As the turbulent sixties got underway, the ACLU of Southern California heartily endorsed the across-the-board demand for civil rights. In 1963 we entered the long and difficult battle to desegregate Los Angeles schools. After the Watts riot, we enlisted a vast cadre of volunteer attorneys to ensure that every person arrested — almost 4,000 — was represented by counsel. We did the same after the mass arrests of student demonstrators at California State Northridge and of antiwar demonstrators at the Century Plaza.
We fought the efforts of punitive draft boards to reclassify registers who exercised their rights of free speech to protest the war, and convinced the courts that it was a lawless exercise of power. We raised the issue of the very constitutionality of the draft and the war itself.
In the seventies, the ACLU of Southern California continued to fight against government surveillance and secrecy and the suppression of lawful political dissent, and was one of the first organizations in the country to call for Nixon's impeachment. We extended our advocacy of civil rights to reproductive rights, convincing the Supreme Court of California— the first court in the land — to strike down a statute preventing a woman, with the advice of her doctor, from having an abortion.
We fought for women's rights, and continued to fight for the rights of ethnic and racial minorities to live free from discrimination. We fought against the Briggs amendment criminalizing homosexuality, for trial rights and voting rights and the rights of Native Americans to practice freedom of religion.