One New Year’s Day, a group of friends in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, got the idea that their town, a popular wedding destination, needed a domestic partner registry. A few months later, with the help of some online research and perseverance, Eureka Springs became the first city in Arkansas to pass an ordinance allowing lesbian and gay couples to register as domestic partners.
Their effort wasn’t part of a coordinated national campaign. It wasn’t backed by a generous funder. It wasn’t run by lawyers, politicians or trained organizers. It was simply the work of a small group of inspired local activists who wanted to make their hometown a better place for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
From the gay and transgender people who stood up to the New York City police at Stonewall to the students at Boyd County High School who persisted until they were allowed to form a Gay-Straight Alliance in their school, the success of the LGBT movement has always rested on the determination of individuals with a dream and a little courage.
Get Busy, Get Equal is designed to help turn your dreams into reality. This online toolkit provides the tools you need to reach out to your neighbors, schools, employers and elected officials and get them to pass laws or adopt policies protecting LGBT people and the relationships of LGBT people. There is also information on how to protect your relationship and family and how to share your experiences to illustrate the real harm of discrimination. This collection of information, helpful hints, step-by-step instructions and other resources can be used right now to protect LGBT people and our rights.
American Civil Liberties Union
Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project
The ACLU has advocated on behalf of LGBT people for over 70 years and in 1986 founded
the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project, a division of the national American
Civil Liberties Union Foundation. The Project's staff are experts in constitutional law and
civil rights, specializing in sexual orientation, gender identity and HIV/AIDS.
The ACLU's nationwide network of affiliates allows the Project to work for fairness and
equality at the local, state and federal levels, affecting change in the courts and legislatures,
as well as in the court of public opinion. As part of the broad civil liberties mission of the
ACLU, the Project brings together the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities with other social
change movements to achieve a just society for all. Today, the ACLU brings more LGBT
cases and advocacy initiatives than any other national civil rights organization.
The mission of the ACLU LGBT & AIDS Project is the creation of a society in which lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender people and people with HIV/AIDS enjoy the basic rights of
equality, privacy and personal autonomy, and freedom of expression and association. This
means an America where people can live openly without discrimination; where there’s
respect for our identities, relationships and families; and where there’s fair treatment in
employment, schools, housing, public places, health care and government programs.
What We Do
The Project brings impact lawsuits in state and federal courts throughout the country—
cases designed to have a significant effect on the lives of LGBT people and those with
HIV/AIDS. In coalition with other civil rights groups, we also lobby in Congress and support
grassroots advocacy—from local school boards to state legislatures. Our legal strategies are
built on the idea that fighting for civil rights means not just persuading judges but ultimately
changing the way people think. As we litigate for change, we implement targeted media,
online and outreach campaigns to change public attitudes, and provide advocacy tools to
help people take action in their community.
Protecting basic civil rights is at the heart of everything we do. The Project fought for years
to bring down state sodomy laws. Our anti-discrimination activities include employment,
housing and public accommodations, and the abolition of biased laws and regulations. We
advocate for local and federal non-discrimination laws and insist that religious beliefs
cannot be used to justify bias.
Protecting the rights of LGBT parents and their children is central to achieving equality for
everyone. The Project challenges policies and laws that ban LGBT people from adopting
and becoming foster parents, as well as family courts that penalize LGBT parents in child
custody and visitation arrangements. Our work exposes how limits on LGBT parenting
harm children, debunks myths about same-sex couples raising children, and promotes the
diversity of families.
Relationships and Marriage
Same-sex couples are harmed when their relationships are not protected through
marriage. All couples should be able to access the benefits and responsibilities of legallyrecognized
relationships, such as health insurance, unemployment compensation, family
leave, immigration status, inheritance and hospital visitation. The Project's goal is to obtain
full legal recognition of LGBT relationships through domestic partnerships, civil unions and,
Youth & Schools
The Youth & Schools program strives to make public schools safe and bias-free for LGBT
kids and teachers. We help students protect their right to free expression, to establish
gay-straight alliance clubs, and to be taught in an environment respectful of their sexual
orientation and gender identity.
The Project defends the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming people in
employment, schools and public accommodations. Transgender people's relationships
should be recognized and legally protected, and gender identity must not be used against
transgender parents in custody and visitation determinations. We work to include gender
identity in federal, state and local anti-discrimination policies, help transgender people
better understand their legal rights, and develop public education campaigns to raise
awareness of transgender issues.
No one should be deprived of their basic constitutional protections of equality, privacy or free
expression because they have HIV or AIDS. The Project fights to eliminate discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS in all aspects of society, including employment, housing
and public accommodations. We also work to ensure that people can make informed decisions
about HIV testing and treatment, and to challenge government responses to HIV that
reflect homophobia rather than scientific principles.
Who We Are
America's foremost advocate of individual rights, the American Civil Liberties Union is a
nonpartisan organization founded in 1920. With national headquarters in New York and
Washington and 52 affiliates throughout the country, the ACLU is widely regarded as the
nation's premier public interest law firm and has played a major role in nearly every critical
civil liberties battle of the last century—in courtrooms, in Congress and in the public arena.
Visit the LGBT & AIDS Project online at www.aclu.org/lgbt or www.aclu.org/hiv
Write to us at:
American Civil Liberties Union Foundation
LGBT & AIDS Project
125 Broad Street, 18th Floor
New York, NY 10004-2400