I’ve seen a couple post claiming the ACLU isn’t a good organization because they’ve defended folks like the KKK and other disgusting organizations and as a lawyer I just can’t let people make these claims and not address them.
First, let me say that as a queer Black woman, some of the folks the ACLU has represented make me absolutely sick. They want me and mine dead. They are terrible. But I am wholeheartedly here for the ACLU representing these people because of the way the law works.
In the law, there’s a thing called precedent. It basically means that decisions that are made in these cases are the law of the land unless they are overturned on appeal. Most questions of law have been settled and when lawyers argue they just refer the judge to how previous, similar cases were decided and the judge usually follows suit because they don’t wanna be overturned on appeal.
When there are new/unique questions of law that haven’t been settled, especially around civil rights, the outcomes are super important because it will essentially impact all of us. So, as shitty and disgusting as it is, if the KKK’s speech is infringed in a way that creates a new legal question as to how the constitution applies, if they have a legit claim and no one defends them and they lose, the rule and reasoning that the judge lays down becomes law. So, later if for example #NoDAPL or BLM folks are marching or demonstrating and have their speech infringed upon in the way the KKK previously did, if they bring it to court the precedent established in the KKK’s case applies and #NoDAPL or BLM lose. Because for better or worse the law in most of these cases doesn’t hinge on “are these people saying things we support and want to spread?” and it doesn’t really matter legally if one group is the KKK and the other is #NoDAPL. In short, those aren’t the facts that legal decisions are made on.
In short, sometimes to protect ALL of our legal rights, the ACLU has to protect the rights of deplorable and disgusting people. And honestly, we should be thankful that there are folks out here willing to do this dirty work. The ACLU is about protecting our constitutional civil rights and sometimes that means protecting those of bad people so that those decisions and resulting laws can’t be used to hurt good people. And more often than not, the ACLU is fighting for good people. Please keep that in mind before claiming the ACLU is awful.