Anthony D. Romero
ACLU Executive Director
Anthony D. Romero is the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, the nation's premier defender of liberty and individual freedom. He took the helm of the organization just seven days before the September 11, 2001 attacks. Shortly afterward, the ACLU launched its national "Keep America Safe and Free" campaign to protect basic freedoms during a time of crisis, achieving court victories on the Patriot Act, uncovering thousands of pages of documents detailing the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. custody, and filing the first successful legal challenge to the Bush administration's illegal NSA spying program. Romero also led the ACLU in establishing the John Adams Project, a joint effort with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to assist the under-resourced military defense lawyers in the Guantánamo military commissions.
Romero has also led the ACLU in its unique legal challenge to the patents held by a private company on the human genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer; in its landmark lawsuit challenging Arizona’s anti-immigrant law that invites law enforcement to engage in racial profiling; in its high-profile litigation and lobbying efforts to win the freedom to marry for same-sex couples; and in its nationwide Campaign for Smart Justice, which aims to achieve a 50 percent reduction in the number of Americans behind bars.
An attorney with a history of public-interest activism, Romero has presided over the most successful membership growth in the ACLU's history and a large increase in national and affiliate staff. This extraordinary growth has allowed the ACLU to expand its nationwide litigation, lobbying, and public education efforts, including new initiatives focused on human rights, racial justice, religious freedom, technology and privacy, reproductive freedom, criminal law reform, and LGBT rights. In 2010, the ACLU completed the largest fundraising campaign on behalf of civil rights and civil liberties in American history. “Leading Freedom Forward: The ACLU Campaign for the Future,” along with the ongoing Strategic Affiliate Initiative, launched an unprecedented effort to build the organization's infrastructure by increasing funding to key state affiliates, enhancing advocacy capabilities nationwide, and securing the ACLU's financial future.
Romero is the ACLU's sixth executive director, and the first Latino and openly gay man to serve in that capacity. In 2005, Romero was named one of Time Magazine's "25 Most Influential Hispanics in America," and has received dozens of public service awards and an honorary doctorate from the City University of New York School of Law.
In 2007, Romero and co-author and NPR correspondent Dina Temple-Raston published “In Defense of Our America: The Fight for Civil Liberties in the Age of Terror,” a book that takes a critical look at civil liberties in this country at a time when constitutional freedoms are in peril.
Born in New York City to parents who hailed from Puerto Rico, Romero was the first in his family to graduate from high school. He is a graduate of Stanford University Law School and Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy and International Affairs. He is a member of the New York Bar Association and has sat on numerous nonprofit boards.