Chris Ott became executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin in 2017.
Previously, he served for 10 years as communications director for the ACLU of Massachusetts, where he worked on issues including open government, protecting the rights of immigrants, challenging government spying on ordinary people, racial bias in policing, and fighting racial and religious profiling in the aftermath of the attack on the Boston Marathon.
Before joining the staff of the ACLU, he worked for four years as the first executive director of Fair Wisconsin, in the lead-up to the fight against a 2006 state constitutional amendment banning civil unions and marriage for lesbian and gay couples. An ACLU of Wisconsin lawsuit overturned that ban in 2014, and the national ACLU played a leading role in the Obergefell U.S. Supreme Court case that ended bans on equal marriage rights nationwide.
In 1978, Chris first learned about the work of the ACLU when the organization defended the right of neo-Nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois. As it did for many others, this important ACLU case raised questions and required explanation. But it also helped to show that the way to handle speech we disagree with means using our own free speech rights—not government restrictions. Chris first became an ACLU member in the 1990s and has supported the organization consistently since 2003.
Chris has deep family roots in Wisconsin, and his husband David Danaher teaches at UW-Madison.
Living in Milwaukee as a child and growing up in Fredonia, Chris attended Catholic elementary schools and Ozaukee High School. He graduated from UWC-USA in 1989 and Brown University in 1993.
Photo credit: Betsy Schneider