Today we release People Power – a New England style IPA brewed in collaboration with Three’s Brewing, in support of the ACLU. To learn more about the ACLU, we sat down with Meghan Hoffman over a beer:
Can you tell us more about what the ACLU does?
Sure! Founded in 1920, ACLU’s mission is to realize the promises of the United States Constitution for all and to expand the reach of its guarantees. We work in the courts, in legislatures, and in the streets to protect and advance civil rights and liberties for every person in this country. ACLU lawyers have been at the center of one history-making court case after another, and we’ve participated in more Supreme Court cases than any other private organization in the country. ACLU attorneys nationwide handle thousands of cases each year on behalf of clients whose rights have been violated. Our legislative and state advocates are also a constant presence in federal government agency offices, on Capitol Hill, and in every state in the U.S., working with law and policy makers to ensure the necessary statutes exist to protect our civil rights. And finally, we work to educate the public to know their rights and know how to get involved, and to mobilize the grassroots organizing power of communities across the country. From volunteering as protest legal observers to signing petitions and texting and phonebanking to get out the vote with our advocacy program People Power, we are joined in this work by millions of ACLU activists who are helping defend our rights and create an America that is just and equal for all.
What are some examples of priority cases or policy issues the ACLU is tackling at the moment?
At the end of 2019, ACLU was looking ahead to 2020 with a focus on six priority areas of work: protecting immigrants’ rights; demanding LGBTQ equality; protecting abortion rights; ending mass incarceration; defending digital privacy; and, expanding voting rights. During 2020, these priorities have expanded, and include our response to threats to civil liberties from the COVID-19 pandemic (including reducing prison, jail, and ICE detention center populations; securing $400 million in federal funding for elections during the pandemic; ensuring everyone, regardless of immigration status, has access to COVID testing and treatment; fighting for an eviction moratorium; and preventing mass surveillance and overreach in the government’s pandemic response) and critically, our work to demand racial justice, divest from police and reinvest in communities, and to pass H.R. 40, which calls for the creation of a commission to examine the institution of slavery and make recommendations to Congress for reparations.
We are also working to expand access to voting in the lead up to the election, and to ensure that every eligible voter can safely exercise their right in November – whether it be by mail-in ballot, early voting, same day registration, or in person. (During the pandemic, we’ve filed 25 legal actions across the country to expand or facilitate absentee voting, because no one should have to choose between their right to life and their right to vote!)
As for court cases, in our most recent Supreme Court win in June 2020, SCOTUS ruled it is illegal to fire someone for being LGBTQ. While this is a vitally important win, the work continues: on November 4, 2020, we’ll be back in front of the Supreme Court in a case called Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. For decades, the ACLU fought to strike down bans on LGBTQ people fostering or adopting children — and with our clients in states around the country, we won. In Fulton, LGBTQ families are under attack again, this time by taxpayer-funded child welfare agencies that want to turn away LGBTQ parents. The Supreme Court’s decision could allow any taxpayer-funded program, including food banks and homeless shelters, to refuse service to not only LGBTQ people but anyone who doesn’t meet religious criteria such as people who are Jewish, Mormon or Muslim. All of our families have value and worth — we won’t let them roll back our rights.
How long have you been working with breweries on People Power, and why is it so important?
This is the second instance of the People Power Beer campaign; the first was in 2018. I have been so inspired by the interest in and growth of this initiative, and the community-building power of breweries. (And I love that every “People Power” beer is different and reflects the flavor of the local community!)
Breweries are leaders in their communities – they raise awareness, create conversations, and literally bring people together (following social distancing guidelines, of course!). In 2020, this leadership is more important than ever. Communities are looking for ways to come together to create change and address the systemic inequalities and civil rights issues that have been brought even more to light amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes getting involved to fightvoter suppression efforts, working to secure equal rights for LGBTQ people, women, immigrants, people in incarceration, people in need of abortions and contraception, and many others. It’s an incredible and critical moment for breweries to uplift these issues in their communities.
Where can people go to find their options for voting up until Election Day?
I love this question! It may be mid-October, but did you know you can still register to vote in some states?
ACLU has created Let People Vote, a digital tool where folks can:
- check whether they’re registered to vote (or learn how to register);
- learn their options for voting in their state this year (by mail, early, in person, etc.);
- study candidate scorecards on civil liberties issues; and,
- learn about your rights as a voter.
We’ve also created a shareable generator so you can share the reasons you’re voting with your community!
How can people take action in their own communities on local concerns?
Great question. This work requires all of us, and local engagement is one of very best tools we have in combatting systemic inequalities and injustices and creating a more perfect union. The ACLU has an affiliate in every state in the country (including Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico). Our affiliates work directly on issues within their state and are incredible resources for information on local efforts, volunteer opportunities, and legal assistance if your rights have been violated. You can find your local ACLU affiliate here.
Where can folks follow along with real-time updates or become a member?
Thank you for all that you do to protect and advance civil rights and liberties for all – and cheers!