A Letter from Our Executive Director

A circular photo of ACLU-WA Executive Director with a light pink frame
<- Back to Washington in Action Spring 2024 Newsletter - Table of Contents


Last October, the ACLU-WA celebrated a truly joyous gathering around the theme of “Dwell in Possibility.” Now, faced with the potentially catastrophic what-ifs of a presidential election year and tension on campuses around the country, I feel it is more important than ever to call us back to this theme. 

I know people are fearful in this moment. The upcoming presidential election has many of us wondering whether our country will hold to democratic values or devolve into some form of autocracy. The rhetoric of politicians and other actors too often evokes hatred and exclusion. States around the country are enacting draconian restrictions on bodily autonomy – on abortion rights and gender affirming care. Student-led campus protests are increasingly being met with suspensions, arrests, and excessive use of force by law enforcement. There is a marked and disturbing rise in antisemitism, anti-Muslim, anti-Palestinian, and anti-Arab hate. There is much to unnerve us. 

In the face of this turmoil, at the ACLU-WA we remain steadfast and committed to protecting civil rights and civil liberties. Our theme of Dwell in Possibility did not arise from an urge to ignore problematic realities. Instead, we sought to lift up the notion that we can, even in frightening or dangerous times, turn our focus and actions to the values and beliefs we hold and will continue to fight for. 

Here are some of the ways we are fighting for all of us: 

At the ACLU-WA, dwelling in possibility means upholding meaningful voting systems. In April, we sent a notice of intent to sue to the Sunnyside School District for violating the Washington Voting Rights Act on behalf of Empowering Latina Leadership and Action (ELLA) . The district’s current at-large election system dilutes Latinx votes, preventing the community from having an equal opportunity to meaningfully influence the outcome of elections, despite Latinx residents representing a substantial majority of the community. 

Dwelling in possibility means working directly with the most impacted communities in our state. During the 2024 Legislative session, for the first time, the ACLU-WA co-hosted our annual advocacy day in Olympia with 17 other organizations representing a brilliant cross-section of the criminal legal system reform work taking place across the state. Over 130 people from 37 legislative districts showed up to learn about the bills our organizations are collectively fighting for, practice telling their stories, and advocate with their lawmakers.  

At the ACLU-WA, we dwell in the possibilities modeled by our partner affiliates around the country. The ACLU of Ohio recently won a critical victory for transgender youth and their families when a court agreed to temporarily block a law banning gender affirming care from taking effect. In Alabama, which passed an abortion ban after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the ACLU affiliate is working to protect providers from prosecution for offering guidance about out-of-state abortions to pregnant patients. A recent victory in federal court allowed the ACLU of Alabama’s efforts to move forward despite the state’s attempt to have the health care providers’ lawsuit thrown out. We take inspiration from the successes of our partner affiliates. Their work shows us what is possible for all of us.  

At the ACLU-WA, we join affiliates around the country to dwell in the possibility of protecting peaceful protest and in defending every student’s right to an education. We also call on universities to honor students’ right to education free of discriminatory harassment. This is not only an ideal – it is a requirement under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. At the ACLU-WA, we will continue to use all of the tools at our disposal to safeguard the foundational liberties in the First Amendment and the Civil Rights Act. 

Let me say unequivocally that antisemitism, islamophobia, racism, transphobia – any and all of these isms and hatreds must be denounced with clarity. A possibility I dwell in is that whatever identity you hold — whether Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, atheist, whether you are Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Arab, Asian, white, whether you are gay, straight, bisexual, trans, non-binary, two-spirit, whether you live with a disability of any kind or not — whoever you are, you should be able to live a life filled with choice, in freedom, in your full identity, without fear of being your full self. Too much of our current political rhetoric revolves around dividing us against each other.  

We are most powerful when we link arms together, across differences, even when we disagree on critical matters. We can agree on this: all of us, as human beings, belong to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s beloved community. We share rights, enshrined in our Constitution, that are worth fighting for, and we will fight for ALL of us to be free. In 2020, the ACLU-WA chose “We are all in this Together” for our annual event theme. That is where I urge you to dwell today — in the possibility of freedom, justice, humanity, and dignity for all when we fight side by side. 

As we face the potential injustices and heartbreaks of the months ahead, let us Dwell in Possibility, together. I encourage you to read the following report and reflect on what is possible. In the stories of our work, you’ll find an organization committed to fighting beside you to protect civil rights and civil liberties for all. Here, we are reminded of who we are at the ACLU-WA — of all that we have done and all that we can do when we engage in the quest for justice as one. 


<- Back to Washington in Action Spring 2024 Newsletter - Table of Contents