ACLU-Virginia’s Gastañaga announces retirement
Executive director plans to leave by March 31
Claire Gastañaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, announced her retirement Monday. She will remain in her position until March 31 or as soon as a successor is found, the organization said in a news release.
Hired in 2012, Gastañaga has overseen major growth of the organization, which increased from 8,500 to 28,000 members and more than 200,000 supporters. ACLU-Virginia litigated the nation’s only same-sex marriage case that was certified as a class action suit, and for the past five years, it has represented Gavin Grimm, a Gloucester County transgender man who was not allowed to use the men’s restroom at his high school. Grimm, 20, graduated in 2017.
After five years, the case is still in litigation, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled in Grimm’s favor in late August against the Gloucester County School Board, deciding that its restroom policies violate Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education.
In an Oct. 20 letter to Stephen M. Levinson, president of the ACLU of Virginia’s board of directors, Gastañaga wrote that she began considering stepping down last year and that the September death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg “accelerated my thinking, in significant part because I am only 15 years younger than she was at her death,” at age 86.
Gastañaga continued that she is “ready to make room for new leadership to step in and step up now because the ACLU of Virginia is very well positioned to meet any challenges ahead, whatever they are. … I will not be leaving the work, just the workplace and the position of power I am holding.” She added that she plans to continue being active in Virginia politics, including the 2021 statewide races.
“Because of Claire’s enhancement of this organization in so many ways, we have been at the forefront of the most important Constitutional battles of our time, defending our Bill of Rights, combating racism, and seeking equal justice under law,” Levinson said in a statement. “In my view, and I know in the view of the entire board, no one else could have done this job better than Claire has.”
The organization has begun a nationwide search for its new executive director.