James Esseks

James Esseks

Esseks, director of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & HIV Project for the ACLU, will deliver the keynote address for the 13th annual Midwest LGBTQ Rights Conference. This year’s conference theme is “Queer and Present Danger: Advancing LGBTQ Rights in Difficult Times.”

In his current position, Esseks oversees litigation, legislative lobbying, policy advocacy, organizing, and public education to ensure equal treatment of LGBT people and people living with HIV.

During his long and distinguished career, Esseks has been at the forefront of some of the most significant legal battles for LGBTQ+ rights in America, among them: serving as counsel in Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that won the freedom to marry nationwide; representing Edie Windsor in the United States v. Windsor DOMA challenge; serving as counsel in Schroer v. Billington, the federal court ruling that Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination includes transgender people; and serving as counsel in many successful challenges to bans on adoption and foster parenting by lesbians and gay men in Florida, Arkansas, and Missouri.

Prior to joining the ACLU, Esseks was a partner in the New York firm, Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard, P.C. He has clerked for U.S. Circuit 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.

He earned his undergraduate and JD degrees from Yale College and Harvard Law School, respectively. At Harvard, he served as editor-in-chief of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review.

Following Esseks’ talk, “Protecting LGBTQ+ Progress in Challenging Times” will be a discussion on “LGBTQ Liberty and Justice Issues: Sisters Under Siege.”

Click here for more information regarding the conference.