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.

Clinging to the Side of a Pool, Fighting for Equality

By James Esseks, Director, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project at 5:18pm
The country and the ACLU lost a champion of civil rights earlier this month, when Robert L. Carter, federal judge and former general counsel of the NAACP, died at 94. Judge Carter’s astounding contributions to reforming American law about race discrimination are detailed in a NY Times obituary and his fascinating book, A Matter of Law: A Memoir of Struggle in the Cause of Equal Rights.
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. …

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;…

George Rekers: An Ex-Expert Witness

By James Esseks, Director, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project at 10:29am

By now, many of you have probably seen news reports, and even late-night comedy routines, about Dr. George Rekers, the anti-gay activist who allegedly hired a young man through Rentboy.com to "carry his luggage" on a European vacation. What…

Why Are You Folks Spending So Much Time On Marriage?

Why Are You Folks Spending So Much Time On Marriage?

By James Esseks, Director, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project at 12:54pm

I'm often asked why the gay rights movement is so focused on marriage, and it's a good question.  Part of the answer is that our society has made marriage the gateway to many protections and obligations – from health care to retirement protections…

Marriage in New Mexico, Civil Unions in Colorado – The Wave Continues!

Marriage in New Mexico, Civil Unions in Colorado – The Wave Continues!

By James Esseks, Director, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project at 10:36am

It seems like every time you turn around these days, someone is announcing new support for the freedom to marry, which is the result of years of groundwork that the ACLU and other organizations have laid to get us to this incredible place.

Yesterday…

A Marriage Moment (and Another One to Come)

A Marriage Moment (and Another One to Come)

By James Esseks, Director, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project at 11:56am

The nation has just had a marriage moment – a tipping point where voters in at least two states have affirmed the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.  The vote illustrates that the country is getting squarely behind the notion that same-sex…

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…

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…

Victory for Transgender People in Wisconsin Prisons

By James Esseks, Director, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project at 4:41pm

The ACLU LGBT Project recently got a great decision (PDF) on a transgender rights issue from a federal court in Wisconsin. The result and the reasoning are a welcome sign that courts are starting to take transgender rights more seriously, and…

Statistics image