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July 29, 2021

ACLU position is a first in its nearly 100-year history in California

Today, the executive directors of the ACLU of Northern California, ACLU of Southern California and ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, and the board chair of ACLU California Action issued a joint statement in strong opposition to the gubernatorial recall.

This marks the first time in the history of the ACLU in California — which stretches back to 1923 — that the organization has taken a position on a recall attempt that has qualified in the state. The respective boards of the four California ACLU entities voted to oppose the recall. This stance is in response to the recall petition’s text, which at its core is an attack on people’s civil rights and liberties, including immigrants’ rights, gender equity, racial justice and LGBTQ rights.

“You have to look no further than this recall petition to know that this is about thwarting civil rights and civil liberties in California,” said Abdi Soltani, executive director of the ACLU of Northern California. “The forces behind this recall would turn back the clock on hard-won advances that expand, not contract, rights.”

Recall proponents falsely claim that the governor’s response to COVID-19 is the impetus for their attempt to reverse the results of the 2018 election.

“The pandemic is only a smokescreen,” said Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California. “It’s the convenient hook that sponsors of this recall have latched onto. But there have been no less than five efforts to recall this governor, including one that was attempted just two months after he took office, long before the pandemic began.”

The ACLU’s position to oppose the recall is not a partisan action.

“In its 98 years in California, the ACLU has never endorsed or opposed a candidate during an election and is not doing so now,” said Norma Chávez-Peterson, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “The ACLU opposes this recall effort because it aims to reverse advances in immigrants’ rights, gender equity, racial justice, LGBTQ rights, criminal justice reform and students’ rights. With so much at stake, we will not be silent.”

The recall seeks to undermine public support for policies the ACLU has long fought for and most Californians support. These policies address several issues, including:

• Immigrants’ Rights: At risk are policies that have afforded people, regardless of status, the rights of due process, and the right to be safe and move freely in their communities, workplaces, hospitals, schools, and places of worship. The recall petition specifically attacks state laws that limit local collaboration with federal immigration agencies, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), that go to great lengths to tear apart families and even deport U.S. military veterans.

• Criminal Justice Reform: In the face of over-policing, mass incarceration and a justice system that weighs heavily against people of color, the ACLU and advocacy organizations across the state have fought to revise and/or repeal time-worn laws, hold law enforcement to greater scrutiny, prohibit new contracts for private, for-profit prisons, and end the death penalty. The recall petition specifically supports the death penalty, which the ACLU believes to be inherently in violation of the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

• Gender, Sexuality & Reproductive Justice: The recall petition cites a bogus notion that California is limiting parental rights and the campaign argument misleadingly calls California’s sex education requirement “controversial.” In fact, an overwhelming majority of California parents support the medically accurate, LGBTQ-inclusive sex education now taught in our public schools.

These issues have long been a priority for the ACLU’s California affiliates. The organization has fought hard to expand rights and address the repercussions of decades of non-inclusive, outdated and unjustly biased policies.

“We are united in urging California voters to say “NO” to our state sliding backward to a time when constitutional freedoms and other legal protections were in effect only for select groups within our richly diverse population,” says Connie Tcheng, board chair of ACLU California Action. “The ACLU’s California affiliates call upon our members and all Californians, to reject this ill-conceived recall.”