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Virginia ACLU names Gastanaga executive director

Tuesday - 3/27/2012, 12:14pm  ET

RICHMOND, Va. - The ACLU of Virginia's nationwide search for a new executive director ended in its own back yard.

The organization announced Tuesday that Claire Guthrie Gastanaga of Richmond, who has spent the last decade as an advocate for immigrants, gay rights and other causes, will succeed Kent Willis in June. Willis announced last week that he is leaving after 25 years with the ACLU.

Gastanaga has worked in recent years as a lobbyist for Equality Virginia, the Virginia Coalition for Latino Organizations and the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Alliance. Before that, she was chief of staff to the speaker of the House of Delegates and was Virginia's first female chief deputy attorney general.

"Claire brings to the ACLU a huge network of people throughout Virginia who share our commitment to equality and civil liberties," said Jayne Barnard, president of the ACLU of Virginia board of directors. "What's more, her talents are endless _ she's been a lawyer, lobbyist, administrator, writer and fundraiser."

Gastanaga praised Willis and his associates for "a remarkable record of securing and protecting the civil liberties of all Virginians" over the last quarter-century.

"I look forward to building on that foundation and ensuring that the ACLU of Virginia is positioned to carry on its important work for as long as needed," she said.

A 1974 graduate of the University of Virginia Law School, Gastanaga has argued cases in the U.S. Supreme Court and the Virginia Supreme Court. She was the Richmond YWCA's Outstanding Woman in Law in 1996.

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