Blog of Rights

James
Esseks

James D. Esseks is Director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project.  He joined the Project as Litigation Director in 2001 and has been in his current position since 2010.  James oversees litigation, lobbying, policy advocacy, organizing, and public education work nationwide that aims to ensure equal treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people by the government; equal rights and protections for LGBT couples and families; protection from discrimination in jobs, schools, housing, and public accommodations; and fair treatment by the government of people living with HIV/AIDS. Prior to joining the ACLU, he was a partner at Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard, P.C., in New York. He graduated from Yale College and Harvard Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. He clerked for U.S. Judge James R. Browning on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Carter in the Southern District of New York.

Wear That Dress or Else!

Wear That Dress or Else!

By James Esseks, Director, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project at 4:59pm
That’s basically what a high school principal told Ceara Sturgis at the start of her senior year — you’ve got to wear a “drape,” or scoop-necked covering that looks like the top of a dress, in the yearbook photo. Ceara isn’t comfortable in such revealing clothing, and had spent her entire high school career wearing more masculine attire. The photographer took Ceara’s picture in a tuxedo instead of the drape, as she requested, but the principal jettisoned that photo and printed the yearbook without either her photo or her name appearing in the senior portrait section.

Court Strikes Down Wisconsin Law Prohibiting Medical Treatment for Transgender Prisoners

By James Esseks, Director, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project at 3:31pm

Last Friday, we got a fabulous ruling from a federal appeals court striking down a Wisconsin law that prohibited prison doctors from prescribing medically necessary treatments for transgender prisoners. It’s a great step forward in the…

Excuse Me, Ma'am, This Isn’t Your ID

By James Esseks, Director, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project at 2:34pm

Last fall, K.L., an Alaskan who transitioned to living as a woman two years ago, got her local Department of Motor Vehicles office to change the gender marker on her driver’s license from M to F.  She was thrilled to have her identity…

On a Roll — Marriage in New York!

On a Roll — Marriage in New York!

By James Esseks, Director, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project at 4:17pm

I’m sure you’ve heard the fabulous news that the New York State Senate passed the marriage bill and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has championed the measure with gusto, signed it into law Friday night, which will make New York the sixth state,…

A Hard-Earned Victory for Arkansas Kids

By James Esseks, Director, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project at 4:36pm

I’m thrilled to report that we’ve just struck down a second state parenting ban. Just six months after we got rid of Florida’s 33-year-old ban on adoption by gay people, yesterday the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down that state’s…

For Queer Youth, ACLU Is Here to "Kick Some Ass"!

For Queer Youth, ACLU Is Here to "Kick Some Ass"!

By James Esseks, Director, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project at 4:29pm

A centerpiece of the ACLU's work for lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender (LGBT) youth is ensuring that public schools don't erase LGBT people from the school environment. Opponents of LGBT equality, or school officials who are simply uncomfortable…

Defeating DOMA and Moving Forward

By James Esseks, Director, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project at 5:14pm

There's lots to celebrate about the Justice Department's statement that it will no longer defend the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA) in court. That statement makes a few things clear:

The Obama administration agrees…

Honoring Love and Commitment in the Heartland

By James Esseks, Director, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project at 4:49pm

A bill allowing for civil unions has been passed by the Illinois legislature and the governor is expected to sign it shortly. The Illinois bill will provide important protections to same-sex couples, including medical decision-making authority;…

Department of Defense to Service Members: Homos Get Half

By James Esseks, Director, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project at 3:16pm

There's been lots going on around Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) this fall, from a federal judge ordering the reinstatement of Maj. Margaret Witt, to the Obama Administration getting a stay of an order from another federal judge that would have barred…

Challenging DOMA for Edie and Thea

By James Esseks, Director, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project at 5:49pm

Today we filed a constitutional challenge to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in federal court in New York City. It follows on the heels of the DOMA challenge that Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders won last summer, and highlights…

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