The ACLU of Maryland and the National ACLU are dedicated to both protecting our freedoms and promoting our rights. Like other state affiliates, the Maryland ACLU has a decisive role to play because threats to liberty arise locally. But, significantly, we do our state-level work within the context of a nationwide 50-state strategy – filing cases in strategic venues around the country and pressing for state legislation that will become a model for the nation.

Thankfully, our work is underwritten by thousands of ACLU members who understand that no battle for civil liberties ever stays won. This year once again we saw fear used to restrict liberty. Fear never actually makes us safer. It only denies people their rights and ideas, limits debate, and scapegoats individuals from minority religions, races and political belief systems.

Take the case of Bel Air, Maryland school officials who decided to censor – in violation of the First Amendment – a scene from a student production of the play, “Almost, Maine,” because it featured two male friends who realize they have fallen in love. Students Julia Streett and Kristine Vogt knew immediately that it wasn’t right. The scene is sweet and funny – their favorite in the play – and contains no sexual activity or innuendo. The students knew that the only reason to cut it was fear of same-sex romance. So, they organized with other members of the Bel Air Drama Company, and they came to the ACLU for help.

The ACLU took quick action, explaining to school officials that deleting the scene infringed on the students’ free speech. The censorship decision was reversed just in time for opening night.

Julia and Kristine – who are active in their school’s Gay-Straight Alliance – believe it is important to speak out against discrimination. Because of their courage and resourcefulness, the staging of the uncensored play gave the school community an opportunity to better appreciate diversity and understand that love is not something to be feared.

At the ACLU our goal is always to make the promises of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights real for everyone in Maryland. And, thanks to the support of our members, supporters, and clients, our ability to realize this dream is stronger than ever.