Blog of Rights

Deborah J.
Vagins

Deborah Vagins is senior legislative counsel at the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. She leads the Washington Legislative Office’s civil rights advocacy efforts and develops pro-active strategies on pending federal legislation and executive branch actions concerning racial justice, education, employment discrimination, voting rights, and disability rights. Vagins has been instrumental in advocating for major civil rights legislation, including the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 and the 2006 Voting Rights Act reauthorization, among others..

 

Before joining the ACLU in 2005, Vagins served as the acting deputy general counsel and senior attorney-advisor to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Prior to that, Vagins was an associate at Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, where she litigated high-profile nationwide civil rights class actions. She represented more than 1.5 million women from Wal-Mart in the largest Title VII employment discrimination class action in history. She was also an associate at Sidley & Austin in the civil, criminal and constitutional litigation practice group and founded the firm’s Committee for the Recruitment and Retention of Women. Earlier Vagins worked at EMILY’s List and clerked at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. Vagins graduated magna cum laude from the Washington College of Law at American University. She received her B.A. with distinction from Swarthmore College.

 


 

The author with Representative John Lewis

The Time for Waiting is Gone

By Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 3:56pm
Recently, I had a meeting with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.).  I was bringing some youth leaders to his office to discuss racial justice and education.  When we arrived, he starting telling us his story.  We were in awe.  It was a history lesson from the source itself.  He talked about the events on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and showed us photos of his own beating, one of the most infamous attacks by police in history. On March 7, 1965 voting rights supporters, led by John Lewis and others, attempted a march from Selma, Ala. to the state capitol in Montgomery to present then-Governor George Wallace with a list of grievances, demanding the fundamental right to vote for all.
"Our Journey is Not Complete" – Equal Pay Requires Passage of Paycheck Fairness Act

"Our Journey is Not Complete" – Equal Pay Requires Passage of Paycheck Fairness Act

By Cynthia Bell, ACLU & Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 10:31am

In the 50 years since President John Kennedy signed into law the Equal Pay Act of 1963, wages for women still do not equal those of men...

The Equal Pay Act: You've Come a Long Way, Baby (But Not All the Way)

The Equal Pay Act: You've Come a Long Way, Baby (But Not All the Way)

By Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU Washington Legislative Office & Georgeanne M. Usova, Washington Legislative Office at 10:43am

In 1963, we could have only dreamed of a woman with a realistic shot at the White House, or a female Speaker of the House or Secretary of State. There were no women heading Fortune 500 companies, jetting into space, or sitting on the Supreme Court.…

Fundamental Injustice: Voter Suppression Threatens Democracy

Fundamental Injustice: Voter Suppression Threatens Democracy

By Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU Washington Legislative Office & Georgeanne M. Usova, Washington Legislative Office at 2:28pm

Sen. Dick Durbin calls the recent rash of state voter suppression efforts, "a threat to our democracy." Yesterday he held a hearing on this disturbing trend at which the ACLU submitted a statement for the record.

In recent months,…

Lilly Ledbetter: Celebrating a Champion Still Fighting for Us

Lilly Ledbetter: Celebrating a Champion Still Fighting for Us

By Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 11:07am

Five years ago today, I was honored to stand with Lilly Ledbetter at the White House as President Obama made the legislation bearing her name his first major bill signed into law.

As I said back in 2009:

With…

Fifty Years Later, Fulfilling the Promise of Equal Pay

Fifty Years Later, Fulfilling the Promise of Equal Pay

By Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 10:33am

My mom graduated from a prestigious, small women's college in the 1950s with dreams of graduate school...

On the First Anniversary of Wal-Mart v. Dukes:  Stand Up or Be Trampled

On the First Anniversary of Wal-Mart v. Dukes: Stand Up or Be Trampled

By Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 10:27am
Image above: Betty Dukes with Senator Al Franken. The author, Deborah Vagins, to the immediate right, joined by coalition partners.

Over a decade ago, I had the great honor to be part of a team representing Betty Dukes, an employee at Wal-Mart who…

Keeping Ohio’s Souls at the Polls: Sen. Durbin Holds Field Hearing on Ohio Voting Law

Keeping Ohio’s Souls at the Polls: Sen. Durbin Holds Field Hearing on Ohio Voting Law

By Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU Washington Legislative Office & Mike Brickner, ACLU of Ohio at 11:30am

On Monday, May 7, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights will hold a field hearing in Cleveland, Ohio to examine the impact of Ohio’s new voting law, HB 194.

Counting On Us: Release of New Civil Rights Data Is the First Step in Helping Our Kids

Counting On Us: Release of New Civil Rights Data Is the First Step in Helping Our Kids

By Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 5:21pm

Every day, students in public schools across the country are facing harsh disciplinary measures that may have dire consequences for the rest of their lives.

That was confirmed this week when the Department of Education released Part Two…

So You Think You Can Vote?

So You Think You Can Vote?

By Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU Washington Legislative Office & Georgeanne M. Usova, Washington Legislative Office at 10:35am

This Election Day, we are faced with a dramatic rollback of the right to vote.

Statistics image