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Local advocate named head of state ACLU

A Charlottesville civil rights advocate who has worked with a variety of local, state and national organizations will take over the helm of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, organization officials announced Wednesday.

Mary Bauer, the current chair of the Charlottesville Human Rights Commission, will replace Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, who served for nine years as the state ACLU’s executive director. Gastañaga announced her retirement in October.

Bauer is scheduled to start June 1.

“I’ve known Mary professionally through her work in Virginia and nationally over many years,” said Gastañaga. “I’m confident that she will be a strong leader for today and the future as the ACLU of Virginia continues to grow its capacity, influence and power.”

“Mary is an experienced executive director and has served in multiple roles during her career, including legal director, advocacy director and professor. She has deep roots in the commonwealth that will serve us well,” said Stephen M. Levinson, president of the ACLU of Virginia’s board of directors.

Bauer called the state ACLU “a bulwark against oppression and tyranny” and said she was honored to be chosen.

“The work the ACLU of Virginia does is vitally important for the commonwealth we call home,” Bauer said in a statement. “While the legislature may have changed and some reforms have become possible that once felt impossible, Virginia was built on a foundation of white supremacy that must be dismantled.”

Bauer is a University of Virginia School of Law graduate who has long worked on behalf of minorities and civil rights. She most recently served as the legal director at Muslim Advocates and has served as general counsel to Centro de los Derechos del Migrante Inc. in support of migrant workers’ rights.

She also was legal director of the state ACLU, deputy legal director of the Immigrant Justice Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center and executive director of the local Legal Aid Justice Center.


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