The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California announced the hire of Melissa Goodman as a senior staff attorney, whose advocacy will focus primarily on LGBT rights, as well as reproductive rights and gender equality.
“We’re very excited for Melissa to join our staff,” said Hector Villagra, executive director of ACLU/SC. “Having a full-time attorney dedicated to LGBT rights, reproductive rights, and gender equality will allow us to expand immediately our capacity to continue this vitally needed civil rights work throughout Southern California and around the state.”
Goodman joins the ACLU/SC from 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. Goodman 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. Goodman 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’s impressive record of successful advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ students facing discrimination, harassment, or bullying in New York schools and her experience teaching educators about their legal obligations to protect students and to respect students’ gender identities positions her to be an invaluable asset to students throughout Southern California,” said James Gilliam, director of the ACLU/SC’s LGBTQ Student Rights Project. “LGBTQ students and their advocates should be elated, as we are.”
Goodman received her law degree from New York University, which she also attended as an undergraduate. She began her career as a clerk for U.S. Circuit Court Judge Frederic Block, and spent six years working at the national ACLU, focusing on issues of national security and surveillance.
“I am honored to continue my longstanding relationship with the ACLU as an attorney at the ACLU/SC, the first ACLU affiliate established in the country,” said Goodman. “I look forward to continuing the organization’s rich history of advocating on behalf of the LGBT community, and to broadening its work on reproductive rights and gender equality.”
Goodman will assume her new position effective immediately.

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