University News

WNE Center for Social Justice will Present Director of ACLU's Women's Rights Project Ria Tabacco Mar

Published: November 05, 2021 | Categories: All News, Law
Gervino-Ward speaker: Ria Tabacco Mar

The Western New England University School of Law's Center for Social Justice and Springfield Public Forum will present an interview with Ria Tabacco Mar Director of ACLU's Women's Rights Project on Tuesday, November 16, 2021 from 12:30-1:30 p.m. EST as part of the Center for Social Justice's Gervino-Ward LGBTQ+ Speaker Series which provides a venue for conversations about legal issues significant to the LGBTQ+ community. The virtual event is free and open to the public. Pre-registration for this event is required at

Ria Tabacco Mar is the Director of the ACLU's Women's Rights Project, where she oversees the ACLU's women's rights litigation. Previously, she was a senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & HIV Project, where she fought gender stereotypes, sex segregation, and attempts to use religion to discriminate in schools, at work, and in public places.

Ria will be joined by WNE School of Law Professor Jennifer Levi, director of GLAD's Transgender Rights Project, who will moderate a Q&A style event.

"We are incredibly lucky to welcome Ria Tabacco Mar as the Center's Gervino-Ward LGBTQ+ Speaker this year," says Center Director, Ariel Clemmer. "She is a passionate advocate for change working on today's cutting-edge social justice issues."

Ria was part of the ACLU's litigation team representing Aimee Stephens and Don Zarda, whose cases were decided as part of the recent Supreme Court ruling recognizing that federal employment law protections apply to LGBTQ people. She also led the ACLU's team in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the case in which a same-sex couple was refused a wedding cake because they are gay.

Ria is a frequent commentator on gender justice issues, appearing on television programs including All In with Chris Hayes, PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton, and PBS's Firing Line with Margaret Hoover, and has authored opinion pieces for the New York Times, Washington Post, and other outlets.

Ria has been recognized on The Root 100, an annual list of the most influential African Americans ages 25 to 45, and as one of the Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40 by the National LGBT Bar Association. Ria graduated from New York University School of Law and Harvard College.

The Gervino-Ward LGBTQ+ Speaker Series provides a venue for conversations about legal issues important to the LGBTQ+ community by bringing prominent leaders, speakers, and advocates to engage with the Western New England University School of Law Community. The mission of this series is to draw awareness to emerging trends in LGBTQ+ law and continuing social justice concerns that might affect LGBTQ+ clients or practitioners. Lectures will be held during the lunch hour and are open to students, alumni, the University community, and the general public.

This series is made possible by a generous donation from WNE Law School alumna Elena Gervino L'88, her wife Kathleen Ward, and their two daughters.

For more information, contact Ariel Clemmer at

Launched in 2019, the University's Centennial year, the Center for Social Justice is designed to strengthen collaborative efforts between the School of Law and the region to work toward a more just, equitable, and inclusive society in its next century of service. The Center provides a centralized hub of activity and innovation for the School of Law's justice-related teaching, scholarship, and service. It also broadens social justice academic offerings, helps students aspiring to be social justice lawyers achieve their goals, imbues a culture of pro bono volunteerism in students, faculty and other legal professionals, manages in-house pro bono projects, and works closely with community organizations and partners to identify and address unmet needs that require a multi-dimensional response cutting across law and other fields. For more information visit the Western New England University Center for Social Justice website.

The Springfield Public Forum is one of the nation's oldest free public speaker series. Established in 1935, the Forum is an independent, non-partisan and non-profit entity. The Springfield Public Forum's goal is to illuminate the key issues facing our society by bringing thought-provoking speakers to the Springfield community and providing a platform for discussion.