What does resistance look like now?

Story Date: 
Apr 7, 2017

With the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court today, do you wonder, “What does this mean for resistance to threats to civil rights and liberties? What can we do?”

If so, please read this recent interview with national ACLU legal director, David Cole: “Can the ACLU Stop Trump?” It explains more about what the ACLU does, and why. You can also hear Cole’s views on Gorsuch in this podcast, “How Far Outside the Legal Mainstream is Neil Gorsuch?

Courts of course remain critically important, but concerns such as those over Gorsuch show why we need broader efforts. To a significant degree, courts become more likely to do what public pressure paves the way for. Breakthroughs for equal marriage rights have shown this, and so does other recent ACLU work, such as our successful challenge to President Trump’s immigration ban.

As Cole says in the interview, "The ongoing fight over the immigration ban is a preview of what any successful resistance to Trump will have to look like: swift, coordinated action in the courts, combined with extensive mobilization."

That’s what the ACLU does best. We work in the courts, but also in the court of public opinion.

This same approach lies behind the law suit we filed on Friday against the State of Wisconsin. For years, across the country and here in Wisconsin, the ACLU has worked, rallied, and sued for the rights of LGBT people. We achieved legal breakthroughs for the right to marry both in Wisconsin and at the US Supreme Court, and have gone to court again as part of our broader push against discrimination, against transgender people, and others.

We filed suit this time in federal court against Wisconsin’s state university system and insurance board over their refusal to provide health insurance coverage to state employees who are transgender for gender-affirming care.

Our clients are Alina Boyden, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Shannon Andrews, a cancer researcher at the University of Wisconsin Medical School.

The state continues to deny our clients coverage for medically necessary treatment simply because they are transgender, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Group Insurance Board approved coverage for such medically necessary care in July 2016—but under pressure from the state Attorney General, the GIB voted in closed session to rescind these essential benefits in December.

The state should not play political games with its transgender employees’ essential medical needs. It has cruelly backtracked on its promise to provide access to care that the medical community agrees is necessary. Most people would hate to have the government make health care decisions for them. Our clients have experienced both, and it needs to stop.

All that transgender people like Alina and Shannon are asking for is to be treated like everyone else, and that includes respect and coverage for the health care you need.

That’s an important principle, but I hope you feel proud to belong to an organization that can fight for it in court.

As Margaret Mead famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”

Thank you for being part of that small—but growing—and thoughtful, committed group.