Noted Alabama Civil Rights Lawyer To Join Staff of ACLU of Illinois

Affiliate: ACLU of Illinois
April 18, 2000 12:00 am

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CHICAGO — An Alabama civil rights lawyers who gained national prominence litigating a challenge to a state court judge posting the Ten Commandments in his courtroom will join the legal staff of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois this summer, officials announced today.

Pamela L. Sumners of Birmingham, Alabama is the new Director of the organization’s Gay and Lesbian Rights/AIDS and Civil Liberties Projects. She will begin her new duties in June.

“Pamela’s commitment, expertise and experience make her an outstanding person to direct the work of the Projects,” said ACLU of Illinois Legal Director Harvey Grossman.

“As a seasoned civil rights litigator, Pamela fought the forces of the religious right and dealt with the evils of class prejudice and bigotry,” he added. “She is well prepared to take on the mantle of protecting the lesbian and gay and HIV impacted communities in Illinois.”

The Gay and Lesbian Rights/AIDS and Civil Liberties Project supports extensive education, legislative and litigation efforts to protect and extend the rights of lesbians, gay men, transgender individuals and those affected by HIV and AIDS. The Director of the ACLU Projects works closely with other ACLU staff and volunteers and community advocates to advance these goals.

In her new post, Sumners will direct activities to advance the Project’s continuing priorities. This includes a legal challenge to government funding and support for activities of the Boy Scouts of America, whose discriminatory hiring practices (prohibiting the employment of gay men) has been challenged in the Supreme Court of the United States.

The Project also is working to secure passage of legislation in the Illinois General Assembly that would extend fundamental protections against discrimination in credit, housing and employment to all persons, regardless of their sexual orientation. That measure, House Bill 474, still is awaiting a vote in the Illinois House of Representatives.

Sumners joins the ACLU of Illinois from private practice in Birmingham. Her practice is devoted primarily to constitutional and employment litigation. In addition to the case against the judge who posted the Ten Commandments, Sumners raised a challenge to Alabama’s statute allowing prayer in public school and sued to protect the religious rights of the only four Jewish students in a rural school system. She began her legal career as a staff attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center, assisting Center Director Morris Dees.

Sumners is a graduate of Stephens College and earned an M.A. in Political Science from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. She graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law, where she served as a member of the Editorial Board to the Virginia Law Review.

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