The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) is one of the nation's foremost defenders of civil liberties and civil rights.

Founded in 1951 as the New York affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, we are a not-for-profit, nonpartisan organization with eight chapters and regional offices and more than 160,000 members across the state. Our mission is to defend and promote the fundamental principles and values embodied in the Bill of Rights, the U.S. Constitution, and the New York Constitution, including freedom of speech and religion, and the right to privacy, equality and due process of law for all New Yorkers. We believe that all New Yorkers have inalienable rights that cannot be taken away by the government or by majority vote. They are:

  • Freedom of speech, press, petition and assembly. Even unpopular expression is protected from government suppression and censorship.
  • Freedom of religion. Each of us has the right to exercise his or her own religion, or no religion, free from any government influence or compulsion.
  • Privacy. We have the right to be free from unwarranted and unwanted government intrusion into our personal and private affairs, papers and possessions.
  • Due process of law. We have right to be treated fairly by the government whenever the loss of liberty or property is at stake.
  • Equality before the law. We have the right to be treated equally regardless of nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, disability or socio-economic status.

When the NYCLU was founded, civil liberties were under siege. McCarthyism was in full swing, and blacklisting and loyalty oaths were the norm. Government censorship of books and magazines was common, and abortion was a crime. People of color were subject to discrimination in education, housing and employment. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender New Yorkers lived in fear of exposure. Students were virtually without rights. The NYCLU has led the way and helped to create a more open, just and equitable society. The NYCLU fights for civil liberties and civil rights through a multi-layered program of litigation, advocacy, public education and community organizing. We represent ordinary people who have experienced injustice and have decided to fight back. Our clients are men and women, rich and poor, gay and straight, black, white and brown, young and old, religious and atheist, able-bodied and living with a disability, citizens and immigrants. When we vindicate their rights, all New Yorkers benefit. 

Read more about the history of the NYCLU