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Editorial: Claire Ebel changed New Hampshire for the better

New Hampshire recognizes artists whose contribution to the cultural life of the state have been extraordinary with the governor’s Lotte Jacobi Living Treasure Award. Area recipients include New Boston sculptor Jon Brooks, Dunbarton potter Gerry Williams, New London author Tomie dePaola and Wilmot poet Donald Hall.

If there were a similar living treasure award for someone whose contribution to the civic life of the state were extraordinary, it would go to Claire Ebel, the recently retired director of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union.

For the past 30 years Ebel has been keeping them honest – lawmakers restricting the rights of citizens, law enforcement agencies abusing their authority, school districts trampling the rights of students, people seeking to conjoin church and state, those seeking to deny equal rights to same-sex couples, legislators passing laws that wrongly treat children as adults or invade personal privacy. New Hampshire would be a very different place if not for the efforts of Ebel and those she worked with and inspired for three decades.

Ebel, a petite woman with sparkling eyes, a keen sense of humor and waist-length flowing hair gone to gray, is a force of nature. She has been so effective that opponents assume she is a lawyer who could easily earn a six-figure salary were it not for her passion about protecting civil liberties. In reality, she trained as an economist. But Ebel has, in the way of those who years ago “read the law” rather than go to school, learned more about the laws affecting civil liberties than most lawyers. She is fearless, relentless and a good strategist, willing to passionately oppose someone on one issue and cheerfully join forces with them on another.

When questioned about Ebel in an online forum, a libertarian activist had this to say: “She has been doing for many years what we have been doing for just a few. Watch her very carefully, and learn. She has been successful in getting much of her agenda implemented. . . . Watch her very carefully and learn.”

We hope that even in retirement, Ebel will continue to defend civil liberties in the halls of the State House and elsewhere so the rest of us can watch, and learn.

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