2022 is nearly here, and this will likely be another tumultuous year for civil liberties in West Virginia.
But trying times are why our founders created the American Civil Liberties Union. Trying times are what brought the ACLU to West Virginia in the first place, in 1921. That’s when a young organizer named Roger Baldwin traveled here from New York to speak against the conditions endured by coal miners and helped them find legal representation in the aftermath of the Battle of Blair Mountain.
In difficult times like these, we pledge to work harder for the cause of peace and justice.
Here are our resolutions for our 101st year of work in the Mountain State:
1. Defend Reproductive Freedom – We will continue to oppose any attempt to legislate forced birth on West Virginians, and we’ll keep fighting not just for the right to abortion, but also access for all who need it.
2. Reform Our Brutal Incarceration System – West Virginia’s jails are bursting at the seams. Most of the people being held in our regional jails haven’t been found guilty of a crime; they’re just too poor to afford bail. These overcrowded facilities are breeding grounds for COVID-19. At one point in 2021, more than one in seven people at North Central Regional Jail was infected. We will advocate forcefully in the upcoming session for a bill capping regional jails at their maximum occupancy levels, in addition to many other reforms of our brutal criminal legal system.
3. Protect Our LGBTQ+ Neighbors – When the Legislature banned trans girls from playing sports in 2021, we promised to take the state to court. Weeks after the session ended, we made good on that promise. This summer, we secured an injunction against the discriminatory ban for our 11-year-old client, Becky. There are already rumors that lawmakers will take up bills banning lifesaving medical care for trans youth and allowing businesses to discriminate in the name of religion. We won’t stand by while state lawmakers attack our communities for political gain.
4. Defend Democracy – The 2022 elections will be a crucial moment for civil liberties and we’ll do our part to make sure voters are informed of the issues and that they can continue to participate in our democracy safely. Because of the pandemic, West Virginia allowed everyone to vote by mail in 2020. The program was a huge success, helping lead to the second-highest turnout in our history. Voting by mail is effective and it’s safe. It’s time to let West Virginia vote by mail permanently.
5. Resist Efforts to Criminalize Poverty – West Virginia is one of the poorest states in the nation, and from the state to the local level, elected leaders seem hellbent on making it a crime to be poor. We will never stop advocating for an equitable society, whether that means defending evidence-based harm reduction efforts, opposing panhandling and “nuisance property” laws, or fighting to reform our cash bail system.
6. Protect Immigrants – West Virginia has one of the lowest undocumented populations in the country, but one of the highest ICE arrest rates. As Congress continues to shamefully drag its feet on passing immigration reform, it’s up to us to help our immigrant neighbors know their rights and fight back.
7. Build for the Next 101 Years – As long as this nation exists, we will need the ACLU to uphold democratic processes, fight for civil rights and civil liberties, and make our systems more genuinely inclusive and equitable for all people. We need you to join us in fighting the battles ahead and building for the future.