Professor of Law
Editor, Lesbian/Gay Law Notes
When Arthur Leonard first came to New York Law School in 1982, only one state banned discrimination based on sexual orientation, gay sex was illegal in half the country, and there were only a handful of lawyers actively litigating sexual orientation discrimination cases.
Today, he reports proudly, the situation has radically changed. “The field has expanded dramatically—the issue of sexual orientation discrimination is being litigated all over,” says Professor Leonard, who has been instrumental in chronicling the legal aspects of the lesbian and gay community with his publication of the widely respected Lesbian/Gay Law Notes, which is available on the New York Law School Justice Action Center website. The only publication of its kind in the country, it is extensively cited in law review articles and books as a key source.
Using law to help win equality has been a guiding passion of Professor Leonard’s since he was a 10-year-old who decided that Abraham Lincoln was his ideal. “Here was an example of someone who taught himself law, became a star attorney, and helped people. To me, he was the perfect lawyer as hero.”
At Cornell, Professor Leonard majored in labor relations and was editor of the Industrial & Labor Relations Forum. He was also a student composer and bass player, but decided to attend Harvard Law School, graduating in 1977. After five years in a New York law firm, he decided to enter academic life.
“Teaching has given me an opportunity to help shape the law,” says Professor Leonard, who in 1985 wrote an influential law review article on AIDS discrimination that helped form the nation’s legal response to the AIDS epidemic. “I found I could play a more constructive role as a legal educator than as a practitioner.”
Over the past 30 years, Professor Leonard has written numerous articles on employment law, AIDS law, and lesbian and gay law. A frequent national spokesperson on sexual orientation law, and an expert on the rapidly emerging area of gay family law, he is a contributing writer for Gay City News (formerly LGNY), New York’s weekly lesbian and gay newspaper, and has written for several other lesbian and gay newspapers in New York City. He also blogs on LGBT and AIDS legal issues.
Professor Leonard has held a variety of influential and activist positions in civic and legal organizations, including trustee of Lambda Legal, trustee of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the City University of New York, chair of the Section on Gay and Lesbian Legal Issues of the Association of American Law Schools, and chair of the Sex and Law Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. He is chair of the Human Resources Committee and a trustee of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services of New York.
He has testified on the New York City gay rights bill, organized forums that helped change rules on domestic partnership benefits, and helped produce oft-cited studies of the court system and legal profession that demonstrated the need for equality of opportunity and treatment for minorities.
At NYLS, he advises the LGBT student group and has been an effective advocate for change on lesbian and gay issues. In 2000, Professor Leonard was honored by the Law School at a symposium commemorating the 20th anniversary of the now-celebrated Lesbian/Gay Law Notes, which had begun as a typed, one-page sheet that he sent out to a handful of colleagues. In 2010, the Law School and the LGBT Law Association Foundation honored him again on the publication’s 30th anniversary.
Professor Leonard received the prestigious 2005 Dan Bradley Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Law Association in recognition of his significant contributions to the advance of LGBT rights under the law.
Cornell University School of Industrial & Labor Relations, B.S. 1974
(Industrial & Labor Relations Forum, Editor)
Harvard, J.D. 1977 cum laude.
Editor, Lesbian/Gay Law Notes, instrumental in chronicling legal aspects of lesbian and gay community. Regular broadcast and newspaper commentator on labor and employment law, AIDS law, and homosexuality and the law. Trustee, Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services of New York.