Top DOJ Lawyer Joins Lambda Legal

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February 2, 2017
Sharon McGowan
Sharon McGowan

Today, Lambda Legal announced the hiring of Sharon McGowan, a top attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, as the organization’s new Director of Strategy.

Prior to joining Lambda, McGowan served as the Principal Deputy Chief of the Appellate Section of the Civil Rights Division in Department of Justice.  In addition to supervising attorneys working on a broad range of civil rights appellate matters in the U.S. Supreme Court and federal courts of appeals, McGowan advised Department leadership on high-profile and sensitive litigation and policy matters relating to sexual orientation and gender identity, and served as co-chair of the Division’s Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Working Group.

“Sharon McGowan is one of the most influential and effective LGBT rights lawyers in the country,” said Rachel B. Tiven, CEO of Lambda Legal.

“At the Department of Justice, Sharon has been a forceful voice for our community, helping usher in an unprecedented era of progress for LGBT rights. She has had a hand in virtually every major achievement on LGBT rights to come out of President Obama’s administration, from the department’s decision to stop defending DOMA to its position that discrimination on the basis of sex encompasses discrimination on the basis of gender identity. She is a brilliant legal thinker and formidable advocate. As Lambda Legal prepares to vigorously defend LGBT rights during the Trump presidency, Sharon will be an indispensable part of our team.”

McGowan was repeatedly recognized by the Attorney General for her efforts on LGBT issues, receiving awards for her role in convincing the Department of Justice to stop defending DOMA, in developing the arguments advanced by the United States in support of nationwide marriage equality, and in guiding the Department of Justice to its position that discrimination on the basis of sex encompasses discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

Previously, McGowan served as Acting General Counsel and as Deputy General Counsel for Policy at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM). As Acting General Counsel, McGowan ensured OPM's rapid and robust implementation of United States v. Windsor, resulting in married federal employees receiving health care and retirement benefits within days of the Supreme Court's decision, regardless of whether they lived in a state that recognized their marriage at the time. She also worked within the agency to lift the blanket ban on transition-related health care within the federal employee health insurance program.

Earlier in her career, McGowan was a Staff Attorney with the ACLU's Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project. While at the ACLU, McGowan was lead counsel in Schroer v. Billington (D.D.C.), which resulted in a landmark ruling that Title VII's prohibition on sex discrimination also protects individuals who are undertaking or have undertaken a gender transition. Prior to joining the ACLU, McGowan was an associate in the Washington, D.C., office of Jenner & Block, where she was part of the litigation team that worked with Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund on Lawrence v. Texas, which resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court striking down all remaining sodomy laws as unconstitutional.

McGowan served as a law clerk to the Honorable Norman H. Stahl, U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and as a law clerk to the Honorable Helen G. Berrigan, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. McGowan graduated with honors from Harvard Law School in 2000, and graduated with honors from the University of Virginia in 1995.

“Our community has made tremendous strides since I first worked with Lambda Legal almost fifteen years ago as part of the litigation team on Lawrence v. Texas,” said Sharon McGowan, Lambda Legal’s new Director of Strategy. “From that landmark decision to securing nationwide marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges, Lambda Legal has played an unparalleled role in extending our country’s promise of equality to the LGBT community. I’m honored to join this historic organization and to continue fighting for our community in this new role."