In the past year, we’ve witnessed so many agonizing examples of the brutal reality of systemic racism. We’ve mourned the loss of more than 270,000 American lives from a deadly pandemic. We’ve seen a dramatic shift in the ideological balance at the U.S. Supreme Court, placing abortion access, LGBTQ equality, and voting rights in peril. And threats to our democracy seem to be mounting.
If you’re like me, you’re more than ready for 2020 to come to an end.
In times like these, we do well to remember our roots: as ACLU co-founder Roger Baldwin observed, the fight for civil liberties never stays won. So with the 2020 elections behind us, we assess the challenges ahead and chart our path forward.
Even before George Floyd, we knew that policing was broken in Texas. The ACLU of Texas joined community advocates to expose unjust policies through the release of “Justice Can’t Wait” and “Dignity for Dallas,” reports demanding bold changes to policing in Houston and Dallas. After a year in which millions took their demands to reimagine policing to the streets, elected officials and community leaders must respond. A good start would be enacting the George Floyd Act, a broad police reform bill, in the 2021 Texas legislative session.
After the 2020 elections, we know voting rights are in the cross-hairs. We intervened to halt an illegal attempt to throw out 127,000 ballots in Harris County and launched Let Texans Vote, a statewide campaign to empower voters with information about their right to vote safely in a pandemic. While Texas broke early voter turnout records this year, we expect new suppression tactics to be introduced by lawmakers in 2021.
Reproductive freedom is another area where we must prepare for new attacks. Although we’ve had wins in places like Lubbock and Mineral Wells protecting abortion access at the local level, we must stay vigilant. During the 2019 Texas Legislature, 40 anti-abortion bills were filed, and we expect a similar onslaught in 2021. We can no longer count on the courts to maintain our rights, which is why we’ve launched the Texas Abortion Access Network with partners to help us defend reproductive rights.
Similarly, we are monitoring threats to LGBTQ Texans — especially transgender youth. Whether it’s helping trans students win equal bathroom access at school or defending the free speech of parents and LGBTQ students, the ACLU of Texas is committed to making sure schools treat transgender and gender non-conforming youth fairly and with the dignity they deserve.
And the situation at the Texas border is dire after four years of egregious attacks on immigrants and border communities. We have fought for the release of people at risk of COVID-19 in immigration detention, worked to prevent families legally seeking asylum from being turned away at the border, and sued to stop the border wall. Now, our Border Rights Center is strategizing to hold the incoming administration to higher standards of human rights and respect for border communities.
As we look to the new year, we remember that the fight for civil liberties has never been about one party, or one politician, or one president. The ACLU has fought to make this democracy fairer, more inclusive, and more accountable for the last 100 years, regardless of who is power. Help us build a future of hope, resilience, and civil liberties for all Texans. Freedom and justice are the long game in America, and the ACLU of Texas will always be on the front line.