Editor's Note: Sarah Gillooly was hired to run Americans United's State Outreach and Engagement Department (the new name for AU's former Field Department) in February. In this interview, Gillooly discusses plans for enhancing Americans United's grassroots presence.
Q. Tell us a little about your background.
Gillooly: I grew up outside of Jacksonville, Fla., in a big Irish-Catholic military family. I loved growing up in the South--grappling with our country's history and legacy of racism from a very early age was incredibly formative. I've been a bit of a traveler most of my adult life--college in Atlanta, graduate school in Chicago, an incredible seven years in Kansas City, a short stint in D.C. and most recently, my wife and I made our home in Raleigh. We'll miss North Carolina, but we are thrilled to be back in D.C.
Professionally, I've spent the last 15 years working in policy, politics and organizing. I started my professional career as a community health worker in Kansas City and later as an organizer for LGBTQ equality. Over 10 years with Planned Parenthood, I worked at both the state and national level as a community health worker, organizer, lobbyist and national policy strategist. In addition to my passion for women's health, what I loved about my time at Planned Parenthood was serving in both a state-based affiliate and the national office. It gave me tremendous perspective to work on the ground and in D.C.--there are so many ways we can bridge the divides between "the field" and "the Beltway."
Most recently, before joining AU, I served as the director of political strategy & advocacy at the ACLU of North Carolina, where I oversaw the organization's political, organizing and legislative agendas in the state. In that role, I lobbied in the North Carolina General Assembly on a broad range of civil rights and liberties issues including LGBTQ equality, reproductive freedom and the First Amendment and built integrated advocacy campaigns in the areas of immigrant rights and criminal justice reform.
Q. What made you want to take this position with Americans United?
Gillooly: There are a couple of reasons I was excited to join AU! First, these issues are personal to me. As religion is increasingly being used to discriminate--against women, LGBTQ people and religious and nonreligious minorities, I worry about my family, about my marriage, my access to lifesaving health care and the wellbeing of my community.
Ultimately, the values behind...