In the past year we faced some dark moments in our pursuit of freedom, equality, and justice for all. Racism and fascism remain on the rise, along with hate-fueled acts of violence. The right-wing Supreme Court decimated the constitutional protections of Roe v. Wade, then undermined popular common-sense gun regulations. Systemic inequality, anti-democratic assaults on voting rights and election integrity, and attacks on LGBTQ+ rights persist.
Worrying about the future of our democracy and the further erosion of fundamental rights by a radical right-wing judiciary is realistic. But we have a large supply of resilience and creative strategizing to draw on, and we will use the formidable momentum we’ve gained in a tremendously disruptive year to protect and advance the rights of New Yorkers for years to come. The fight is never easy, yet the NYCLU always stands strong to defend democracy and advance the cause of liberty. This year, we achieved some key successes for the people of New York, especially for those most at risk.
Throughout this report, you’ll read about our many important legal, legislative, and organizing victories, meet some of our extraordinary partners and staff, and get a look at our ambitious plans for 2023.Read more
Amid the ongoing dangers posed by anti-democracy forces and a Supreme Court disastrously hostile to our fundamental rights, the NYCLU brought resilience and persistence to our efforts to protect and expand civil rights and civil liberties this year. We made progress in police reform, labor rights, environmental justice, LGBTQ+ rights, reproductive freedom, and health care access for vulnerable New Yorkers. These formidable victories laid the groundwork for future advances on issues essential to the lives and rights of the people of New York. Some of our major wins and campaigns from 2022 include:
In the week before the pivotal midterm elections, the NYCLU and our partners delivered crucial oral arguments in state appellate court that resulted in dismissal of a lawsuit designed to undermine absentee voting in a win against vote suppression.
After a years-long campaign, the state Department of Labor finally set the farmworker overtime threshold to reduce to 40 hours over the next ten years, ending a racist loophole that denied wage fairness to generations of Black and Brown farmworkers.
As part of our ongoing environmental justice project in Syracuse, we moved to file an amicus brief challenging a lawsuit that seeks to stop the demolition of a crumbling portion of the I-81 viaduct. We have worked with impacted residents who are advocating that the aging viaduct be removed in favor of a new Community Grid that better serves the community.
The legislature passed a major portion of the Students Impacted by Gross Highways (SIGH) Act, which would prohibit the building of schools within 500 feet of a highway, where air pollution is amplified; though the governor vetoed the bill, our Environmental Justice Project will continue the fight to pass the measure and get it signed, to protect children’s health.
Following the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, we and our partners released an Abortion Access Roadmap detailing how we can protect pregnant people in the state constitution, fund abortion access, and increase access to care.
The legislature twice passed the Equal Rights Amendment, setting it up for ratification by the voters in November 2024.
We supported a bill that would require public and charter schools to teach age-appropriate, medically accurate, inclusive sex education in grades K-12.
We filed suit in Broome County to guarantee greater protections for trans, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming individuals in custody so they are no longer subjected to discrimination, abuse, and denial of medical care.
We supported a bill that would enable vulnerable homeless and runaway youth to access health care without undue burden.
As part of our statewide campaign for greater law enforcement transparency, we continued to file lawsuits against police departments across the state, including the New York State Police and the Suffolk Police Department, for unlawfully withholding misconduct records they are required to disclose following the repeal of Civil Rights Law 50-a in June 2020.
An appellate court ruled in our favor in our cases against the Syracuse and Rochester Police Departments, requiring that they disclose requested disciplinary records to the public, and we appealed a ruling from earlier in the year that permitted the Nassau County Police Department to continue withholding complaint records created before 50-a’s repeal.
In a nationwide first, our class action lawsuit resulted in a court order preliminarily blocking the Jefferson County Correctional Facility from denying prescribed medication for Opioid Use Disorder to those in custody.
Seek Justice: We filed 72 lawsuits and amicus briefs in support of civil liberties, and reviewed 1,054 legal requests for referral or further investigation.
Stand United: We brought together 75,000 members and donors with 10,500 volunteers across New York’s 62 counties.
Take Action: We rallied 329,570 e-activists, 117,600 social media followers, and 888 volunteers to get involved through more than 42 opportunities for action—including 74 protests monitored by 252 NYCLU-trained protest monitors.
Voting is essential to a functioning democracy, yet New York has a notorious history and ongoing record of discrimination against racial, ethnic, and language minority groups when it comes to the ballot box. The result is a disturbing gap between white New Yorkers and residents of color in political participation and elected representation. From voter intimidation and gerrymandering to inaccessible poll sites and limited access to language assistance, too many obstacles prevent the robust voter registration and turnout rates that would make our state thrive. The NYCLU has long fought for improvements to the policies, processes, and practices that determine how New Yorkers vote—striving to implement a system that makes voting easy, accessible, and equitable for everyone.Read more
The fight for equality is never fully won, and the Supreme Court’s indefensible ruling in June eviscerating the fundamental rights enshrined in Roe v. Wade harshly underlined this painful truth. In the face of such a disappointing outcome, the NYCLU resolutely met the moment in our mission to advance equality, defend reproductive rights, and protect against all forms of discrimination. Following the leaked draft opinion overturning Roe in May, we and our partners compiled and released an Abortion Access Roadmap detailing how we can protect pregnant people in the state constitution, fund abortion access, increase hospital transparency and access to care, and protect providers, helpers, and patients.Read more
Since its inception, our criminal legal system has perpetuated racial injustice. And the damaging collateral consequences of becoming ensnared by the system are extensive: Criminal records follow people for life, limiting job prospects, access to housing and benefits, and inhumane incarceration results in trauma. Black and Brown New Yorkers disproportionately bear the weight of this unfair system. Whether it’s fighting for marijuana legalization, police transparency and accountability, or the rights of incarcerated people, the NYCLU works tirelessly to reduce the number of New Yorkers who are arrested and imprisoned, make sure everyone accused of a crime gets a fair trial, and ensure that the formerly incarcerated can re-engage fully with civic life.Read more
New York is already an over-surveilled state but new technology employed by both government entities and private companies threatens to erode our right to privacy even further. Police departments across the state use military-grade surveillance equipment to spy on New Yorkers. Invasive technologies such as facial recognition, predictive policing, and cellphone-spying devices are deployed often without the public’s knowledge or consent. New Yorkers are increasingly targeted for their activism, and personal biometric information is collected by law enforcement and housed in databases without substantive oversight. This surveillance free-for-all inevitably has a more damaging impact on communities of color and other populations that already face bias and discrimination.Read more
The New York Civil Liberties Union’s 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. In pursuit of these principles, we fight for the dignity of all people, with particular attention to the pervasive and persistent harms of racism.