Deborah Richardson

Deborah Richardson will become the executive director of the ACLU of Colorado starting March 1, 2021.

Deborah Richardson is coming to Colorado to fight anybody in her new role as the executive director of the ACLU of Colorado.

"I view it from the standpoint of what are we going to be fighting for versus fighting against," she said.

With President Biden on the side of human rights — evidenced, in Richardson's view, by allowing transgender people to again serve in the military — the ACLU has an opportunity for "forward looking" policies on civil liberties and human rights, she said.

"Now we have the political power and an environment to get it done," Richardson said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon.

The Atlanta native will join the American Civil Liberties Union office in Denver on March 1. 

Richardson succeeds Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister who stepped down last year to return to the ministry.

Richardson is the former executive director of the International Human Trafficking Institute of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, where she was formerly its executive vice president. 

She has worked for three decades for global, national and local causes that support non-dominant identity groups, and she's a nationally recognized expert in justice for women and their families.

She also has been the CEO of The Atlanta Women’s Foundation and chief program officer of the Women’s Funding Network.

“We are confident that Deborah’s visionary leadership style, history of consensus building, commitment to social justice, and lived and professional experiences fighting for civil and human rights will be a powerful combination as our organization navigates this critical juncture in our nation's history,” said Dr. Maurice “Scotty” Scott, chair of the ACLU of Colorado Board of Directors. "She has displayed international leadership on issues of gender and racial equity, and we look forward to her serving as a catalyst for even more transformational change from the ACLU of Colorado."

Richardson called her hometown, Atlanta, a think tank of the American Civil Rights Movement. Her parents and every adult she knew as a child was engaged in the struggle. When she was 14, Richardson was among a group of students who integrated Atlanta Public Schools.

"My activism continued throughout college and my career,” Richardson added.

Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley C. Franklin, who chairs the National Center for Civil and Human Rights board, provided a statement of endorsement.

“Deborah has the unique skills of a visionary leader who builds consensus and also implements a plan and achieves its goals. She is a well-respected leader and mentor,” stated Franklin, who led the city from 2002 to 2010. “Her commitment to social justice is demonstrated in her work and in her life.”

Richardson told Colorado Politics on Tuesday that Colorado has one of the strongest ACLU chapters in the country, but says victories don't always stay won, such as transgender rights driven by partisan executive orders.

She cited LGBTQ rights, the homeless, immigrants and the living wage among the issues worth fighting for.

"I think the pie is big enough for everybody and nobody has to lose anything," Richardson said. "It's just about sharing."

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