Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D.

The Washington Post
Sunday, December 11, 1994
Obituaries, Page B06



Ellen Martina Luff, 52, a lawyer who was a legislative liaison staff member for the Maryland Commission on Aging until she retired last year for health reasons, died of cancer Nov. 22 at the home of friends in Fort Bragg, Calif.

As an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union in Maryland, Ms. Luff successfully argued in 1988 that court-ordered attendance at meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees religious freedom.

She represented a Stevensville house painter who had been convicted of driving while drunk and ordered to attend AA meetings. He said the meetings violated his rights because he was an atheist. He said the meetings routinely include references to God and suggestions that recovery depends on "a power greater than ourselves."

In the early 1970s, Ms. Luff was counsel to the Maryland Equal Rights Commission, which was formed to implement the Equal Rights Amendment to the state constitution that was adopted in 1972. She proposed several laws designed to end discrimination against women and to redefine sexual offenses.

Ms. Luff was born in Washington and grew up in Gambrills. She graduated from St. John's College in Annapolis in 1961 and the University of Baltimore law school in 1969. She was a Legal Aid Bureau lawyer and an assistant state's attorney in Baltimore before joining the staff of the Equal Rights Commission. She conducted a private law practice in Annapolis until 1976, when she began a period of travel and study of women's issues. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, she practiced law in San Francisco. In 1983, she returned to Gambrills and joined the staff of the Commission on Aging.

Ms. Luff was a member of the board of directors of the Annapolis Holistic Health Community and a founder of Marylanders for Drug Policy Reform. Her marriage to Eric Dennard ended in divorce.

Survivors include a stepdaughter, Nicole Dennard of Los Angeles; a brother, Willard Luff of Titusville, Fla.; and a sister, Pat Maynard of Robindale, Mich.