New York, NY (April 20, 2017) —Arthur S. Leonard has been appointed the Robert F. Wagner Professor of Labor and Employment Law at New York Law School (NYLS), Dean and President Anthony W. Crowell announced. Professor Leonard is a nationally recognized expert on sexual orientation law who has defended, fought for, and chronicled fundamental expansions to LGBT rights in the United States for over 40 years. The professorship is named in honor of distinguished NYLS alumnus and U.S. Senator Robert F. Wagner Sr., Class of 1900.
“Professor Leonard and U.S. Senator Wagner share a bond as bold leaders of emerging social movements,” said Dean Crowell. “In the first half of the 20th century, Wagner was a champion of labor, ushering in New Deal reforms such as Social Security and the right to collective bargaining. In the second half of that century, and to this day, Leonard has championed the rights of the LGBT community, using the law to help win equality. He continues to be a passionate advocate, inspiring his students and his colleagues in the fight for equal rights. I congratulate him on his investiture as the Robert F. Wagner Professor of Law and look forward to continuing to work together.”
In 1978, Professor Leonard founded the organization now known as the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York. In 1980, he created what would become LGBT Law Notes, the only nationally circulated newsletter on lesbian and gay legal developments, including litigation, legislation, and notice of scholarly publications. In 1985, he wrote an influential law review article on AIDS discrimination that helped form the nation’s legal response to the AIDS epidemic. Currently, in addition to teaching at NYLS, he is a contributing writer for Gay City News, New York’s weekly lesbian and gay newspaper.
Professor Leonard joined the NYLS faculty in 1982 and has taught courses on labor relations law, contracts, torts, employment law, employment discrimination law, professional responsibility, and sexuality law. He is affiliated with the School’s Impact Center for Public Interest Law and has advised the School’s LGBT student group. He also frequently serves as faculty advisor to the School’s Robert F. Wagner Sr. National Labor and Employment Law Moot Court Competition, the nation’s largest student-run moot court competition and the premier student competition focused on labor and employment law.
“I am delighted and honored to be the first occupant of the Wagner Chair at NYLS,” said Professor Leonard. “Senator Wagner was a great champion of security and dignity for the working men and women of this country, and an inspiration to anyone who is concerned with the advance of human rights here and around the world. I hope that my continuing work will help to advance those values during this difficult time in our history.”
Professor Leonard has served on the boards of directors of many of the city’s most respected organizations, including the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (New York’s LGBT synagogue), the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at City University of New York’s Graduate Center, and The Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services. His past memberships include the New York City Bar Association’s committees on Sex and Law (which he chaired for several years), Labor and Employment Law, and Aids and the Law. He was a founding co-chair of the Association’s Special Committee on Lesbians and Gay Men in the Profession, which eventually became a standing committee. That committee annually honors one or more lawyers for contributions to LGBT law with an award named after Professor Leonard, who was its first recipient.
At his investiture as the Robert F. Wagner Professor of Labor and Employment Law on April 26, 2017, Professor Leonard will give remarks on “A Battle Over Statutory Interpretation: Title VII and Claims of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination.”
Professor Leonard graduated from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations in 1974 and Harvard Law School in 1977.
About Robert F. Wagner Sr.
Robert F. Wagner Sr. graduated from the City College of New York in 1888 and received his law degree from NYLS in 1900. He entered politics with a desire to use the tools of government to protect the most vulnerable. He served in the New York State Assembly from 1905 to 1908 and the New York State Senate from 1909 to 1918. From 1919 to 1926, Wagner served as a Justice of the New York Supreme Court. In 1926, he was elected to the United States Senate. He was reelected three times and served until his health forced him to resign in 1949.
Wagner sponsored landmark Great Depression-era legislation, including the 1936 Social Security Act and the National Labor Relations Act (also known as the Wagner Act). The Wagner Act created the National Labor Relations Board in 1935—a centerpiece of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Among other employee protections, the Act established American workers’ right to collectively bargain without fear of losing their jobs. It is widely regarded as the most important piece of labor legislation during the 20th century.