The ACLU of Colorado is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to fulfilling the promise of equal justice under the law for all Coloradans. Our scope of work is fundamentally defined by one document, the Bill of Rights. The rights and freedoms contained within impact a wide range of issues, including free speech, freedom of religion, due process, privacy and equality for all people under the law. We advocate for members of disenfranchised communities, including people of color, LGBTQ+ people, women, immigrants, people experiencing poverty, unhoused people, incarcerated people and students. While we are incorporated as an independent entity, we are also an affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union.
Our mission is to protect, defend and extend the civil rights and civil liberties of all people in Colorado through litigation, education and advocacy.
The first coordinated state efforts to defend Coloradans’ civil liberties began in the 1930s and ACLU of Colorado was incorporated as an affiliate of the national organization in 1952. For several years, staff included only an Executive Director and a part-time clerical assistant. In the 1980s, we added our first Legal Director, and through the support of members, foundations, and individuals we have grown to an organization with a $4.6 million budget and many loyal staff and volunteers.
Major achievements include:
- Achieving massive prison and jail condition reforms, particularly in the area of inmate health care, by winning the Ramos v. Lamm, the 1980 landmark case that led to the restructuring of the Colorado prison system and led to the closure of “Old Max,” Colorado’s original maximum security prison.
- Winning, as part of a coalition of attorneys, Romer v. Evans at the U.S. Supreme Court, the 1996 case which overturned Amendment 2, an unprecedented and unconstitutional attack on the civil rights of LGBT Coloradans.
- Our successful settlement of the “Spy-Files” litigation, American Friends Service Committee v. Denver, exposed and ended the Denver Police Department’s unlawful surveillance of political activity and maintenance of files on people engaged in that activity. This litigation also led to the discovery that the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force was also conducting surveillance of non-violent, peaceful protests, a revelation that drew considerable national media attention.
- Conducting a proactive approach to holding Denver and the U.S. Secret Service accountable not only for security arrangements, but for the protection of the public’s right to free speech, to dissent, and to assemble at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.