Evan Wolfson Departs Lambda After 12 Years On Staff

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Lesbian and gay civil rights advocate to explore "next steps' for freedom to marry movement
March 21, 2001

(NEW YORK, March 22, 2001) — Evan Wolfson, a pioneering lawyer for the nation’s leading lesbian and gay legal organization, will leave Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund to explore new strategies for securing full equality for lesbians and gay men, including the freedom to marry.

After twelve years on staff, Wolfson’s last day with the organization will be April 30, Lambda announced Thursday.

Lambda Executive Director Kevin M. Cathcart said, “For over a decade, Evan has personified Lambda’s passion and vision for equality. From his pursuit of the freedom to marry to his argument before the United States Supreme Court against the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policy, his voice has rallied innumerable people, gay and non-gay, to the cause of justice.”

“While we will miss Evan’s enthusiastic presence in our daily work lives, we are very pleased that he will continue to work with us so closely as an independent force toward the goals we share,” Cathcart said.

In addition to serving as director of Lambda’s Marriage Project, Wolfson litigated cases ranging from one that drew protests from the Ku Klux Klan when he represented a Florida deputy sheriff fired for being gay to another that resulted in domestic partner benefits for New York City employees. In June 2000, the National Law Journal honored Wolfson by naming him one of the 100 most influential attorneys in America.

“Evan’s dedication and strategic work have helped fuel this liberation movement and benefitted many people along the way. His exemplary commitment will continue now, and Lambda will continue to work with him, as he approaches the next stages of our civil rights movement as a broad thinker and leader,” said Legal Director Ruth E. Harlow.

“With Evan at the helm, Lambda’s Marriage Project put this cause on the political map. Moving forward, we will redouble our efforts to end discrimination in marriage, through public education, policy advocacy, and litigation,” Harlow said.

“Lambda’s Marriage Project team, expanding on the past, now includes Senior Counsel Jon Davidson, attorneys Susan Sommer, Jennifer Pizer, and Jennifer Middleton, Outreach Associate Bob Pileggi, and the new Marriage Project Coordinator David Buckel,” she said.

“I am proud to have had the honor of working for an organization as visionary and solid as Lambda. I will continue to be a partner of this extraordinary, dedicated group as we move forward,” Wolfson said, adding, “I am thankful for the many colleagues who have taught, inspired, and supported me, and done so much good. And I am excited that now I will have the chance to figure out how best to build on the work we have done, win the freedom to marry, and enlarge possibilities for gay and non-gay people alike.”

With a planning grant from the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr., Fund, Wolfson will spend time exploring the next steps and building enhanced resources for the national freedom to marry movement.

“I will now take this special opportunity to confer with diverse leaders and organizations around the country, seek out new strategies, resources, and voices, and, as Lincoln put it, ‘think anew’ about how best to advance the needed sustained campaign to secure the freedom to marry,” Wolfson said.

Wolfson’s tenure at Lambda spans dramatic changes in the legal and cultural position of lesbians and gay men in America. Representing James Dale in his challenge to the Boy Scouts’ discriminatory policy, Wolfson helped spark the present nationwide response against that discrimination. As director of Lambda’s Marriage Project, Wolfson was co-counsel in the landmark Hawaii case, Baehr v. Anderson, which launched the ongoing national discussion about gay people’s freedom to marry, and advanced crucial legal theories that courts around the country are beginning to heed. Wolfson also contributed his expertise to the team pursuing Baker v. Vermont, in which the Vermont Supreme Court ordered the state to provide same-sex couples the protections and benefits afforded through marriage. In response, state legislators created “civil unions,” a new legal marital status for same-sex couples.

At Lambda, Wolfson championed diverse clients such as lesbian and gay military personnel seeking the right to serve; gay parents wishing to adopt children and preserve visitation rights; a man with AIDS fighting for life-saving medical treatment refused by his insurer; and a woman denied work as a Dallas police officer because of the state’s anti-gay “Homosexual Conduct Law.”

In the five years before joining Lambda’s staff in 1989, Wolfson served as a cooperating attorney, writing Lambda’s amicus briefs to the Supreme Court in Bowers v. Hardwick and NGTF v. Board of Education of Oklahoma City.


Contact: Peg Byron 212-809-8585 x 230, 888-987-1984
Evan Wolfson 212-809-8585 x205, 888-987-1976


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