portrait of our executive director Claire Gastanaga, with shoulder length silver hair, round face, blue eyes, and wearing all black.


Executive Director

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Claire G. Gastañaga joined the ACLU of Virginia in June 2012, bringing with her decades of experience as an attorney, lobbyist, non-profit leader, and fundraiser. In 2016, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award during the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Major Awards Program sponsored by Fifth Street Baptist Church, Boaz & Ruth, and the Richmond Chapter of the Urban Financial Services Coalition. In 2015, Equality Virginia honored her as one of its Outstanding Virginians for her decades of advocacy work on behalf of the LGBT community.

Named in 2010 as one of the 50 Women of Influence in Virginia, Claire worked for the decade before joining the ACLU as a lobbyist for such organizations as Equality Virginia, the Virginia Coalition for Latino Organizations and the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. She also ran the campaign against Virginia’s so-called marriage amendment in 2006. She has been a key player in state government, serving as Chief of Staff and Special Counsel to the Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates and as the first woman Chief Deputy Attorney General of Virginia.

Claire has served on the boards of the National Association of Women Business Owners, the Richmond Gay Community Foundation, the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Virginia Foundation for Women, the Poe Museum, Chatham University (where she also served as interim president), the Girl Scouts of the Commonwealth Council, and the National Association of College and University Attorneys, which recognized her as one of its first two Fellows in Higher Education Law. She is a 2015 fellow of the Virginia Law Foundation and was the Richmond YWCA's Outstanding Woman in Law in 1996. She currently serves on the Virginia State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Claire appeared on Jeopardy! In November 1997, where she came in a distant third and won a beautiful Panasonic “Palmcorder” [sic] that must have weighed 15 pounds. She will never forget the answer that should have provoked this question: “What is wilted salad, Alex?”