes video stories of transgender Ohioans, as well as, information on criminal justice and healthcare issues, trans know your rights, and even a service directory.
Ohio legislators feed mass incarceration by introducing bills that would send more people to our jails and prison for longer periods of time.
Learn more about the Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline.
This year, Ohio legislators have already introduced three bills that would expand penalties and sentences for drug use so far this year. SB 1, HB 4, and SB 42 further criminalize drug use, which should be treated through public health methods like rehabilitation, treatment, and education. These misguided bills continue to fill our already-overcrowded prisons and jails, without helping Ohioans.
SB 1: Revise Drug Laws
- Primary Sponsor: Senator Frank LaRose (R)
- Status: As Introduced; Currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee
- Summary: SB 1 will increase penalties for fentanyl, including low-level possession, and treat mixtures added to fentanyl the same as fentanyl for sentencing purposes. Learn more.
HB 4: Prescribe how cocaine is to be measured for offense
- Primary Sponsors: Representative Robert Cupp (R), Representative John Rogers (D)
- Status: Passed House (97-0); Currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee
- Summary: HB 4 will change how cocaine is measured for determining trafficking and possession sentences, and treat mixtures added to cocaine (like baking soda) the same as cocaine for sentencing purposes. Learn more.
SB 42: Specify that referring to a drug also refers to compounds
- Primary Sponsor: Senator John Eklund (R)
- Status: As Introduced; Currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee
- Summary: SB 42 will expand drug offense penalties to compounds and mixtures – treating mixtures added to drugs the same as the actual drug. Learn more.
Every session of the Ohio General Assembly, laws are introduced to create new crimes and enhance sentences for crimes already on the books. Now our jails and prisons are overflowing, and prisons designed to house 38,000 people hold nearly 51,000. This is mass incarceration by a thousand cuts.
The ACLU of Ohio reviewed all 1,004 bills introduced during the 2015-2016 legislative session and found nearly 1 in 10 included language to lock more people up longer. Sixteen of these bills became law. We’re calling on Ohio’s General Assembly to stop acting as a factory that produces new crimes and longer sentences to support an uninterrupted flow of prisoners into a legal pipeline that ends in jail or prison. Read Ohio’s Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline 2017.
The ACLU created this informational guide to assist Ohioans in having productive conversations with their United States Senators and Representatives at Town Hall meetings. We highlighted some of the most pressing issues of 2017, including but not limited to the Muslim Ban, Sanctuary Cities, and Border Protection. We also included sample questions that may be of use to constituents and grass roots organizations. Please feel free to share with other members in your community!
The United States government is using “predictive judgment” to prevent certain people from using commercial air transportation. In other words, the government is trying to predict whether people might commit a terrorist act, whether or not they have a criminal record.
According to Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project, the feds “launched its predictive judgment model without any evidence whatsoever about its accuracy…or the extent to which it results in errors.”
Because the government predicts these people—innocent U.S. citizens—might engage in violence at some unknown future time, it has grounded them indefinitely on a federal “no-fly list.”
People on this list need ways of redress to demonstrate their innocence of crimes they haven’t committed. The government refuses to provide these safeguards in its current system. It also declines to tell these people the reasons it has for predicting misconduct or what evidence it has collected, leaving them to guess. Finally, it will not provide a hearing for people to press their case and challenge government witnesses.
The ACLU has asked the courts, on behalf of victims of predictive judgment, to strike down the government’s current redress process and make it responsive to those wronged by predictive judgment.
Civil libertarians from across Ohio are coming together in Columbus on July 26 for the 2014 ACLU of Ohio biennial conference, Resist. Reclaim. Restore Your Rights!
Be there to get the latest information from nationally recognized experts on the state of civil liberties in Ohio, and find out how you can be a part of our work on privacy, debtors’ prisons, disability rights, death penalty reform, LGBT rights, religious liberty, reproductive freedom, prison privatization, and more.
Visit the conference page for more information and registration.
Because Freedom Can’t Protect Itself.
August 28, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, one of the largest civil rights rallies in history.
Here you will find a collection of articles, videos, photos and planned events that commemorate that day in 1963, when a quarter of a million people descended upon the nation’s capital to demand liberty and justice for all.
- 50 Years of Dreaming (ACLU of Ohio blog post on the march)
- ACLU History: Fighting for Racial Justice
- A Timeline of the Civil Rights struggle
- The Unfinished March: a report from the Economic Policy Institute
- Color Photographs from the march
- Documentary Footage from the march
- Footage of Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech at the march
Your Voice! Your Power!, held in Columbus in July of 2012, connected over 200 activists who are fighting for civil liberties across the state of Ohio. With plenary sessions, workshops, resources and opportunities to network, activists returned home with the tools to make a difference in their communities.
Information about the 2012 conference agenda and speakers is available here.
The American Legislative Exchange Council – an organization formed to promulgate pro-corporate, often anti-civil libertarian legislation through a network of local legislators. They are a major force behind efforts to undermine the Bill of Rights by privatizing public services and assets.
Here’s how it works…
Corporate ALEC members vote behind closed doors with ALEC member legislators to approve “model” legislation designed to undermine civil liberties. In the Ohio General Assembly, ALEC member legislators push for those ALEC bills to become law without any disclosure of the role ALEC played in writing or pre-voting on the bills.
ALEC in Ohio
- About 43% of Ohio’s current legislators are ALEC members.
- From January to October of 2011, 33 bills were introduced in Ohio identical to or containing elements from 64 different ALEC “model” proposals.
- Nine of those bills were signed into law.
ALEC’s fingerprints are everywhere. They’re behind…
- The Voter ID bill, requiring voters to provide photo identification at the polls;
- Efforts to privatize Ohio’s prisons; and
- Attempts to undermine public education, immigrant rights, and more.
The ACLU of Ohio is fighting back…and winning!
With help from coalition partners and members, Voter ID was scuttled and only one prison was sold to a private corporation.
The ACLU is using every tool in its arsenal to turn the tables on ALEC. Advocating and lobbying in order to protect our fundamental freedoms. Taking Ohio back from special interest groups who are trying to hijack our rights. Advocating for laws that expand freedoms and protect constitutional rights.
Help us fight back ALEC’s agenda and protect freedom!
Learn more about ALEC at ALECExposed.org.