Formed in 1967 as a state-level-equivalent affiliate of the social-liberal group American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia (ACLU-DC) provides legal aid in cases dealing with the 1st Amendment, race, sex, and other beliefs. In the past two decades, ACLU-DC has filed lawsuits against the D.C. Council, D.C. police, D.C. Department of Corrections, and other entities over alleged misconduct, mistreatment, discrimination, lack of access, and ability to procure necessary services.
ACLU-DC conducts advocacy on a number of policy issues affecting the District of Columbia, typically from a left-progressive perspective.
In May of 2019, ACLU-DC opposed a restriction on the use of medical marijuana by DC Government employees. ACLU-DC, argued that DC law stipulated that employers must accommodate individuals in the city with disabilities and their use of medical marijuana. The D.C. government directed city employees to find alternative treatments for the medical condition without the use of medical marijuana. The city also informed its employees that the use of medical marijuana is not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act because cannabis is listed as a controlled substance by the federal government. 
Metropolitan Police Department
In May of 2018, ACLU-DC, Stop Police Terror Project D.C., and Black Lives Matter D.C. sued Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) over alleged non-compliance with the NEAR Act, a law enacted by the D.C. Government in 2016.  The NEAR Act requires the DC police to collect racial data on every “stop-and-frisk” interaction with the public. Despite the criticism of the DC police, Police Chief Peter Newsham said that his department would follow the NEAR Act despite a lawsuit or court-ordered action. 
In June of 2019, The Superior Court of the District of Columbia ordered the police to comply with the NEAR Act.  In September of 2019, DC police released data on stop-and-frisk incidents in the District of Columbia. 
In 2003, the DC police secured a federal grant to purchase cellphone surveillance devices known as “Stingrays.”  In June of 2019, ACLU-DC showcased the Stingray use in its Community Oversight of Surveillance program. ACLU-DC highlighted D.C. police use of Stingrays, automatic license plate readers, and facial-recognition technology. ACLU-DC also presented “model-legislation” to counter the use of surveillance technologies like Stingrays. 
Decriminalizing Fare Evasion
In 2019, the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) estimated that fare evaders would cost the system $36 million. That same year, ACLU-DC supported a proposal that decriminalizes fare-evasion.  In 2018, the DC Council voted to change fare-evasion on WMATA metros from a criminal citation to a civil citation of only $50. 
In January of 2019, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) vetoed the fare-evasion decriminalization bill.. Later, the D.C. City Council overrode Mayor Bowser’s veto to implement the decriminalization of fare-evasion on the Metro system. 
District of Columbia Statehood
In August of 2019, ACLU-DC resolved that H.R. 51, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act that would make the inhabited areas of the nation’s capital a state of the Union without a constitutional amendment, before the U.S. Congress, was “constitutionally permissible (and) a valid and defensible exercise of congressional authority.” H.R. 51 would provide the District of Columbia with a process to become a state, awarding one elected representative to Congress and two senators to the district. 
Opposition to Sex Offender Registration
In 1999, the District of Columbia passed a law requiring the online disclosure of sex offenders in the city. ACLU-DC opposed the criteria the registry used to list persons online and that the scope of the disclosure for sex offenders was too broad. The website which provided the offender’s name, home address, work address, and a photograph was used to track the activity of offenders. ACLU-DC filed two lawsuits against the new law by stating that those on the registry would suffer harm from their information becoming public. 
In 2014, Dennis Sobin, a convicted sex offender and pornographer, protested a requirement by the District’s Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) to register as a sex offender. Mr. Sobin created a website to display pictures of civil servants and policy officials at CSOSA required to track his whereabouts. 
ACLU-DC supported Sobin’s actions by filing an amicus brief on his behalf in support of his right to publish the information. The D.C. Superior Court later found that Sobin could post photos of court employees to protest the District of Columbia’s sex offender registry. 
Revolutionary Communist Party Case
In September of 2019, Gregory Lee “Joey” Johnson, a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, was charged with felony assault on two police officers when they said they were doused with an accelerant from a burning flag. Johnson burned two American flags outside of the White House in support of “a world without America.” The two officers were hospitalized, but after pressure from ACLU-DC, DC Attorney General Karl Racine (D) decided to not press charges against Mr. Johnson. Arthur B. Spitzer, co-legal director for ACLU-DC, wrote in a letter to Racine that, “as far as we can tell, there is no federal or District of Columbia criminal law that makes it an offense to burn something on Pennsylvania Avenue during daylight hours.” 
In November 2019, the Supreme Court considered a freedom of expression case between climate scientist Michael Mann and the conservative ideological magazine National Review. Writers at National Review had accused Mann of making errors to support a narrative of escalating global temperatures revealed by the “climate-gate” email leaks scandal of 2011; Mann sued the magazine for defamation in 2012. ACLU-DC came to the defense of National Review when the Supreme Court considered the case in 2019: “society can’t progress unless people are free to express and consider heretical ideas.” 
Sexual and Gender Politics
In November of 2019, ACLU-DC supported a bill to legalize prostitution in the District of Columbia. The bill would remove criminal penalties for prostitution and was supported by the National Center for Transgender Equality, Black Lives Matter, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. 
In 2016, a transgender individual was allegedly denied access to an Airbnb housing accommodation when she informed an Airbnb host that she was transgender. After the incident, ACLU-DC worked with Airbnb to launch an internal review of their practices. 
In 2017, ACLU-DC and the DC police settled a lawsuit over treatment of a transgender individual after Lourdes Ashley Hunter alleged that D.C. police illegally entered her home and arrested her without a proper warrant.