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Meet Mary Gay

Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon is a life-long advocate for children and families. In November 2018, she was sworn into Congress following a special election victory, the first woman of the new wave of representation to be sworn in.


In her third full term in Congress, Mary Gay has continued her relentless advocacy on behalf of children and families in Pennsylvania’s 5th District and across the country. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Rules, Mary Gay plays a key role in shaping laws that impact the lives of Americans. On the Judiciary Committee, she currently serves as the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government, where she is a critical voice in pushing back on attacks on American freedoms. Mary Gay is a member of dozens of important caucuses, including as the chair of the Legal Aid Caucus and the Youth Mentoring Caucus, Co-Chair of the Foster Youth Caucus, and Vice-Chair of the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus.


Mary Gay has cosponsored over 400 bills to improve the lives of families in our region and across the country. When roughly 4,000 jobs at the Boeing Plant in Ridley were on the chopping block, Mary Gay led the charge to successfully restore funding for this critical program in the National Defense Authorization Act. She also helped secure a $650 million contract to produce new ships at the Philadelphia Shipyard. Congresswoman Scanlon led House floor debate on critical legislative victories, including the Equality Act and the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women’s Act. Mary Gay also has brought significant resources back to southeast Pennsylvania thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act. Congresswoman Scanlon has been tirelessly fighting for the people, working closely with President Biden to restore faith in our democracy and build a fair economy for all.


Congresswoman Scanlon’s advocacy journey began while she was a law student at the University of Pennsylvania, when she began volunteering at People’s Emergency Center, a homeless shelter for families founded by former Congressman Bob Edgar. Upon graduating, she began representing abused and neglected children with the Support Center for Child Advocate 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 class action lawsuits to enforce the rights of students with disabilities, in addition to representing individual students and their parents from across the state, drafting legislative and regulatory proposals, and producing training materials and educational programs for parents, educators, social service providers, government agencies and other advocates. She also served 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.

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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 served as national Pro Bono Counsel at Ballard Spahr LLP for 15 years, supervising over 600 lawyers in 15 offices as they provided 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 for its work to address many critical public interest issues, including voting rights, child advocacy, immigration, housing, public benefits, criminal justice reform, free press, and other constitutional rights. 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, her former law firm embraced the Wills for Heroes program, which provides free estate planning for veterans and first responders. She organized and volunteered 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. Students from Constitution High attended her swearing in ceremony. 

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 dog Emma and cockatiel TJ.

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