A Brief Section History

Created in 1966 during the height of the civil rights movement, the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice (formerly the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities) is the only membership entity within the ABA dedicated solely to civil rights, civil liberties, and human rights issues. Through education and advocacy, the Section expresses the profession's commitment to achieving through the legal system, the American ideals of justice, freedom, and equality for all. Since its founding, the Section has continued to fulfill its original purpose by raising and addressing the often complex and difficult civil rights and civil liberties issues that arise in a changing and diverse society. In so doing, we ensure that protection of civil rights remains a focus of legal and policy decisions.

As described in "Advancing the Law, Protecting the Individual, Defending Human Dignity," a Section history published in 1999, a large part of the Section's work centers on ABA policy development and implementation.

Over the last 53 years, the Section has sponsored or co-sponsored hundreds of resolutions adopted by the ABA House of Delegates that address a broad range of civil rights, civil liberties, and human rights concerns.

In the past eleven years, the Section has sponsored resolutions opposing "child exclusions" in welfare legislation; opposing efforts to restrict the religious liberty and free speech provisions of the First Amendment; and endorsing legal remedies and voluntary actions ("affirmative action") that take into account race, national origin, or gender to eliminate or prevent discrimination. It also has supported policies concerning educational rights of the disabled, gay and lesbian adoption and custody rights, racial disparities in drug offense sentences, gender equity in social security benefits programs, and long-term care for persons with AIDS and other serious illnesses.