The LGBT Bar of New York (LeGaL) is proud to announce the election of Glen Ahlers, Pamela Goldsmith, and Kaegan Mays-Williams to our 2021 Association Board. LeGaL also celebrates the appointment of James Esseks to our 2021 Foundation Board.
Glen Ahlers: My association with LeGaL is one of my proudest professional accomplishments. Since admission, I worked for small, personal injury litigation firms. Despite improvements in recent years, these practices exist in a sort of dark ages political incorrectness and occasionally overt hostility towards those who were different. I knew no other gay lawyers, or at least very few who were out in their professional world. The brutality of their attitudes kept me in the closet, professionally, for years. One of my proudest professional moments came when I finally, over much anxiety, became a member of LeGaL, at a time when I shook for fear of being treated differently by my co-workers, by judges, mediators, and those whose judgment held my professional future.
I couldgo on about the momentous, critically important work LeGaL does in real-world litigation, in supporting briefs, in political efforts and lobbying for great change; all of those efforts that make the world better for each and every one of us. But one of the most important impacts LeGaL made on my own life was purely the incidental; the simple fact that its existence promised to me that my professional future did not need to continue in hiding. In LeGaL I found like-minded, brilliant, successful, powerful, and inspiring professionals amongst whom I could find a Home. LeGaL’s importance as a beacon and resource in this City is one of its most endearing assets, and one that I am be honored to work for as a Board Member.
Pamela B. Goldsmith: As a trial litigator for 30 years, I understand first-hand the importance of advancing LGBTQ legal professionals and the need to take an active role in accomplishing this goal. I have served on LeGaL’s Judiciary Committee for four years (two as vice-chair) and represented LeGaL for the 2018 Civil Court Independent Screening Panel. I am a current member of Defense Research Institute’s Diversity Committee, member of my firm’s Council on Inclusion and Diversity, was a past member of the NYC Bar Association’s LGBT Rights Committee and received City and State’s Corporate Social Responsibility Award for Outstanding Leadership in Promoting Diversity and Inclusion. Additionally, with an Appellate Division judge, I helped to start an informal lesbian judge-attorney group, with the objective to address the low percentage of lesbian partners in New York firms and judges on the New York bench.
I truly believe in LeGaL’s advocacy in supporting policies to protect the LGBTQ community, providing legal services to those in our community in need, and educating the greater New York community as it relates to legal issues and civil rights impacting our community. My role on the Judiciary Committee has given me direct insight into LeGaL’s commitment and I appreciate the opportunity to serve on its Board of Directors.
Kaegan Mays-Williams: I have served as a LeGaL Judiciary Committee member for the past four years, where we have worked tirelessly to examine which candidates would most prudently preside, uplift and support issues that hold critical importance for our community. Over the past 4 years, I have worked intentionally on individual applicant due diligence and actively participated in meetings in an effort to assist our team in evaluating each candidate. My congenial personality along with my willingness to discuss and negotiate issues where consensus is necessary, will be great assets for working with the group.
I also hope to contribute to the Board with my experience in both state legislative advocacy and public interest law. I also enjoy participating on the Diversity Committee where I can offer my assistance as a thought partner in encouraging greater inclusion and participation of diverse members of our community.
James Esseks: I look forward to contributing my experience as an advocate for LGBTQ rights at the national level to LeGaL’s work here in New York City. I been with the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project since 2001, first as Litigation Director and then, since 2010, as Director. I was also active as a pro bono lawyer on LGBTQ issues before joining the ACLU. During my time at the ACLU, I have been fortunate to have been counsel in United States v. Windsor (striking down Section 3 of DOMA), Obergefell v. Hodges (bringing marriage equality to the entire nation), Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado (representing a couple turned away from a bakery because they were gay), and Bostock v. Clayton County (holding that anti-LGBT discrimination is actionable sex discrimination under Title VII), among other cases. While expanding legal protections for our community through cases such as these is essential work, it is not enough to ensure lived equality on the ground for everyone. Much of LeGaL’s work, such as its legal clinics and efforts to educate the profession and the public, aims to help create lived equality for our community. I hope to contribute to those efforts as well as to building community more generally among LGBTQ lawyers in the greater NYC region. I am honored to be able to help LeGaL grow this work.