About the ACLU

The ACLU is our nation's guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.

These rights include:

Your First Amendment rights - freedom of speech, association and assembly; freedom of the press, and freedom of religion.

Your right to equal protection under the law - protection against unlawful discrimination.

Your right to due process - fair treatment by the government whenever the loss of your liberty or property is at stake.

Your right to privacy - freedom from unwarranted government intrusion into your personal and private affairs.

The ACLU also works to extend rights to segments of our population that have traditionally been denied their rights, including people of color; women; lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people; prisoners; and people with disabilities.

If the rights of society's most vulnerable members are denied, everybody's rights are imperiled. Support the ACLU today.

History of the ACLU of Louisiana

The ACLU of Louisiana was founded in New Orleans in January 1956 by a group of civil rights activists engaged in the battle to desegregate Louisiana. Mixed-race meetings were illegal at the time, and those who defied those laws – including our founders - were at risk of arrest, police harassment, and violence.

The early years of the organization were marked by protest, arrests, and violence, including the bombing of ACLU-LA president Steve Rubin's car, and the First Unitarian Church, where the ACLU-LA frequently met. One of our founders, James Dombrowski, was arrested in 1963 for participating in a mixed-race meeting. He sued, and ultimately the U. S. Supreme Court, in Dombrowski v. Pfister, ordered his papers returned and prohibited Louisiana from continuing to prosecute him.

Over our nearly sixty-year history, the ACLU of Louisiana has been at the forefront of the fight to preserve the civil liberties of all Louisianians. We have continued in our mission, fighting for the First Amendment, for racial justice, and for due process and privacy rights. We have defended the rights of women, prisoners, LGBT people, immigrants, and others whose rights have been at risk. Our work has covered the entire gamut of civil liberties, and has taken us all over the state and to the U.S. Supreme Court. It has been said that the fight for civil liberties never stays won; as cynical as that may sound, the ACLU of Louisiana remains confident that we—and justice—will prevail.

One of our founders, the civil rights attorney Ben Smith, is the namesake and inspiration for our annual Ben Smith Civil Liberties Award, presented each spring since 1976. The Ben Smith Award honors an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of civil liberties in Louisiana.