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Marla Gilson, Championed Disabled Rights, Recalled

Posted on March 28, 2012 at 1:35 PM

Libertarian International Organization Fellow Marla Gilson was the "driving force' for world attention to the needs of the differently abled, said admirers, and a key person in promoting both Jewish benevolent causes such as Hadassah and working for peace. 

Marla Gilson was a key LIO Advisor in bringing forth Libertarian approaches to understanding the needs of the differently abled and ending invidious discrimination.

The matter is still widely misunderstood even among some Libertarian supporters, who forget that there are 2 kinds of private entities--ones of public character such as common carriers and entities seeking to engage the general public, and those that are purely private of restricted membership to which public standards--menat to address the e.g. expectations of the less-informed public-- don't apply.

As she put it, "A Jewish study group is immune to the standards; one open to all persons must follow them."

Admirers say she worked brilliantly in the US in:

  1. Joining together and doing needs assessments for once disparate groups, and pateiently educating uncomprehending or bigoted leaders...
  2. Championing statutes ending where 80% of the discrimination existed--public facilities and government programs--such as better wheelchair access on sidewalks including the emblematic ramps as intersections spreading worldwide
  3. Sensible statutes for private entities of public character such as stores open to the public, while preventing attempts to regulate purely private clubs and associations such as religious or fraternal groups of limited reach. At the same time, she encouraged such groups to adopt the public standards whenever feasible, and worked to bring all parties together in 'win-win' compromise. She also worked to prevent mis-use of stautes for anti-business, anti-union, or other agendas, typically by creating unrealistic staututes meant to drive policy as a hidden tax.One result was her "or equivalent: caveat in stautes so people could seek the most cost effective option possible.

The LIO periodically contacts members or in-laws of the Gilson and Monfort-de Lemos clans to see if they're interested in participation. She also worked through LIO Group to bring the concepts to all countries, noting that purportedly 'worker-friendly' coercively socialist-communist countries were the worst offenders in many cases--along with agencies that sought to exempt themselves from their own rules, such as the US Congress itself. A staunch advocate of reproductive freedom, she was in recent years involved in projects to fight genetic discrimination such as misuse of abortion to kill fetuses for genetic reasons--while uniting over 1000 scientific and advocacy groups to study ending all disease through e.g. pre-conception genetic engineering, working within the LIO co-ordinator's and original modern Libertarian view that the issues of abortion (which includes contraceptive use and caesarians) and unborn protection (e.g. non-destructive removal of embryos for humane reasons alone) are distinct and the rights status of the unborn utterly irrelevant just as it would be in the case of an adult which is driving innovations such as snowflake babies. She also worked quietly for separate and friendly states in the Mid-East of eventual Liberal secular character. In addition, she champoioned legal and cultural changes to allow business innovations such as work-at-home and flextime, which were often hampered by local statutes. According to her bio at :

"...Marla Gilson is the Director of Hadassah’s Washington Action Office, a post she has held since 1997. Hadassah is the largest women’s membership organization in the US Marla is a registered lobbyist and advocates on health policy, domestic legislation, and U.S.-Israel relations. Her background includes extensive legislative, political, managerial, and administrative experience.

Marla has been working on or around Capitol Hill for over 30 years: on Capitol Hill for Congresswoman Bella Abzug (D-NY) and Congressman Bob Traxler (D-MI), and around the Hill as the Director of Community Relations, registered lobbyist at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and director of the Washington Office of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. She also worked in the Presidential campaigns of Mondale/Ferraro and Dukakis/Bentsen, and the Senate re-election campaign of Paul Sarbanes. Marla helped create the Coalition for Genetic Fairness and is currently on its executive committee. She serves on the board of the Coalition for Advanced Medical Research (CAMR) and is a member of the Board of Governors of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice."

In a twist exemplifying the still formidable forces of bigotry and incomprehension that she addressed, she herself was fired for becoming handicapped by her organization then fighting disabled and aging discrimination--the Association of Jewish Aging Services-- in a story that has galvanized activists worldwide.See:  and

In contrast, Marla's doctor was an Egyptian--even her last act modelling her work for understanding and reaching out.

Said LIO curator Michael Gilson-De Lemos (MG): "She was the sort of modest but firm person at the nexus of LIO/Libertarian voluntary and rights-awaremethods, Liberal tolerance and cultivation of mind, and balanced progressive cultural and scientific sensibilities that are LIO's essence. If you wish her monument, look about you."


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