For more than 100 years, the ACLU has been showing up in the courts, in the streets, and in the halls of power to defend the rights that the Constitution guarantees to everyone.
In the past year, the ACLU of Wyoming saw both new and ongoing challenges to civil rights and liberties. But each and every time, the ACLU and our supporters showed up to fight back every step of the way.
No matter the issue, we continue to strive for a democracy that is just and equal for all. Here are some of our highlights of how we showed up in 2023.
We showed up for LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit Wyomingites
It is always appropriate for kids to talk about themselves, their experiences and their families. But a bill up for debate in the 2023 legislative session would have required students to hide their identities in a place where the should feel safe to be themselves: Wyoming schools.
That’s why the ACLU of Wyoming opposed Senate File 117, legislation that would have banned classroom discussions related to sexual orientation and gender identity in Wyoming’s public schools.
The government censorship bill, which closely mirrored Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill that was signed into law last in 2022 and is currently being challenged in federal court, would silence students from speaking about their LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit family members, friends and neighbors, and would create costly new liabilities for school districts. Under the bill, any parent who thinks that a classroom discussion was inappropriate or who is unsupportive of a district’s policies would be given broad powers to sue for damages and attorneys’ fees.
Additionally, the overly broad language of Senate File 117 could create dangerous confusion about what teachers, staff and students are allowed to say and study in school. It would have limited teachers’ ability to give students the education and support they need.
The government should never be in the business of passing censorship bills, especially those that harm our kids. The bill ultimately died in the House.
We showed up for First Amendment rights
To be sure, no one is going to agree on the merits of every book on a library’s shelf. But who decides what is considered obscene or sexually explicit? Government officials cannot impose their personal moral values on others. Doing so violates our First Amendment rights.
That’s why the ACLU of Wyoming opposed ending the Laramie County School District 1’s existing “opt-out” policy where parents could choose their child’s access to library content, creating list of books, authors or books on a particular topic that they can’t check out.
The First Amendment’s guarantee of the freedom of speech and the right to access information has created an incredible marketplace of ideas in our country. Each of us gets to choose what books we read and what information we access – but we don’t get to choose for other people or other people’s kids. That’s censorship, pure and simple. And censorship is un-American and unconstitutional.
We worked with parents and advocates to help voice their opposition to the new policy, too. Unfortunately, the LCSD1 board didn’t listen to this strong opposition from the community. But that doesn’t mean we’ll back down. When it comes to our First Amendment rights, we’ll always show up.
We showed up for our community
Whether you are fighting for LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit equality, Indigenous justice, criminal law reform, reproductive freedom, immigrants’ rights, or all of that and more, it’s important to have the information and resources available to advance your efforts.
The ACLU of Wyoming is committed to helping provide that knowledge with Know Your Rights resources and trainings we’ve conducted virtually and in-person across the state. We do this work because we believe “We the People” means all of us, and we will not stop until America lives up to its promise of equality, liberty, and justice for all.
Your rights aren’t going anywhere. But we must each remain vigilant in our efforts to protect our rights in this country and arm ourselves with the skills and education to do so. By knowing your rights, you’ll better prepared to advocate for yourself, your family and your neighbors. Don’t allow anyone to take advantage of your uncertainty and anxiety.