Executive director of the ACLU of Texas since January of 2008, Terri Burke has led the organization through a strategic focus on LGBT equality, criminal law reform, religious liberty, immigrants’ rights and reproductive rights. Under her leadership, the organization relocated its headquarters to Houston, expanded its statewide reach by opening four satellite offices in Dallas, Brownsville, Austin, and El Paso, increased its staff from 8 to more than 30, and increased ACLU of Texas membership rolls fivefold.
Through her commitment to challenge the central threats to civil liberties in the Lone Star State, the ACLU of Texas has brought its growing strength to bear on the most pressing issues facing Texans, on both the statewide and local levels. During Ms. Burke’s tenure, the organization brought lawsuits against federal immigration agencies to curb excessive force and family detention; expanded awareness and implementation of LGBT equality through active support of local non-discrimination ordinances and campaigns like Houston Unites; diminished the school-to-prison pipeline through advocacy with local school boards in Houston, Dallas, and Austin; built and reinforced statewide coalitions to expand the organization’s reach even further; and raised awareness of private prison abuse, solitary confinement and criminal justice abuses through the publication of widely cited reports.
With Ms. Burke at the helm, the ACLU of Texas has also dramatically enhanced its influence and effectiveness at the Texas legislature. For example, since the 2009 session, the organization has been a leader in a steady march toward criminal justice reform that has reduced prison populations and changed the way youth and women are treated in the criminal justice system. During the 84th session (2015), the organization successfully defeated more than 20 proposed pieces of anti-LGBT legislation.
Prior to joining the ACLU of Texas, Burke had a 32-year career as a journalist, first as a reporter at Texas newspapers and later as a political and investigative reporter at the Hartford Courant. Her career included stints as a senior editor at The Dallas Morning News, the Austin American-Statesman and Albuquerque Tribune before becoming editor in chief of the Abilene Reporter-News in Texas.