ACLU California Action Names Carlos Marquez as First Executive Director

SACRAMENTO – Today, the American Civil Liberties Union affiliates in California formally launched ACLU California Action and named Carlos Marquez as its inaugural Executive Director. ACLU California Action is 501(c)(4) organization jointly formed by the ACLU affiliates in California. The organization is charged with promoting policy change in the Capitol that equitably advances civil liberties and civil rights in California and fosters systemic equity.

“Carlos is a proven leader whose political acumen has been honed by 15 years of cross-sectional movement building alongside the very communities we fight for every day, including his work in organized labor, service as a redistricting commissioner, leadership in the LGBTQ+ community, and tireless advocacy on behalf of education equity,” said ACLU California Action Board Chair Connie Y. Tcheng. “We are proud to welcome Carlos to the ACLU community and look forward to his leadership as we enter this new and dynamic era of statewide advocacy.” 

“The opportunity to lead ACLU California Action as its inaugural Executive Director is as humbling a challenge as it is energizing,” said Carlos Marquez. “My life’s work has been animated by an abiding belief that this experiment we call democracy can only endure when those on the margins can access its full promise.  I grew up on public assistance and directly witnessed the downstream consequences of mass incarceration on families and communities impacted by poverty and targeted policing. My personal experience informs my belief that in California, we still have work to do to fulfill that promise and I’m ready to get to work.”

The ACLU in California is organized around three affiliate entities that work in different regions of the state: ACLU of Northern California, ACLU of Southern California, and the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. ACLU California Action builds upon years of legislative success within the joint legislative office created in the mid-1960s. The strategic work of this office focused on growing the ACLU’s policy impact in the Legislature and with the Executive branch, engaging voters, and deepening relationships with other politically engaged organizations in the process.

“Carlos brings the critical experience, record, and vision for bold systemic change to build upon the incredible work that our talented statewide advocacy team is doing to advance equity, justice, and civil liberties in California,” said the executive directors of the California ACLU affiliates Abdi Soltani (Northern California), Hector Villagra (Southern California) and Norma Chávez-Peterson (San Diego & Imperial Counties). “ACLU California Action continues our proud history of advancing policy change that challenges the status quo and protects civil rights and civil liberties for all.”

Growing up in the Central Valley, Marquez experienced the criminal legal system firsthand as family members who were incarcerated struggled with mental health issues and substance abuse after serving their time. This set him on a path to advocate for others. He started his legislative career as an intern at ACLU National’s Legislative Office in Washington D.C. while a student at San Diego State University. Marquez has worked in a variety of capacities advancing the missions and goals of advocacy organizations that include United Way Worldwide, Service Employees International Union, and the LGBTQ Victory Fund and Institute. He also served as Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for the California Charter Schools Association before founding CM3 Advocacy, a government and political affairs consultancy based in Sacramento.

ACLU California Action’s mission is to protect civil liberties and civil rights, advance equity, justice, and freedom, and dismantle systems rooted in oppression and discrimination. The organization uses rigorous policy analysis, advocacy, and strategic communications to achieve policy change on a statewide level. ACLU California Action advances this work through partnerships with organizations that have members directly impacted by policy decisions in Sacramento. Beyond legislation, the organization aims to build enhanced political power and influence for the ACLU and our collective movements statewide.