FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union has announced that James Esseks has become its new Director of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project. Prior to this appointment, Esseks served as Litigation Director for the LGBT & AIDS Project since July 2001. Matt Coles, who led the Project since 1995, will now lead the ACLU's newly formed Center for Equality, supervising the ACLU's work on racial justice, immigrants' rights, voting rights and disability rights.
"From our recent success in convincing a judge to strike down an anti-gay parenting law in Arkansas to our advocacy on behalf of Constance McMillen after her Mississippi high school canceled the prom rather than allow her to attend with her girlfriend, the Project has been doing some very exciting work and making progress in the struggle for LGBT equality," said Esseks. "I am extremely grateful to have this opportunity and the amazing support of our nationwide network of ACLU affiliates as we continue to push for equality."
As the Project's Litigation Director, Esseks oversaw the ACLU's LGBT and HIV litigation around the country. Esseks was one of the trial counsel in the ACLU's successful challenges to the Florida and Arkansas bans on adoption and foster parenting by lesbians and gay men. He argued State v. Limon in the Kansas Supreme Court, which freed Matthew Limon from a 17-year prison sentence for having consensual sex with another teenager, when a straight teenager would have faced a sentence of a year and three months. He was one of the trial counsel in Schroer v. Billington, in which a federal court ruled that the existing federal ban on sex discrimination in employment covers discrimination against transgender people. He was also counsel in In re Marriage Cases, in which the California Supreme Court struck down that state's ban on marriage for same-sex couples, as well as in the ACLU's cases seeking marriage for same-sex couples in New York, Maryland and Oregon.
Before becoming the Litigation Director, Esseks worked pro bono with the Project in a case resulting in New York's high court holding that Yeshiva University could no longer bar lesbian and gay couples from married student housing. Prior to joining the ACLU, Esseks 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.