Despite a crowded primary field, the people of Pennsylvania’s Fifth Congressional district have rallied behind Mary Gay Scanlon, a longtime resident of Delaware County. A civil rights lawyer for over 35 years, she plans to continue that fight on Capitol Hill.
Mary Gay’s advocacy journey began while a student at the University of Pennsylvania Law school, when she began volunteering at People’s Emergency Center, a homeless shelter for families founded by former Congressman Bob Edgar. Upon graduating, she represented abused and neglected children with the Support Center for Child Advocates, and has since served as a board member for numerous legal services agencies.
Mary Gay continued to work on behalf of children and families as co-chair of both the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Commission on Children at Risk and the Legal Rights of Children Committee. She later was appointed by the Bar to serve as a founding board member and officer of Philadelphia Legal Assistance, the federally funded legal services agency for Philadelphia County.
As a senior staff attorney at the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania, Mary Gay led two class action lawsuits to enforce the rights of students with disabilities, in addition to representing individual students and their parents, drafting legislative and regulatory proposals, and producing training materials and educational programs for parents, educators, social service providers, government agencies and other advocates. She was also appointed to serve on two statewide interagency councils charged with implementing federal special education laws and testified before the Pennsylvania legislature about the ill-effects of zero-tolerance policies.
Since organizing multiple buses to attend the Million Mom March in 2000, Mary Gay has actively supported common sense legislation to reduce gun violence.
From 2007 to 2015, Mary Gay was an elected member of the Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board, during which she served as Vice President and President and led a tax commission to address school funding. Her experience provided her with a deep understanding of the fundamentals of local government and grassroots politics. On the school board, Mary Gay was able to respond to community concerns, promote transparency and work with diverse interest groups.
Mary Gay has served as national Pro Bono Counsel at Ballard Spahr LLP for the past 15 years, directing and supervising over 600 lawyers in 15 offices as they provide more than 50,000 hours of pro bono legal services annually to low-income clients and nonprofit organizations. Her program received the American Bar Association’s annual pro bono award in 2018. The nationally-recognized pro bono practice addresses many critical issues, including voting rights, child advocacy, immigration, housing, public benefits, criminal justice reform, free press, and other constitutional rights.
When President Trump ordered a travel ban that stranded thousands of legal immigrants, attorneys at the pro bono program sprang into action. They arrived at airports across the country to write habeas petitions from waiting rooms. While the Trump administration’s unconstitutional restrictions have created a fresh urgency for strong representation on the issue of immigration, the practice has a long standing history of representing refugees and seekers of political asylum. Many of these clients include victims of domestic violence and human trafficking, as well as those fleeing violence and persecution.
In 2017, Mary Gay became Co-Chair of the Voting Rights Task Force of the Association of Pro Bono Counsel which was formed to combat voter suppression and gerrymandering.
Under Mary Gay’s leadership, Ballard Spahr embraced the Wills for Heroes program, which provides free estate planning for veterans and first responders. She organizes and volunteers for dozens of Wills for Heroes clinics annually, providing peace of mind to first responders, veterans, and their families.
Mary Gay has a longstanding interest in promoting civics education to protect our democracy. She volunteered for and led civics programs in her children’s schools and, in 2006, created a career development and mentoring program at Constitution High School, a magnet school in Philadelphia with a focus on civics education. She continues to work with students at the school and serves on its Advisory Board.
Mary Gay is a graduate of Colgate University, and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She served as a Judicial Clerk for the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.
Mary Gay and her husband, Mark Stewart, have three children: Casey, Daniel, and Matthew. All three children graduated from the local public school system. Mary Gay and Mark reside in Swarthmore with their two rescue dogs named Abby and Emma, a cockatiel named TJ, and several chickens.
For more information visit: https://www.scanlonforcongress.com/