This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A civil liberties crisis. A defining moment for our nation. Those are among the phrases that have been used to describe America's current political climate.
Hundreds of thousands of people have marched, demonstrated and rallied in small towns and big cities across the country since Inauguration Day. I have heard from many who were compelled by recent events to protest for the first time in their lives.
The vast majority are not raising their voice out of partisan objection. Rather, they are shouting out their support of basic fundamental American principals: equal treatment and protection, government accountability, inclusion and acceptance, religious freedom and individual choice.
Correspondingly, the American Civil Liberties Union in recent weeks has received unprecedented support in the form of new memberships, donations, volunteers and grassroots groups that are generously partnering with us. In Utah, ACLU membership is at an all-time high, far surpassing the deluge of new members who joined in the aftermath of 9/11. We are both humbled and affirmed by this swell of assistance and we urge you to support our partner organizations, as well.
In the short time since Inauguration Day, the Trump administration has made it clear that we will face aggressive, and in some cases unprecedented, challenges across a sweeping range of core civil liberties issues.
We are proud and relieved! to hear daily from Utahns who stand by our Constitution to object to un-American actions, such as the ban on Muslim immigrants and refugees that President Donald Trump signed Jan. 27.
The staff of the ACLU, at the national level and in each state, are rising to the challenge presented by each new civil liberties threat as it occurs. The pace is exhausting, but we are determined.
In the midst of this tidal wave of new challenges, though, we find ourselves holding tight to the hard-won progress we have made in recent years. We cannot abandon ongoing efforts to address rights violations and unconstitutional practices.
The ACLU of Utah remains deeply engaged in a years-long battle to bring reform to Utah's public defender system. Substantive denial of legal counsel has been the status quo for far too long in our state, and we are committed to changing that.
In partnership with Racially Just Utah and others, we have fought to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, so that students of color are not be pushed out of school and into the criminal justice system.
We have worked with prisoner rights groups and the Department of Corrections to slowly reduce and reorient the use of solitary confinement in state correctional facilities.
With libertarian partners, we have passed trend-setting law enforcement transparency legislation, so that Utahns will know how asset forfeiture, special tactical teams and body cameras are being used around the state.
Side-by-side with Planned Parenthood, we have responded to every anti-choice bill proposed each year in the state legislature. In partnership with Equality Utah, we continue to work to end discrimination against LGBTQ Utahns in this new era of marriage equality.
Even as we fight to ensure that new civil liberties violations flowing from the federal government do not become the American status quo, we must remember that our nation's status quo before Nov. 8 was rife with persistent injustices. Communities that previously experienced daily discrimination and civil liberties violations, continue to do so now. We cannot forget them.
This balance is delicate, but critical. We must continue our existing efforts towards reform, while also meeting urgent obligations to confront novel attacks on civil liberties. It won't be easy, but with your support, it will be possible.
Thank you to all those who have joined our efforts. We are determined to not forsake our Constitution.
Brittney Nystrom is executive director of the ACLU of Utah.