Impact Report: April 2023

April 27, 2023

What we do, together, in the months and years ahead, will be critical to protecting and affirming individual rights and our democracy here in Illinois.  Please continue to partner with the ACLU of Illinois in this fight. 


Continuing Threats to Our Democracy

A note from ACLU of Illinois Executive Director, Colleen Connell (she/her)

Two years after being voted out of office, the former President and his acolytes continue to undermine our democracy in three ways:

  1. The Courts. Under the guise of originalism, the courts are gutting the post-civil war amendments.  As intended, this is eviscerating constitutional protections for people of color and the liberty of each of us to make intimate decisions, such as who to marry or how many children to have.  Furthermore, decisions restricting voting rights, predictably are making it more difficult to use the electoral process to restore our rights.
  2. The big lie. Failing to reverse his loss in the 2020 election, Trump and his cohorts repeatedly lie about its outcome, eroding our confidence in our electoral system. 
  3. Political violence.  Unable to hold onto power lawfully, Trump continues to implore his followers to “take back our country.”  Some in Congress go further, suggesting we should pursue a “national divorce,” code, I fear, for political violence or a second civil war. 

That a member of Congress would suggest a second civil war underscores the crises in our democracy.  The horrors of the Civil War spurred the ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.  Collectively, these amendments profoundly changed our constitution.  They were intended to – and did – create a federal threshold of individual rights, a bulwark against the human oppression being championed under the banner of states’ rights. 

The insurrectionists who carried confederate flags into our Capitol on January 6 debase this legacy.  Those who rally under the banner of “Make America Great Again” champion a return to the antebellum bigotry that, left unchecked, will destroy our democracy. Pundits often minimize these threats as a “culture war.”  We must recognize and name the crises for what it is. It is a war on our democracy, not a culture war, when a portion of our country insists they have a right to ban not only the books their children read but books our children read in public schools and public libraries. 

When white Christian nationalists claim our country was founded as a Christian nation, this is not a culture war. This is a rejection of the text of the First Amendment and its historical record of people coming to America to seek religious liberty.  This lie, tragically, is fueling a rise in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. 

It is not a culture war but a repudiation of human rights when politicians seek to deny women and trans youth medically necessary care. The battle for democracy is not confined to southern states and the halls of Congress.  It also is raging here in Illinois. 

We are seeing censorship not only in Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, but also in suburbs, like Downers Grove, Barrington and Lincolnwood where loud, well-funded groups seek to ban LGBTQ books in public libraries and public schools.  Attacks on sexual health education are not limited to Oklahoma, Tennessee and South Carolina. We are watching politicians right here in Illinois demagogue against the sex ed that keeps our children safe.   

None of us likely thought we would be called to defend, again, rights that were established long ago. We hoped never to return to a day when women in many states would be forced to carry a pregnancy to term.  We could not comprehend the inhumanity of the attacks we see on trans youth.

None of us can sit on the sidelines in this fight for our democracy. 

We must continue to act:

  • We must show up at local school board meetings to oppose book bans.
  • We must continue to advocate for real police reform and show up at local city council meetings when they debate use of force policies or expanding community oversight of policing.  In Chicago, we must monitor the work of the newly-formed Commission for Public Safety and Police Accountability.
  • We must continue to march in support of reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights and voting rights.
  • And, we must continue to vote, in every election. 

What we do, together, in the months and years ahead, will be critical to protecting and affirming individual rights and our democracy here in Illinois.  Please continue to partner with the ACLU of Illinois in this fight. 

2023 Legislative Initiatives

The ACLU of Illinois and our partners are working on impactful legislation on a range of issues in Springfield to protect and advance our civil rights and liberties.  Now is the time for legislators to   hear directly from you! Please find information on some of our initiatives below:

Ensuring Right to Counsel for DCFS Youth: Illinois is just one of seven states that does not guarantee counsel to youth in the care of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Without legal representation, a child is left to navigate complex legal proceedings on their own, putting them at risk of receiving unfair treatment, or having vital decisions about their future made without their input. SB 1478 assures that no child goes through this process – including separation from their family – without their own legal counsel.

Send a message in support of SB 1478

Reducing Barriers to Recovery: SB 1830 implements a proven public health approach, eliminating the failed policies of the “War on Drugs.” The bill reclassifies the charge for small-scale drug possession of all drugs from a felony to a misdemeanor and provides access to drug treatment for those who are arrested. 

Send a message in support of SB 1830

Protecting Health Data Privacy: HB 3603 will help safeguard the privacy of every Illinoisan' sensitive health information by implementing new privacy protections that would increase the ability of individuals to have more control over their data before it is collected, stored, shared or sold to others. Under HB 3603, regulated entities must be more transparent about the details of their health data collection practices, obtain a person's consent prior to collecting, sharing, selling or storing that person's health data, and provide people with rights to control their health data. 

Send a message in support of HB 3603

Oppose Efforts to Weaken Our Protections from Drone Surveillance: There are efforts to strip away the modest regulations around situations where police in Illinois can use drone technology for surveillance. The proposed changes would allow police to use this powerful technology without judicial oversight, including targeting First Amendment-protected activity.

Send a message to oppose weakening drone protections

Update on the Fight for Rights and Liberties

Aurora Pride Challenges City Ordinance that Caused Havoc for Pride Parade

The ACLU of Illinois represents Aurora Pride, a local LGBTQ+ rights group, in its federal lawsuit challenging Aurora’s Special Events Ordinance. This ordinance allows government officials to cancel or severely limit an event if not enough police officers sign up to work overtime. The Aurora Pride Parade was almost cancelled last summer when police officers withdrew from parade assignments because of Aurora Pride’s message. At the last minute, the City decided to officer financial incentives to police officers to work the event — then expected Aurora Pride to foot the bill. The First Amendment does not allow the government to penalize parade organizers — whether by revoking a permit, charging extra fees, or otherwise — for someone else’s disagreement with their speech. We are currently awaiting a ruling from the federal judge on this case.

Open Letter to Public Officials on the First Amendment

We issued an open letter in March to Illinois public officials calling on them to fulfill their responsibilities under the First Amendment. Loud, organized, and often well-funded groups are targeting local councils, school boards, and even park district boards, pressuring them to silence marginalized voices in public settings. Local government officials have sometimes strayed from their role in guarding against these threats in understandable, but misguided, attempts to avoid controversy and quiet discord in their communities. In recent months, the ACLU of Illinois has investigated or taken action in several instances where local government threatened or revoked permissions for LGBTQ+ events in reaction to loud public opposition.

Public officials throughout the country are increasingly attempting to ban books, cancel events, and otherwise undermine our First Amendment right to free speech. Especially troubling is the fact that many of these efforts are aimed at marginalized communities:  suppressing their identities, erasing their history, and attempting to drive them further to the margins of public life. Threats and censorship are increasingly linked with violence and threats of physical harm. These attacks on free speech are attacks on all of us. Our letter reinforces that public officials at all levels must follow the Constitution and allow all voices to be heard in a community.

Settlement Reached in False Arrest Case

ACLU of Illinois client Julie Campos reached a settlement with the City of Chicago after police physically assaulted, falsely arrested, and unlawfully detained her in June 2020. Ms. Campos obtained substantial monetary damages as part of the settlement. We remain in awe of Ms. Campos’ bravery to speak out and share her story in hopes of holding accountable the officer who mistreated her and abused his authority. Shortly after the filing of Ms. Campos’ suit, the officer primarily responsible for violating her constitutional rights separated from the Chicago Police Department (CPD). This is a positive conclusion to an otherwise stressful and difficult journey for Ms. Campos.

Chicago Police Department Consent Decree Updates

The Chicago Police Department (CPD) finalized three important policies in December 2022: one on the First Amendment and police treatment of protestors, another on police interactions with religious individuals, and the third on officer accountability. ACLU of Illinois represents the Communities United plaintiffs – Communities United, Community Renewal Society, Next Steps, and ONE Northside in the Coalition that enforces the CPD consent decree. In that context, the Coalition advocated for and won significant improvements to each policy. The ACLU of Illinois, our clients, and the communities who have been leading this fight for so long will continue to hold CPD accountable and to fight for real solutions to keep our communities safe from unconstitutional and discriminatory policing.

Ending Money Bond in Illinois

Only days before Illinois was set to end cash bail, a circuit court judge in Kankakee struck down parts of the SAFE-T Act including the Pretrial Fairness Act. The court’s ruling only applied to the counties that had brought suit against the measure. However, on New Year’s Eve, the Illinois Supreme Court blocked implementation across the state pending further action.

The ACLU of Illinois filed an amicus brief in January 2023 together with the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice and 389 other organizations and individuals urging the Illinois Supreme Court to end the practice of money bond. Communities and activists across Illinois have fought for years to pass and implement the Pretrial Fairness Act. Illinois’ current system of money bond jails people simply for being poor and fails to keep our communities safe. Oral arguments were heard in March and we are awaiting a decision from the Illinois Supreme Court.

Next Generation Society Freedom Fund

At the end of 2022, the Next Generation Society closed out the Freedom Fund – its successful five-year campaign to raise $1M. The funds raised through this campaign help support the Next Generation Staff Attorney, currently staffed in the Women’s and Reproductive Rights Project. The Next Generation Society has accomplished this goal through events, individual support, and more. This campaign has not only raised significant funds to support our work in Illinois, but it has also deepened the engagement with our communities through events and action. Working together toward a common goal to safeguard civil liberties for future generations has energized and inspired our society members to continue the work to advance the rights of all Illinoisans. Learn more about Next Gen and ways to get involved here.

Engaging Together Around the State

2023 ACLU Lunch

On March 24, more than 1,000 members of the ACLU of Illinois community gathered in person and virtually to celebrate the work of the past year, raise funds critical to our work, and recommit to the ongoing fight for civil rights and liberties. Thank you to everyone who supported the 2023 ACLU Lunch!

Two side by side images. Left Image keynote Amber Hikes wearing a dark green suit stands at the podium. On the left three drag performers in red pose with one arm in the air

We left inspired by the words of so many members of the ACLU of Illinois community. Keynote speaker Amber Hikes, ACLU Deputy Executive Director for Strategy & Culture, was phenomenal in sharing the many meaningful ways we can take action to create a more just society for all people. And, at a time where states across the country are trying to censor and erase the LGBTQ community, we were moved by the incredible drag performances featuring Jackie Couture, Joan Jullian, and Jourdin LaRue from Baton Show Lounge. You can watch the event recording here!

Next Generation Society Celebrity Chef Benefit Dinner

The Next Generation Society brought back the Celebrity Chef Benefit Dinner this year for the first time since 2019! This event is a special evening for the ACLU of Illinois, and we were thrilled to be able to gather this year in partnership with Next Gen Board Member, Chef Jason Vincent.

Group photo of chefs and staff who helped during our chef event pose in the kitchen with a row of plates to their right

Celebrating the work of the ACLU with supporters over delicious food cooked by chefs committed to our cause made for a wonderful time. We are so grateful to the Chefs: Diana Dávila (Mi Tocaya Antojería), Zachary Engel (Galit), Mike Gaia (Giant Restaurant), Genie Kwon and Timothy Flores (Kasama), Rickie Perez (Logan Oyster Socials), Mindy Segal (Mindy’s Bakery), and Erick Williams (Virtue) for donating their time. And, special thanks to Next Generation Society Board Member Jason Vincent (Giant Restaurant) and his partners Josh Perlman of Giant and Chef Aaron Kabot (Chef’s Special) and Chase Bracamontes for hosting the event at Chef’s Special Cocktail Bar. We had about 70 attendees enjoying a meal from this all-star chef lineup while raising funds to support the ACLU.

Events around Illinois

  • In early March, ACLU of Illinois Director of Communications and Public Policy Ed Yohnka discussed the ACLU report on racial disparities in traffic stops at an event in Danville, IL.
  • The Central Illinois Chapter hosted an event titled Contested Civil Liberties in 19th Century McLean County on April 11. Executive Director Emeritus of McLean County Museum of History and active chapter member Greg Koos told the story of the diverse peoples of McLean County and their struggle to build community and secure freedom.
  • Urbana-Champaign Reproductive Justice hosted a reproductive justice week from April 23 – 30 that was sponsored by the Champaign County Chapter of the ACLU of Illinois. They held a combination of in-person and virtual events, including a legal panel featuring ACLU of Illinois Director of the Women’s and Reproductive Rights Project Ameri Klafeta.
  • On May 23, the Peoria Chapter of the ACLU of Illinois is hosting their 62nd Annual Meeting. The virtual meeting will include a presentation of awards and the election of officers and directors for the next year. Learn more and RSVP here.

Ask the Expert

The following questions were answered by Nora Collins-Mandeville (she/her), Director of Systems Reform Policy at the ACLU of Illinois

Illinois is currently just one of seven states that does not guarantee counsel to any youth in the care of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Why is it important that our state provide legal counsel for the youth in the family regulation system? And, how is this work connected to the broader movement to protect and expand civil liberties and rights for all people in Illinois?

Removing children from their homes can have consequences for their entire life. These decisions – and related proceedings – implicate a child’s right to family integrity, bodily autonomy, sufficient food, care, and safety while in government custody, free speech, freedom from discrimination, and meaningful relief for government actors’ violation of such rights.  Given the stakes and complexities of these matters, no child should face such proceedings without the benefit of their own legal counsel. 

Yet, in Illinois, children are the only court party lacking counsel – even though it is their lives and future that are being determined.  Illinois’ current approach to youth advocacy ignores well-established legal practices and children’s experiences.  According to the Illinois Auditor General’s evaluation of client rights and LGBTQ youth’s care, Illinois’ system fails to inform children about their rights, provide meaningful access to remedies, and allows incidents of discrimination and abuse to be diminished and even ignored.  Children have informed us directly that they do not feel their voices are adequately defended in court proceedings.  SB 1478 remedies this by adopting traditional, client-directed representation, a necessary mechanism to elevate and empower youth voice. 

International law requires children’s voices to be legitimately heard and also recommends against establishing age thresholds that limit youth’s ability to participate in their own lives.  Universal representation restores dignity and strengthens procedural justice. Data also shows that children represented by specially trained legal counsel are 40% more likely to exit care within their first six months, experience a 45% higher reunification rate with birth families, and have a 30% reduction in the rate of placement moves. Since Illinois has one of the longest lengths to permanency in the nation, guaranteeing legal counsel for children is simply urgent.

 The ACLU of Illinois’ seeks to empower the voices of some of the most vulnerable in our communities in the fight to ensure that our government lives up to constitutional obligations. This measure moves this fight forward. 

ACLU of Illinois Community Spotlight

Headshot of Leyda standing in front of a brick wall

Leyda Garcia-Greenawalt (she/they)

Leydais a proud foster care alumna. She is currently a second-year law student and Civitas Child Law Fellow at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Leyda is an avid ACLU supporter and has supported the Illinois legislative efforts on behalf of foster youth.

Why is it important to guarantee legal counsel for youth in the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS)? And, how can people engage in this work?

Although Cook County provides the youth in care an attorney, not every county throughout the state does the same. Youth need lawyers, not Guardian ad Litems, to elevate their concerns and needs and help youth navigate the legal system that encapsulates so much of their life. I encourage folks to get involved by talking to your state representative about SB 1478, doing research on different models of representation, join as a member of the National Association of Counsel for Children, and encouraging your friends to get in contact with their state representatives.

Why is family regulation system advocacy work important to you?

I spent nearly eight years in the Illinois family regulation system from the age of 12 until I was adopted at 19. I understand how broken this system is and like to get involved as much as I can to ensure the next generation of foster youth doesn’t have to endure the same problems we’ve seen perpetuated over the last fifty years.

What is giving you hope when you think about the future of this work?

With the Supreme Court hearing a case about ICWA, more and more people seem to be getting familiar with the family regulation system and its shortfalls. I find hope to continue this work in knowing that the next generation will do even better than mine in eradicating these issues and elevating the voices of people with lived experience.

What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to?

When not reading my law school textbooks… I am reading Becoming Abolitionists by Derecka Purnell and When Trying to Return Home by Jennifer Maritza McCauley

Headshot of Avi wearing a gray hate and blue shirt

Avi Rudnick, Esq., LCSW (he/they)

Avi is an attorney, therapist, and educator who has prior experience as a public defender, permanent supportive housing case manager, housing services administrator, and drag king performer. As part of the Transformative Justice Law Project (TJLP), Avi collaborated with the ACLU of Illinois as part of the coalition to pass HB 2542 reducing barriers to name changes for individuals with criminal convictions in Illinois. 

What were the harms of Illinois’ Name Change Law and why was it important to change the law?

The Illinois Name Change Law imposed a 10-year ban on applying for a name change for anyone with a felony conviction, and a lifetime ban for anyone required to comply with the sex offender registry or who has an identity theft conviction. This law was one of the harshest name change laws in the country and disproportionately impacted transgender and gender expansive individuals who rely on legal name changes in order to access increased self-determination, employment, housing, education, etc. While name changes should be much easier to access, with fewer mandated requirements, changing this law was necessary to get relief for those who have been blocked from completing this critical step in their transition.

Given the ongoing and increasing attacks on LGBTQ+ people across the country, especially anti-trans legislation, what can people do to fight back? And, how can folks support TJLP specially?

People can fight back in many ways, including being involved in mutual aid efforts in your communities, building and engaging in transformative justice and restorative practices in your communities as an alternative to participating in state-sponsored systems of violence, lobbying lawmakers to make immediate changes to laws in an effort to reduce the harm of oppressive systems, donating to organizations who are working to uproot oppressive systems and reduce the harm caused by these systems (including small community-based orgs who do not always have a large national platform), and educating those in your life about how to be an ally and accomplice to trans individuals and families as we navigate these attacks on our lives.

While TJLP hopes that our work becomes obsolete, we have been seeing an increase in individuals requesting name change services, and we are working hard to expand our services downstate to meet the needs of all trans folks in Illinois. We accept donations through our website (, and if anyone is interested in being trained as a volunteer name change advocate, please email us at for more information.

What is giving you hope when you think about the future of this work?

It is honestly challenging to stay hopeful in the face of so much hate, fear, and inequity, but I think that young people give me the most hope. I learn every single day from the fierceness of those who are coming up and challenging the status quo.

What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to?

I am currently obsessed with Abbot Elementary, and love the ways they bring attention to the harms of privatization through charter schools, while simultaneously making me laugh out loud. I have an eclectic taste in music but have been leaning into my queer country heart by listening, on repeat, to the new Amy Ray album “If It All Goes South.” 

Abortion Rights and Access

Abortion Rights and Access Match Gift Challenge

In October 2022, we announced a matching gift challenge to support our reproductive rights and access work. An anonymous donor who is deeply invested in protecting abortion in Illinois agreed to a dollar-for-dollar match of up to $400,000 in funds raised. We are proud to have met – and exceeded – the Abortion Rights and Access Matching Gift Challenge, successfully raising $800,000 in support of reproductive rights work in the post-Dobbs landscape. Donations from the matching gift challenge will help sustain two new staff members whose time will be dedicated to protecting and expanding abortion rights and access as well as the overall abortion rights work of the ACLU of Illinois.

Additionally, we held a Special Virtual Briefing on Abortion Rights and Access on February 27 that focused on the ACLU’s work following the Dobbs decision, including our recent efforts in Springfield to pass the Patient and Provider Protection Act. This measure reinforced protections for abortion and gender-affirming healthcare in Illinois. Watch the event recording here.

Abortion Criminal Defense Initiative 

No one should face criminal charges for providing, obtaining, or helping someone get essential healthcare – including abortion care. The ACLU launched a national Abortion Criminal Defense Initiative to help those who may face criminal prosecutions related to abortion care. The Initiative will help ensure that providers, abortion funds, and patients have access to high-quality criminal defense representation. The Initiative will serve as a critical hub of expertise and connections to state-based and national criminal defense lawyers for people providing, assisting, or seeking abortion.

This initiative was developed in close coordination with the other legal reproductive rights groups to ensure that that the work is supported by and has input from the community, and is structured for maximum effectiveness and efficiency with work led by other organizations. As we move forward, the ACLU will continue to work collaboratively with reproductive health, rights, and justice communities to maximize efficiencies and ensure that the community’s needs are met. 

Mifepristone Lawsuits

In the wake of the Dobb’s decision, anti-abortion activists continue to seek a national ban on abortion. This effort is evident in attacks on medication abortions, including a lawsuit seeking to force the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to withdraw approval of Mifepristone, a drug that has been safely used for more than 23 years for abortion and miscarriage management in the United States:

  • On Friday April 7, a federal district court in Texas issued a legally and factually indefensible ruling ordering the suspension of the FDA’s original approval of Mifepristone. The court also suspended subsequent FDA rulings that expanded accessibility, including distribution by mail and in retail pharmacies, and allowed use through 10 weeks of pregnancy.  The court delayed implementation of its order (a stay) that gave the FDA seven days to appeal to the Fifth Circuit.
  • A few minutes later, a federal judge in Washington State issued a conflicting ruling halting any FDA action to change the availability of Mifepristone.  This decision is effective in the 17 states,   including Illinois, whose Attorneys General filed this protective lawsuit.
  • The FDA appealed the widely criticized Texas ruling to the Fifth Circuit on Monday, April 10. In the middle of the night on Wednesday, April 12, the Fifth Circuit blocked the Texas judge's suspension of the FDA’s original approval.  Unfortunately, the Court of Appeals left in place that part of the district court decision suspending expanded access.
  • On Thursday, April 13, the Biden Administration announced that it would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and protect the FDA's two-decades-old decision to approve Mifepristone. And, on Friday, April 14, Justice Alito, who is the Circuit Justice for the Fifth Circuit, stayed that part of the Fifth Circuit’s decision that suspended broader access.

On Friday, April 21, the Supreme Court granted a request by the Department of Justice to stay the decisions from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and a Texas federal district court order that severely restricted the use of mifepristone. The ruling preserves the status quo – for now – regarding the medication’s use across the country.    

If you are feeling confused, you are not alone: these competing decisions have sown confusion among lawmakers, abortion providers, people seeking abortion care, drug manufacturers, pharmacies, and the public at large. Here is what you need to know today:

  • Abortion, including medication abortion, remains legal and available in Illinois. If you have an appointment for abortion or medication abortion in Illinois, you can keep your appointment. Call your provider with questions.
  • Mifepristone will continue to be lawful for abortion and miscarriage care in any state where abortion is still legal.
  • The ACLU has been preparing for a decision for months and we will continue to fight for access to abortion for all.

To learn more about how these rulings are impacting the provision of medication abortion across the country, we encourage you to watch the recording of ACLU National's Virtual Town Hall: The Fight for Medication Abortion which livestreamed on Thursday, April 13.