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April 9, 2018

Career as longest-serving affiliate director in the history of the ACLU set to end after 2018 election

MIAMI, FL – After 21 years of serving as Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida, Howard Simon has announced plans to retire.

Prior to his appointment as Executive Director of the Florida affiliate in 1997, Simon led the fight to defend civil rights and liberties in Michigan, where he served as Executive Director since 1974. His 21 years at the ACLU of Florida make him the longest-serving ACLU of Florida Executive Director, and his cumulative 44-year career as a state director is the longest in the ACLU’s 98-year history.

During Simon’s tenure, the ACLU of Florida played a major role shaping public policy to advance the civil rights and freedoms of all Floridians. The organization challenged school book censorship in Miami-Dade schools in a case that went to the US Supreme Court. The ACLU of Florida also successfully fought to change the way Floridians cast ballots and how those ballots are recorded following the 2000 election fiasco.

In 2010, the organization successfully overturned Florida’s law that, for nearly 33 years, prohibited gay men and lesbians from being able to provide permanent, adoptive homes for children. Five years later, the organization brought litigation challenging Florida’s refusal to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples recognized by other states, resulting in a ruling that brought marriage equality statewide. The ACLU of Florida has also brought numerous successful legal challenges fighting mandatory suspicionless drug testing and attacks on Florida women’s right to access medical care, including the right to an abortion.

Simon’s retirement is timed to take place after the 2018 election.

In announcing his retirement, Simon stated:

"It has been a thrill to be part of an organization that has so successfully defended and expanded human rights. It has been especially rewarding to work with so many partners over so many years for legal equality for gay men and lesbians, to protect the right to vote and, most recently, successfully protecting fundamental values of privacy and separation of church and state that were threatened by the current Constitution Revision Commission.

“I want to stay through November to do my part personally, and lead our organization’s efforts as part of Floridians for Fair Democracy to secure passage of Amendment 4 -- to replace the broken and outdated system of lifetime disfranchisement with one in which a person is able to earn their way back into the community by completing all the terms of a sentence imposed by a judge.

"The ACLU has played a magnificent role in the legal and political history of our nation. As a result, I have always felt a special responsibility not only to effectively steer the organization in its important work, but to guard its deserved reputation as an authoritative guardian of civil rights and liberties.

“For more than four decades, working in both Florida and Michigan, I have been honored to have been given the opportunity and responsibility to lead the most important human rights organization in our nation. I am grateful to those who have given me this career. It's been aggravating, nerve wracking, sometimes heartbreaking--but ultimately rewarding 44 years.”

The ACLU of Florida’s Board of Directors has appointed a search committee to find a suitable Executive Director to the ACLU of Florida after Howard’s retirement. More information about that search will be available in the weeks ahead on the ACLU of Florida’s website,