What could bring together the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and one of Virginia’s most conservative state representatives? The specter of drones filling the skies of the United States. In a joint statement released July 17 by Virginia Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) and the Virginia Chapter of the ACLU, the seemingly disparate pair announced plans to work to fight the unregulated use of drones by law enforcement in the Old Dominion. He stated,
Both the ACLU and I believe, as do many Virginians across the political spectrum, that the use of drones by police and other government agencies should be strictly controlled by state laws that protect the privacy and civil rights of all Virginia residents. I will be introducing legislation in the 2013 General Assembly Session to i) prohibit the use of drones by law enforcement unless a warrant has been issued; ii) require that policies and procedures for the use of drones be adopted by legislative bodies in open meetings; iii) provide for public monitoring and accountability; and iv) mandate that pictures of individuals acquired by drones be destroyed unless they are part of an authorized investigation.
Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the Virginia ACLU, echoed Delegate Gilbert’s remarks:
Delegate Gilbert is right to be concerned about the possibility that, without new laws, this new and increasingly inexpensive technology will be used in a manner that will violate the fundamental right to be free from unreasonable searches and will have a chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of Virginians to assemble peaceably and speak freely. We are proud to be working with Delegate Gilbert to build a coalition in favor of the legislation he will introduce — a coalition that will bring together diverse voices from across the Commonwealth.
Despite their cooperation on this issue, Gilbert and the Virginia ACLU have been foes in previous matters. For example, Delegate Gilbert recently sponsored a bill that would permit state-assisted private adoption agencies to reject prospective parents if the agency objected to the couple’s religion or sexual orientation. Gilbert described the measure as a “conscience clause,” while the ACLU countered that it was state-sponsored anti-homosexual discrimination. The bill is now the law in Virginia.
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Photo of Virginia Delegate Todd Gilbert: AP Images