Organizations That Protect Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Historical photo of workers inside the NAACP's Crisis Magazine office
Early NAACP office.

Corbis / Getty Images

These prominent nonprofit groups work for various civil liberties related causes, ranging from free speech to the rights of the elderly.

American Association of People with Disabilities

In 1995, over 500 disabled Americans assembled in Washington, D.C. to create a new nonprofit organization—the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). The AAPD works for the rights of the disabled and supports enforcement of existing legislation, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.


Since 1958, AARP has lobbied for the rights of aging Americans—both those who are retired and those who still serve in the workforce. Once known as the American Association for Retired Persons, the AARP's mission covers more than just those who are retired and the full name is no longer used. With over 35 million members, the AARP is one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the country.

American Civil Liberties Union

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was founded in 1920 to respond to repressive government measures taken in the wake of World War I. The ACLU has been the leading civil liberties organization for more than 80 years.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Originally founded in 1947 as Protestants United for Separation of Church and State, Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) now represents a coalition of religious and nonreligious Americans. The organization works to ensure that the government continues to respect the First Amendment's establishment clause.

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Founded in 1990, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) works specifically to ensure that civil liberties continue to be protected in the digital age. The EFF is particularly concerned with First Amendment free speech issues and is best known for organizing the "blue ribbon campaign" in response to the Communications Decency Act of 1995 (later declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court).

NARAL Pro-Choice America

The organization now known as NARAL Pro-Choice America was originally founded in 1969 as the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws. NARAL dropped its old name in the wake of the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade ruling of 1973, that repealed abortion laws. It is now a prominent lobbying group working to preserve a woman's right to choose, as well as to support other planned parenthood options, such as access to birth control pills and emergency contraception.

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), founded in 1909, advocates for the rights of African Americans and other racial minority groups. It was the NAACP that brought Brown v. Board of Education, the case that ended state-mandated public school segregation in the United States, to the U.S. Supreme Court.

National Council of La Raza

Founded in 1968, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) defends Hispanic Americans against discrimination, supports anti-poverty initiatives, and works for humane immigration reform. Although the phrase "La Raza" (or "the race") is often used specifically to refer to those of Mexican ancestry, the NCLR is an advocacy group for all Americans of Latina/o ancestry.

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Founded in 1973, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is the nation's oldest support and advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans. In addition to supporting legislation granting equal protection to same-sex couples, the Task Force has recently begun a Transgender Civil Rights Project aimed at ending discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

National Organization for Women

With over 500,000 members, the National Organization for Women (NOW) is generally regarded as the political voice of the women's liberation movement. Founded in 1966, it works to end discrimination based on gender, protect a woman's right to bodily autonomy and promote the overall status of women in the United States.

National Rifle Association

With 4.3 million members, the National Rifle Association (NRA) is the nation's oldest and most influential gun rights organization. It promotes gun ownership and gun safety and supports an interpretation of the Second Amendment that affirms an individual right to bear arms.