The ACLU of Florida works to keep the spirit of the Bill of Rights alive. We protect those individual rights most people take for granted. In the decades since our founding, the ACLU of Florida has been working to protect those rights from challenges and threats.
Below is a timeline of many of the ACLU of Florida’s greatest accomplishments throughout the organization’s decades of activism. For more information on the ACLU of Florida’s work, read our annual reports and check our latest news.
After 18 years of litigation on the issue by the ACLU, Florida’s law banning adoption by gay people was declared unconstitutional by Florida's Third District Court of Appeal. Gay and lesbian Floridians are able to adopt, and children in Florida's foster care system will have more opportunities to be part of loving families.
ACLU of Florida staff worked closely with People Over Politics -- the ACLU of Florida's political committee -- to successfully pass Amendments 5 & 6 amending the Florida Constitution. The amendments establish guidelines to prevent gerrymandering of legislative and congressional districts in Florida and giving Florida voters a greater opportunity for fair representation.
The ACLU of Florida came to the defense of a bait shop owner in Clearwater after the city fined them hundreds of dollars and tried to force the removal of a mural from the wall of their store. An injunction was ordered by the US District Court, and the city approved a settlement with the plaintiffs allowing them to keep the mural and their Bill of Rights display.
After a Pembroke Pines Charter High School student was suspended and removed from Advanced Placement classes for creating a Facebook page on her home computer criticizing her English teacher, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit on her behalf charging that the school's actions violated the student's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The ACLU victory in Evans v. Bayer is a landmark decision in an emerging area of law. As courts across the nation are grappling with how to extend constitutional protections to new forms of technology, expression and communication, we are proud to have obtained one of the few civil liberties victories in this area.
In the biggest victory to-date for children in Florida hoping to be adopted, and a major step in the ACLU of Florida’s effort to overturn Florida's ban on adoption by gay and lesbian parents, a Miami-Dade Circuit Court juvenile justice judge ruled in favor of ACLU plaintiff Martin Gill declaring the state's adoption ban unconstitutional.
The ACLU of Florida saw two victories in federal court for Free Speech and LGBT Rights. In one case, the court sided with Heather Gilman, an ACLU plaintiff, against her high school principal who had barred students from wearing rainbows or showing support of gay students. In the other, three years of litigation culminated when a judge ruled that school officials in Okeechobee must allow a gay-straight alliance to meet on campus.
Much of the anticipated mayhem of the 2008 election never materialized, thanks in large part to the ACLU of Florida's success in securing a ban on paperless electronic voting machines, requiring every Florida County to use optical scan systems.
The ACLU of Florida prevails in the racial bias case of Christopher Bivins, who was denied service and threatened with arrest for trespassing at an Atlantis, FL restaurant because he is African-American.
Following the tasering of an undergraduate student at a town hall meeting at the University of Florida, the ACLU of Florida joined with several groups to host a forum on the University of Florida campus about free speech on college campuses and the use of Tasers by law enforcement.
Progress was made in the restoration of voting rights of ex-offenders, as Governor Crist and the Florida Cabinet made incremental clemency rules reforms. Thousands will be able to regain their civil and voting rights as a result of the clemency reforms, but significant work reforms remain necessary to restore voting rights to all citizens.
A lawsuit was filed on behalf of Democratic and Republican voters in Sarasota County after approximately 18,000 voters in the county were unable to cast votes in a congressional race on the county's touch-screen electronic voting machines.
The ACLU of Florida defended Gordon Johnston in federal court after he refused to be subjected to warrantless, suspicionless pat-downs at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium. The court issued an injunction prohibiting the stadium's policy of security pat-downs for all fans entering the stadium.
A US District Court of Florida ruled in favor of the ACLU of Florida by requiring the Miami-Dade County School Board to return copies of a children’s geography book about Cuba to its library shelves.
ACLU of Florida celebrated 40 years of accomplishments, and continued to work with our National organization to restore the balance between security and freedom in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks.
ACLU of Florida's Brevard Chapter uncovered evidence of police infiltration and surveillance of lawful political activities.
ACLU of Florida vowed to fight the proposed constitutional amendment limiting marriage to a man and a woman, arguing the campaign has little to do with preserving the institution of marriage and everything to do with rolling back health insurance and other employee benefits.
As part of its Election Day efforts, the ACLU of Florida filed lawsuits to protect the right to vote, and monitors polls throughout the state by videotaping interviews with people who have been turned away from the polls.
Greater Tampa Chapter of the ACLU of Florida filed a lawsuit on behalf of a New Port Richey man who was evicted from his home because he has AIDS.
ACLU of Florida weighed in on the Rush Limbaugh "doctor shopping" case by filing a brief that argues the state infringed on Florida's constitutional right of privacy when confiscating the conservative radio host's medical files.
An appeals court judge ordered the Florida Department of Corrections to restore the civil and voting rights of nearly 30,000 former felons thanks to an ACLU lawsuit that resulted in the state admitting that thousands "fell through the cracks" and did not receive help with the rights restoration application process from the state.
ACLU of Florida challenged a state law that forced the reinsertion of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. The law, instigated by Governor Jeb Bush, set aside the severely brain-damaged woman's wish to not be sustained artificially. She was in a persistent vegetative state for more than 13 years.
Thanks in-part to the lobbying efforts of ACLU activists, Broward County became the largest and 100th community to pass a resolution affirming the civil rights and civil liberties of its residents.
ACLU of Florida and the ACLU's National Reproductive Freedom Project successfully challenged the "Sexual History Newspaper Notice" provision of Florida's adoption law, which required a mother to make public her sexual history if she wished to place her child with a private adoption agency, but did not know the identity or whereabouts of the father. A state appeals court struck down the provision in April 2003.
ACLU of Florida went to court to defend the free speech rights of organizers who choreographed a nude demonstration involving the creation of a peace symbol. The State of Florida sought to block a portion of the anti-war protest, but shortly after the ACLU intervened, a judge ruled: "nude overtly political speech in the form of a 'living, nude peace symbol' is expressive conduct well within the ambit of the First Amendment."
After receiving a complaint from a local resident, ACLU of Florida sent a letter to the Mayor of the Town of Inglis expressing concern over a "Proclamation" barring Satan from Inglis that was inserted into posts mounted along public streets bearing slogans such as "Resist" "Repent" and "Request." The ACLU letter demanded the repeal of the proclamation, arguing it was a violation of the separation of church and state requirement in the state and federal constitutions. The mayor reimbursed the town for telephone calls, stationary, and copy paper.
The ACLU of Florida filed an appeals court brief challenging Florida's ban on adoption by gays and lesbians. The case came before the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals after a lower court judge dismissed it without allowing it to go to trial. The ACLU, in conjunction with the ACLU of Florida, initially filed the lawsuit in 1998.
The ACLU of Florida filed a lawsuit on behalf of a newspaper reporter who was arrested by the City of Key West for printing an article critical of several police investigations.
The ACLU of Florida, through a grant from the California-based Steven and Michele Kirsch Foundation, established the Florida Equal Voting Rights Project to ensure that voters are not deprived of their right to vote.
The ACLU of Florida countersued a Broward County management company which oversaw the daily operation of a David trailer park after the management group filed a lawsuit against several trailer park residents for publishing and distributing a newspaper that expressed dissatisfaction with the management of the park. Managers claimed residents were illegally operating an at-home business by distributing the newsletter without a valid license - an alleged violation of the town's zoning restrictions. But the ACLU stepped in to defend the speech rights of the residents.
The ACLU of Florida, along with the national organization's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, filed a "friend-of-the-court" brief urging an Alachua County Circuit Court judge to uphold the legality of a policy extending health benefits to the same and opposite sex unmarried partners of city employees. A circuit court judge later upheld the city's policy in a victory for equal rights regardless of sexual orientation.
The ACLU, along with three other civil rights and women's groups, filed suit against the City of St. Petersburg and the Bayfront Medical Center challenging the merger of two hospitals that required its members to follow Roman Catholic religious directives on healthcare.
ACLU officials, as part of the organization's campaign to stop racial profiling, testified in favor of legislation prohibiting racial profiling and requiring Miami-Dade police to collect and analyze data from motorists on all traffic stops. The Miami-Dade County Commission later authorized a data collection study and created an advisory board to oversee the study.
The ACLU filed an appeal with the Third District Court of Appeals to protect anonymous Internet speech.
The ACLU filed suit against the City of Hollywood, seeking to ban suspicion-less drug testing for applicants for city employment.
The ACLU successfully sued the City of Miami and Metropolitan Dade County on behalf of 500 Hispanic "day laborers" who were arrested for "loitering for the purposes of temporary employment." As part of the settlement agreement, the laborers were awarded $2,000 per each illegal arrest.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging the Florida school voucher program. Filed on behalf of parents and students, the lawsuit charged that vouchers funnel tax dollars to private, religious schools at the expense of children attending neighborhood public schools.
The ACLU filed suit against Duval County School Board challenging sectarian prayers, invocations and benedictions at high school graduation ceremonies.
The ACLU helped to convince a federal district court that Florida's misleadingly named "partial birth abortion" ban imposed an undue burden on a woman's right to an abortion.
The ACLU filed a class action lawsuit against the City of Boca Raton in the first-ever action brought under the Florida Religious Freedom Restoration Act, seeking to enjoin the city's destruction of religious symbols and monuments on grave sites.
The ACLU and other civil rights proponents successfully sued the Lee County School Board and prevent widespread use of a sectarian curriculum in public schools that was intended to teach the Bible as literal history.
The ACLU helped to recover the flagship of human rights organization Movimiento Democracia from the U.S. government after it was seized on "national security" grounds after a planned participation in a non-violent demonstration at sea.
The ACLU entered into an historic $1.5 million settlement with the City of Miami on behalf of approximately 6,000 homeless persons in Miami who were improperly arrested and whose property was destroyed by police.
The ACLU reached a $1 million settlement with Miami- Dade County in a class action brought on behalf of hundreds of Hispanic day laborers who were improperly arrested on a charge of "loitering for purposes of temporary employment."
The ACLU helped to convince the Florida Supreme Court that court ordered "grandparent visitation rights" over the objections of the parents violate fundamental rights of parents.
After an historic win in the trial court, the ACLU lost in the Florida Supreme Court in the first challenge in Florida to the state's prohibition on physician- assisted suicide.
ACLU filed a petition for certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court in the first known instance in U.S. history of a cartoonist being incarcerated on an obscenity charge.
The ACLU of Florida filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court successfully opposing a floating buffer zone imposed on protestors outside abortion clinics.
The ACLU obtained a federal court order holding that Florida statutes preventing patients from obtaining records of their psychiatric treatment improperly discriminate against the mentally disabled under the ADA.
The ACLU obtained a federal court order remedying inequalities between the girls' softball team and the boys' baseball team at Merritt High School (Merritt Island) after alleging illegal gender discrimination.
The ACLU brought suit against the State of Florida challenging a statute which prohibits assisting another person's suicide.
The ACLU convinced a Florida appellate court to reverse a decision depriving a parent custody of her children on the sole basis that she has AIDS.
ACLU brought a court action restoring the rights of United Farm Workers to engage in a union picket line in Gadsden County.
The ACLU convinced a state appellate court to reverse a lower court decision requiring a woman who is a Jehovah's Witness to obtain a blood transfusion while pregnant.
After a suit brought by the ACLU, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that a gay man had raised a viable discrimination claim against Florida's state-wide ban on adoption by gay people.
The ACLU filed suit against the Florida Board of Bar Examiners over those questions on the Florida Bar Application which require disclosure of the applicants' mental health record.
A suit was filed to enjoin the religious exercises scheduled for graduation of Mandarin Senior High School after the Duval County School Board voted to permit "student initiated" prayer during the ceremony.
The ACLU filed suit against Metropolitan Dade County and Dade county Manager Joaquin Avino challenging the 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. curfew which remained in effect months after Hurricane Andrew.
The ACLU successfully urged the Florida's Supreme Court to overturn the conviction of Jennifer C. Johnson, the first woman to be prosecuted for delivering drugs to her newborns through the umbilical cord.
The ACLU successfully joined 2 Live Crew as amicus in asking the court to overturn a ruling by District Judge Jose Gonzalez that the record is obscene according to South Florida community standards and therefore outside the scope of constitutionally protected speech. Judge Gonzalez's ruling led to the arrest and conviction of record store owner Charles Freemen in Fort Lauderdale.
The ACLU joined with a number of amici in support of claim before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals that mentally handicapped individuals may not be deprived of their liberty and detained in an institution when qualified professionals determine that such confinement is unnecessary and harmful.
ACLU filed suit against the City of Miami after the city rounded up and arrested homeless people from the streets prior to the Orange Bowl Parade. In 1992 U.S. District Judge C. Clyde Atkins ruled that the city had unfairly targeted the homeless and established "safe zones" where the homeless would be free from arrest.
The ACLU challenged the constitutionality of ordinances passed by the City of Hialeah prohibiting animal sacrifice by members of the Santeria religion. The hatred against the Babalu Aye Church was so intense that a letter addressed to one of the priests read: "Take yourself and your African gods where they belong in the swamps of Cuba. I shall complain to the immigration authority and ask that no more of you evil devils be allowed in our country. In the meantime...may you burn in hell." In 1993 the U.S. Supreme Court banned the city' ordinances 9-0.
The Miami Chapter filed a suit on behalf of the Socialist Workers' Party (SWP) mayoral candidate and his campaign committee and supporters seeking to enjoin state and city election officials from enforcing those provisions of the Florida election laws which required the SWP to record, report, and disclose the names and addresses of campaign supporters who contributed money or made loans to the organization.
Amy Olsen, a mentally retarded, quadriplegic six year old was diagnosed as having herpes. She was continually sent home by the school officers whenever she had skin blisters. Legal Panel Chair Andy Graham successfully negotiated a settlement with the Brevard County School Board, which agreed to provide a nurse at the school board to screen the child for herpes before she can be sent home.
The ACLU expressed opposition the distribution of Bibles on school property by outside groups; athletic coaches assembling and leading their teams in prayer; and the use of school property for religious meetings.
The City of Miami proposed the forming of a Religious Board to coordinate all religious events. ACLU attorneys and board members expressed disapproval and City of Miami backed down.
ACLU intervened on behalf of a defendant in a criminal misdemeanor action relating to the use of political signs in Bradenton Beach (Sarasota). ACLU successfully had the ordinance declared unconstitutional.
An action against a new state law that prohibited minors from obtaining abortions without parental consent and required spousal notification of planned abortion was won and upheld by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
A class action suit was filed on behalf of Haitian refugees' right to work pending the settlement of their claims to political asylum. It challenged the INS's decision to revoke work authorization, which violated the United Nation Treaty, a contract with the National Counsel of Churches and the Administrative Procedures Act.
The ACLU challenged an announcement that persons "wishing to express their position" on the signing of death warrants would not be permitted in the Capitol Building.
The Tallahassee Chapter won an injunction in a suit in which a high school student was dismissed from school for being pregnant.
ACLU opposed Senate Bill 1230 which would have created a curriculum screening committee in each of the state's universities and community colleges to review films and course material to comply with community standards on pornography. The bill was vetoed.
Florida's election code limited access to the presidential ballot to those candidates affiliated with political parties. An injunction was granted ordering the state to include Eugene McCarthy on its ballot as an independent candidate.
An ACLU legal intern wrote to the judge who had authorized medical treatment for an inmate in a Fort Lauderdale jail after it was discovered that the inmate had not received the required medical prescriptions. The judge released the inmate until sentencing.
The state and national ACLU forwarded petitions to the HOUSE Judiciary Committee requesting them to institute proceedings against President Richard Nixon.
The ACLU opened the doors at the South Florida State Hospital revealing "grossly inhumane, degrading, and sadistic treatment..." of mental patients. A Manual of Rights of Patients resulted from the investigations and ACLU recommendations.
Vietnam Veterans Against the War and its individual members were counseled by the ACLU when it was suspected that the group's rights were being violated by a Grand Jury's summoning of members to Tallahassee around the time of the Republican National Convention in Miami.
A suit challenging the suspension of students who remained seated during the flag salute was won in federal court.
ACLU passed a Formal Resolution Condemning all public school corporal punishment as unconstitutional. Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional, it stated that "corporal punishment implicates a constitutionally protected liberty interest."
The ACLU entered the Dade County Public School desegregation case on behalf of more than 200,000 students.
The ACLU had been battling since 1967 to declare Florida's death penalty illegal or at least that it was administered illegally. A ruling by the U.S. District Judge McRae stated that ACLU attorney Toby Simon could represent all those on death row "as a class."
15 year old Richard D. Milton received a six month sentence for repeated truancy without the right to counsel. After the ACLU took the case, juveniles were given the right to counsel and to be advised of that right.
Despite our efforts and after five years of court battle, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that states can declare their properties out of bounds for civil rights demonstrations.
Despite the suit back in 1959 on behalf of Harlow Chamberlin, an agnostic, and eight other people, the Dade County School Board finally banned prayers and other religious observances as part of its program.
In response to the anti-Communist scare of the 1950s, ACLU Chapters in Miami, Gainesville and Tampa form the ACLU of Florida. Click here to read the ACLU of Florida's original charter and constitution from 1965.
Two young men had their death sentences commuted to life sentences after the ACLU intervened. The case led to the formation of a special legal panel to handle appeals for death row prisoners.
The ACLU handled cases involving the censorship of two books in Dade County, Pleasure is My Business by Madam Sherry and Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller. While state courts upheld the ban, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the ACLU.
ACLU intervention caused the City of Coral Gables to drop criminal charges filed against two men who distributed pamphlets urging a peaceful settlement of the Cuban situation.
A request by the ACLU to abolish the John's Committee was rejected by Dade legislators. Tobias Simon charged that the committee was created for pro-segregation purposes--"to beat the NAACP out of existence."
ACLU supplied representation for a sit-in demonstration group. Defendants were 18 black and white people who refused to leave a segregated Shell City restaurant at the manager's request. In 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed their convictions.
A campaign led by a group of housewives to bar allegedly subversive books from schools and universities failed when a house committee, at the urging of the FCLU, killed the proposed measure.
A strong stand by the ACLU helped stymie the notorious "John's Committee" investigation aimed at linking the Communist Party with the NAACP and other groups supporting desegregation.
The Miami Board of Review proposed an ordinance to seal magazines that it held unfit for juvenile viewing. The City Commission let the ordinance die after lengthy debate between Tobias Simon and the Board's chairperson.
The Dade County School Board overrode objections by the ACLU and B'nai B'rith against the distribution of Gideon Bibles to seventh graders. The Miami Gideons abandoned the practice to avoid further litigation.
Miami Chapter formed. Original founders included some of Miami's most prominent citizens like Jack Gordon, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas and Richard Wolfson. Areas of concern for civil liberties included the use of "drunk-o-meter" tests by Miami and Miami Beach police, activities of the censorship board in Miami, and the teaching of religion in the public schools.