Civil Rights & Liberties Policy

Our Progressive Vision: Our nation was founded and built upon the self-evident truth that all men and women are created equal. That ideal calls us to defend liberty and justice for all people, with no exceptions. In the 21st century, three policies are of foremost importance: (1) outlaw discrimination based on race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity; (2) guarantee fundamental fairness for immigrants, whether or not they are authorized; and (3) protect the personal privacy of individual Americans from intrusion by governments or businesses, including the collection, use and sale of data without individuals’ active consent.

Forbid discrimination

It has been more than half a century since the civil rights movement, aided by the Warren Supreme Court, started a revolution against discrimination. That cause endures. Women and people of color continue to be underrepresented in government and other places of power, so some jurisdictions consider affirmative action while others promote more aggressive enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, especially in claims for fair and equal pay. Most states currently do not protect LGBT people from employment or housing discrimination, and there are many ongoing efforts to correct that. States must beat back efforts to legalize discrimination, like efforts to target Muslim Americans and laws which invite businesses to discriminate against gay and lesbian Americans.

Fairness for immigrants

More than 40 million American residents are foreign-born. About three-fourths of these are authorized residents, and yet, whether authorized or not, they often face discrimination. Millions more Americans were born in the U.S. but face discrimination because they look foreign. Progressive states and cities are responding by limiting government inquiries into immigration status, refusing some federal immigration detainer requests, authorizing driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status, making government ID cards available to all, and providing information about government requirements, programs and services in various languages.

Protect privacy

Technology is advancing at a phenomenal rate, and it is causing new problems for individuals who want to protect their privacy. Businesses are creating and often selling data profiles about millions of Americans—including where we go on the Internet, what we buy, what we’re interested in, and even where we physically are or have been. Progressives are starting to push back by requiring warrants for law enforcement to access the most sensitive of this data and limiting how long some data can be kept by police. In some cases, governments are limiting the collection, sale or use of certain data, especially information about children.


Racial profiling

Thirty-two million Americans have been the victims of racial profiling, according to an Amnesty International report. Racial profiling and racially motivated policing result in a breakdown of communication between police and the public, undermining law enforcement’s ability to ensure public safety. Cities, counties and states can combat these practices by prohibiting the selection of individuals for interrogations, searches and frisks based on race or other factors. Law enforcement should be required to train officers to recognize the difference between good policing and misguided stereotyping. 

LGBT fairness

Over one-third of lesbian and gay people have experienced workplace discrimination and about one-sixth have lost a job because of their sexual orientation. Sadly, over half of states and most cities do not ban discrimination against LGBT individuals. The LGBT Fairness Act prohibits discrimination in employment, public accommodations, education, credit and housing.

‘Don’t ask’ immigration status

When immigrants believe that state or local law enforcement agents are involved in the enforcement of federal immigration law, immigrants—fearing harassment or deportation—simply decline to report crimes or suspicious activity. The result is twofold: criminals see immigrants as easy prey, and offenders who could have been caught, remain on the streets, putting everyone at risk of becoming the next victim. Assigning the role of immigration law enforcer to local police both overburdens law enforcement and increases the risk of racial profiling. And local police usually lack the training needed to enforce our nation’s complex web of immigration laws. States and localities should adopt policies prohibiting government inquiry into immigration status unless otherwise required by superseding law.

Limits on license plate databases

All over the nation, police agencies are using license plate readers that tell them exactly which vehicle was at a certain location at a certain date and time. Several states have enacted a version of the License Plate Privacy Act to limit the amount of time government agencies can hold on to those records.

Birth certificate after sex change

People who have undergone transitional surgeries often run into trouble when trying to get legal documents like marriage licenses or driver’s licenses. States are enacting legislation to allow a transgender person to obtain an amended birth certificate reflecting a change in both sexual designation and name.


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