Matt Coles and Leslie Cooper Receive the National Lesbian and Gay Law Foundation's Highest Honor

October 22, 2003 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – Matt Coles and Leslie Cooper of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project have received the National Lesbian and Gay Law Foundation’s (NLGLF) highest honor, the Dan Bradley Award, for their efforts to challenge the Florida law that prohibits lesbians and gay men from adopting. The award was presented during the NLGLF’s annual Lavender Law Conference at a luncheon in New York on October 18, 2003.

“We are truly honored to be recognized by NLGLF for our work challenging Florida’s anti-gay adoption law,” said Matt Coles, Director of the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. “It has been a highlight of my career in the LGBT movement to represent such remarkable clients — a devoted group of parents and children who’ve made it easy for us to show the stupidity behind this law.”

“It is a tremendous honor to be associated with such distinguished members of our community and profession,” added Leslie Cooper, a staff attorney with the project, who has been working on the case, Lofton v. Kearny, since 1999. “We are thrilled that NLGLF has chosen to recognize our work on behalf of lesbian and gay families.”

Coles, who has been active in the LGBT rights movement for nearly 30 years, has served as Director of the Lesbian and Gay Rights Project since 1995. In addition to his work on the Florida adoption ban, he was one of the main architects of the ACLU’s successful challenge to Colorado’s Amendment 2, which culminated in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Romer v. Evans. He has argued two of the challenges to “”don’t ask, don’t tell”” before federal appeals courts and he wrote and helped lead the campaigns to pass many gay rights laws, including the first comprehensive civil rights law in California and the nation’s first domestic partnership law.

Cooper, who has been with the project since 1998, has specialized in cases involving lesbian and gay parenting issues. In a case that has since been cited by courts in Maryland and Rhode Island to reach similar results, she persuaded the New Jersey Supreme Court to issue a groundbreaking decision recognizing the ties formed between lesbian and gay co-parents and the children they raise. She is currently working on a challenge to an Arkansas law that bans lesbian and gay people from becoming foster parents.

“We at the ACLU are extremely proud of Matt’s and Leslie’s work to strike down Florida’s ban on lesbian and gay adoptions,” said Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. “Their work and dedication stands out over a long history of working for LGBT equality here at the ACLU. We are delighted that NLGLF has decided to recognize them in this way.”

The Dan Bradley Award was named in honor of the former President and San Francisco Regional Director of the federal Legal Services Corporation who died in 1987. Prior Bradley winners include Kate Kendell of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, transgender activist Phyllis Randolph Frye, and attorneys Suzanne Goldberg, Tom Stoddard and Jeanne Winer for their work as trial counsel in Evans v. Romer.

The ACLU’s challenge to the Florida law banning lesbian and gay people from adopting was argued before a federal appeals court this past March. A decision is expected soon. Additional information about the case is available at

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