Who We Are
The ACLU of Northern California is an enduring guardian of justice, fairness, equality, and freedom, working to protect and advance civil rights and civil liberties for all Californians.
The ACLU of Northern California, founded in 1934, is an affiliate of the national ACLU, which was founded in 1920, to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States. We are non‐profit and non‐partisan. Since its founding, the ACLU has been at the forefront of advancing and protecting the individual civil rights and civil liberties enumerated in our Constitution. The ACLU stands up for these rights even when the cause is unpopular, and sometimes when few others will. We recognize that every person is ultimately at risk of having their rights and liberty taken away by an anti‐democratic government, while also understanding that certain communities bear the brunt of government abuse today and will in the future.
We are guided by the principles of freedom, equality, and justice enumerated in the Constitution. But we acknowledge that, as a result of historic and systemic racism and other forms of oppression, they are not equitably applied to or enjoyed by all people of this country. Inequitable enforcement of our laws and policies, as well as the laws and policies themselves, can reinforce systems of oppression, exclusion, and disenfranchisement for many groups of people, including people of color, immigrants, currently and formerly incarcerated people, LGBTQ people, women, people with disabilities, youth/elders, religious minorities, and low‐income, poor, and homeless people.
The ACLU NorCal focuses primarily on government action and inaction, including stopping government action that is harmful to civil liberties and rights, and encouraging government action that is supportive of those liberties and rights. This focus on government is for several reasons: the first is the tremendous power that government has to take away life and liberty, and also the power of collective action through government to protect rights. It is also because the Constitution applies most comprehensively to government action. On a more limited basis, however, the ACLU NorCal also engages in advocacy against private entities that are violating rights, either directly against those entities, insisting on government action in those instances, or in advocating against government actions that protect or support those harmful actions by private entities.
In an ideal world, we envision a country where everyone can enjoy the principles of freedom, equality, and justice articulated in the Constitution, not only under the law but also in their lived experience.