Melissa Goodman


Director of Advocacy/Legal Director



Twitter handle



Melissa Goodman is director of advocacy/legal director at the ACLU of Southern California. In this role Melissa leads the affiliate's advocacy department, which comprises 55 attorneys, policy advocates, organizers, and support staff across offices in Los Angeles, Orange County, the Inland Empire, and Kern County. In this role she leads the department’s visioning and strategy, strategic planning, intersectional issue and cross-team collaboration, resource allocation, and helps lead statewide legislative, electoral, and organizing strategy amongst ACLU California affiliates and offices. She also co-chairs the national ACLU’s Gender Justice Task Force.

Melissa joined the ACLU SoCal as a senior staff attorney in October 2012 and until July 2018 was the Audrey Irmas Director of the ACLU SoCal's LGBTQ, Gender & Reproductive Justice Project. In that role, Melissa conducted legal and policy advocacy concerning LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights, gender equality, and the rights of people with HIV.

Melissa led the organization's advocacy to end discrimination against women directors and increase inclusive hiring in Hollywood. Melissa also was counsel in cases such as Garza v. Hargan, a successful challenge to the federal government's policy preventing pregnant unaccompanied immigrant minors from obtaining information about their pregnancy options, coercing them to carry their pregnancies to term, and obstructing them from accessing abortion; ACLU v. Hargan, a challenge to the Trump Administration's rule allowing employers and universities to deny their employees and students insurance coverage for contraception if the employer has a religious or moral objection; McKibben v. McMahon, a class action case challenging discriminatory treatment of gay, bisexual and transgender prisoners in San Bernardino County; ACLU of Northern California v. Burwell, a case challenging the federal government allowing federal contractors to deny reproductive health care services to unaccompanied immigrant minors dependent on the federal government for care; and American Academy of Pediatrics v. Clovis Unified School District, a case that successfully challenged medically inaccurate, non-comprehensive and biased sex education.

In addition to advocacy concerning gender discrimination in Hollywood, Melissa led the ACLU SoCal's advocacy to protect the rights of transgender students and adults, to expand access to quality and confidential reproductive healthcare, to increase protections for working parents, to end bias and over-policing and over-incarceration of LGBTQ people and to improve health care for incarcerated women.

Prior to joining the ACLU of Southern California Melissa worked at the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), where she directed the organization's LGBT and reproductive rights work. At the NYCLU, she led the organization’s campaign to pass the Marriage Equality Act, which gives same-sex couples the freedom to marry, and a campaign for a statewide law to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression. She served as co-counsel in Windsor v. United States, a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act filed by the ACLU, NYCLU, and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. Melissa provided legal assistance to LGBTQ students experiencing discrimination and harassment in schools. She also advocated for comprehensive and LGBTQ-inclusive sex education and co-authored a report entitled Birds, Bees, and Bias which examines sex-ed instruction in more than 80 New York public school districts. Melissa also conducted advocacy and public education to protect and expand the rights of all New York women and teens to make informed personal decisions about childbearing and to access affordable and confidential reproductive and sexual health care.

Melissa worked for six years as a staff attorney at the ACLU’s National Security Project, where she litigated cases concerning surveillance, excessive government secrecy, torture and detention, and the freedoms of speech and association. Her cases included challenges to the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the FBI and the Defense Department’s use of "national security letters," the government’s practice of ideological exclusion, the U.S. military’s detention practices at Guantánamo and Bagram, and the CIA’s "extraordinary rendition" program.

Melissa is a former law clerk for the Hon. Judge Frederic Block of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. She graduated magna cum laude from New York University’s College of Arts and Science in 2000 and she earned her J.D. from New York University in 2003, where she was awarded an Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Fellowship, the John Perry Prize Award in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and was an articles editor for the Review of Law and Social Change.