James D. Esseks is director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project, where he has worked since 2001. At the ACLU, Mr. Esseks oversees advocacy around the country 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 of people living with HIV. Examples include cases challenging the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage; challenges to bans on adoption or foster parenting by lesbians and gay men; and challenges to schools that seek to stifle the speech or association rights of LGBT students. Mr. Esseks was counsel for plaintiff in Schroer v. Billington, 577 F. Supp. 2d 293 (D.D.C. 2008), in which the court held that an employer violates Title VII's ban on sex discrimination when it treats an applicant differently because she has transitioned from one sex to another.
Prior to joining the ACLU, Mr. Esseks was a partner at Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard, P.C., in New York, where he represented employees in matters including discrimination, harassment, non-compete, and contract actions at all stages of trial and appellate practice. Mr. Esseks 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 the Honorable Robert L. Carter, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York, and the Honorable James R. Browning, United States Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit.