This year, the ACLU of Maryland has risen to new challenges to protect our precious rights and liberties. In doing so we found ourselves — for better or worse — on the cutting edge of the world wide web.

Opponents of equality now operate in a new political landscape of online organizing. This year’s passage of the Civil Marriage Protection Act and the Maryland Dream Act spurred opponents to organize referenda drives to overturn both civil rights laws. And they quickly gathered the tens of thousands of signatures necessary, partly through an online petition website.What will this mean for ACLU efforts to pass and secure important civil liberties legislation? The ACLU believes it is wrong to put the rights of minorities up for a popular vote. The new ease of challenging laws at the ballot box — where the will of the majority reigns — is a sea change and will affect our program for years to come. 

Meanwhile, the ACLU’s work this year has twice made Maryland a national model of how to protect personal privacy and freedom of expression — especially in the online world. The ACLU of Maryland helped win passage of the nation’s first law banning employers from demanding access to social media accounts of job applicants and employees. It all started when a Department of Corrections employee was forced to provide his Facebook password during a recertification interview after he took a leave of absence following the death of his mother. Then, it seemed a rare practice. But since then, press reports have revealed a growing problem. Now, other states have followed Maryland's lead in developing model legislation to use in protecting privacy and free expression online.

The ACLU also defended the right of citizen journalists to record police actions in public, which is increasingly common as smart phones become ever more ubiquitous. The Baltimore police had illegally detained our client at the 2010 Preakness Stakes horse race for capturing video of an incident of police brutality on his phone. The police then erased that video as well as other priceless personal videos, including of his young son. We were gratified when the Department of Justice decided to weigh in on the ACLU of Maryland’s lawsuit — one of many ACLU suits across the country defending the First Amendment rights of photographers.

The ACLU cannot do this cutting edge work without your enduring and generous support. Together, we can remain vigilant for justice, liberty, and equality for many years to come.