ACLU Prevails With Florida Legislature

Amidst the most severe financial crisis and budget shortfall the state has seen in many years, Florida legislators still found time this legislative session to try to pass several pieces of legislation that would have stripped rights from voters, made reproductive healthcare more difficult and expensive to obtain, created license plates that would have been tantamount to government-sponsored religion, and more.

But we called for your help, and you came through. Thousands of ACLU members contacted their legislators and Governor Crist. Your voices were heard: we will not allow our rights to be trampled on by the legislature! Thank you for making calls and sending e-mails. We couldn't have done this without you.

Many of the bills we tracked and opposed this session were important, but our energy was focused like a laser on defeating the voter suppression bills.

Here are some of the bills that we opposed, and thanks to you, were able to defeat:

  • Mandatory ultrasounds, requiring doctors to perform an ultrasound on all women prior to receiving an abortion, preventing doctors from determining what's in the best interest of the patient;
  • Religious license plates, which would have violated the Establishment Clause by creating government-sponsored religion; and
  • Voter Suppression, (see below).

We also supported various pieces of legislation:

  • Civil Rights Legislation: Creating statewide protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Floridians. We hope this will be back next year.
  • Adoption: Repealing the ban preventing gays and lesbians from adopting children. Although this legislation didn't come up, we continue to fight this bigoted and unique ban through our lawsuit against the state, which is now in the 3rd District Court of Appeals on behalf of a father of two foster children in North Miami.
  • Prevention First: Assuring that rape survivors have access to emergency contraception no matter what sexual assault treatment center they utilize, and ensuring that all women with valid prescriptions (if required) are able to access contraception.
  • Healthy Teens: Guaranteeing that schools choosing to provide sexuality education provide information that is medically accurate.
  • Civil Rights Restoration: breaking the link between employment licensing and restoration of civil and voting rights for persons with past felony convictions. In a true sign of progress, the Senate voted in favor of this legislation this year after it successfully passed three committees. We will work for passage by the full legislature next year.

Voter Suppression Re-Cap

In what is being recognized as the largest group of organizations to ever come together in Florida to defeat a single piece of bad public policy, over 40 groups mobilized their members and created earned media -- including editorials in every major Florida newspaper and The New York Times -- to defeat the voter suppression legislation that was before the legislature. The groups varied from the ACLU to AARP, Progress Florida to Florida PIRG, NAACP to the League of Women Voters, and many others -- too many to name.

The House and Senate bills, if passed, threatened to:

  • Further limit the number of IDs that voters could use at the polls, without offering a reasonable alternative;
  • Further disfranchise disabled voters by adding a four-year extension to the date when paper ballots were to be available for voters with disabilities;
  • Restrict voter registration efforts;
  • Impose unnecessary restrictions on petition-gatherers;
  • Force more voters to vote unnecessarily on provisional ballots, which have a high rejection rate; and much more.

We wouldn't have been able to defeat this legislation without you. Your efforts, combined with our lobbyists' work in Tallahassee, our Voting Rights Project based in Miami, and the critical mass of the over 40 organizations that the ACLU of Florida helped organize to fight for one single cause, brought this legislation to its knees.

We may have crushed these bills this year, but rest assured that we will face a similar battle in the years to come.

Thank you for your continued support of the ACLU, and for your activism. You have made a difference.


Courtenay Strickland
Director, Public Policy