2018 Trailblazer Awardee Matthew A. Coles


Matthew A. Coles is a member of the faculty at the University of California Hastings College of the Law. He has been involved in the LGBT civil rights movement since before he graduated from law school, when, as a legal advisor to Supervisor Harvey Milk, he drafted what became San Francisco’s sexual orientation nondiscrimination ordinance in San Francisco.

At the start of his legal career, Coles hung out a shingle on Castro Street for ten years, specializing in civil rights, including LGBT rights, race discrimination, and sex discrimination. At the same time, he worked together with friends to start Gay Rights Advocates, the first public interest law firm devoted to gay rights in the West. In 1987, he joined the ACLU of Northern California. From 1995 to 2010, Coles was the Director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and AIDS Project. In his fifteen years in that role, he helped transform the nation’s laws on LGBT rights. He retired from the ACLU in 2016 as the Deputy National Legal Director and Director of the ACLU's Equality Center, focused on racial justice, voting rights, immigrants’ rights, and justice for people living with disabilities.

Coles is probably best known in the LGBT movement and among civil libertarians for insisting that changing public attitudes is as important as changing the law, and to that end, for designing litigation and legislative efforts built around powerful personal stories.

Coles wrote and helped lead the campaigns to pass many gay rights laws, including the first comprehensive law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in California (San Francisco, 1978), California's law barring employment discrimination based on sexual orientation statewide (1992), the nation's first domestic partnership law (Berkeley, 1985), and the first domestic partnership law to allow couples to register their relationships (San Francisco, 1982 and 1990). Based on his experience, in 1996, he wrote Try This at Home! A Do-It- Yourself Guide to Winning Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights, a practical guide on how to pass nondiscrimination and domestic partnership laws.

Coles was one of the three lead lawyers on the successful challenge to Colorado's Amendment 2, Romer v. Evans, which culminated in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down the amendment, and established the principle that the government cannot disadvantage lesbians and gay men solely because of hostility. He was also the lead attorney in important AIDS cases involving health care workers and prisoners, and was one of the two lead attorneys in a comprehensive challenge to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and to Florida’s law banning adoption by gay people. He has taught at Hastings College of the Law and Berkeley Law, both part of the University of California, and at Stanford University and New York University. Coles is a board member and former board chair of the Guttmacher Institute.

He graduated cum laude from Yale University in 1973 and from Hastings College of the Law in

Meet Ari Jones, 2018-2019 Tom Steel Fellow

Meet Ari Jones, 2018-2019 Tom Steel Fellow

Ari Jones is a dedicated immigrant rights advocate. Ari has provided direct legal services to NorCal immigrants with Berkeley Law student groups, during internships with Catholic Charities of the East Bay and California Rural Legal Assistance Inc. (CRLA), and as a clinical student at the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC).

Pride Law Fund denounces white supremacists

Pride Law Fund resolutely condemns the fascist and racist mob in Charlottesville, VA this weekend that tragically and predictably resulted in violence and murder. As LGBTQ people, refugees, immigrants, Jews, and people of color, we know that we are all under attack from emboldened Nazis and their sympathizers. We join in the mourning for Heather Heyer and demand that the President unequivocally denounce white supremacists.

Save the Date for Pride Law Fund's 2018 Annual Bay Cruise 6/9

Please save the date for the Pride Law Fund 2018 Annual Bay Cruise, which will be on the second Saturday of June, 6/9/2018. Enjoy wine, hors d'oeuvres, and fantastic views aboard FDR’s presidential yacht, the U.S.S. Potomac--also known as the “Floating White House.”

All proceeds benefit Pride Law Fund’s year-long and summer fellowships for new lawyers and law students focusing on LGBT civil rights advocacy.

Learn more about our fellows.

Find out more about becoming a sponsor.

For questions or additional information, please contact info@pridelawfund.org

Meet Jessie Workman, 2017-2018 Tom Steel Fellow


Pride Law Fund is proud to announce that it has selected Jessie Workman as the 2017-2018 recipient of the Tom Steel Fellowship. Jessie is sponsored by Youth Represent in New York. If you're interested in meeting her in person, she'll be at our Annual Cruise

Jessie Workman started at Youth Represent as a legal intern, and Kyle Jewell fellow, in the summer of 2015 and joined the organization as a Staff Attorney in 2016. The Tom Steel Fellowship will support Jessie in the Pathways Project which will address the disproportionate criminalization of LGBTQ and gender nonconforming youth in New York City by providing criminal representation and re-entry legal services, engaging in policy advocacy, and conducting youth-led research about their understudied re-entry needs. Pathways will employ several strategies to increase access to legal services for LGBT/GNC youth, including LGBT/GNC-specific "know your rights" education, one-on-one legal needs assessments, and legal counsel on reentry matters, such as being denied a job because of a criminal history or being evicted because of an arrest. 

Though Pathways Jessie will represent youth on a variety of criminal and re-entry matters, there are two areas of unique need that the Pathways Project will address. First, Pathways will focus on reducing the collateral consequences related to sex work by sealing prostitution-related offenses through the  use of CPL 440.10 motions, an under utilized provision of the criminal procedure law, and one of the very limited ways a criminal conviction can be sealed in New York. Second, while increasing legal services exist for LGBTQ people who are survivors of violence, few resources exist for LGBTQ youth who are incorrectly targeted as aggressors in situations involving family and intimate partner violence.

For more information about this project check out Youth Represent and check our Facebook feed for his periodic updates about Jessie's ongoing work.

2017 Trailblazer Awardee Lisa Cisneros

Lisa Cisneros directs California Rural Legal Assistance’s LGBT Program, dedicated to legal advocacy on behalf of rural, low-income lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in California.  Lisa helped launch the program in 2007 with support from Pride Law Fund's Tom Steel Fellowship.  CRLA and the National Center for Lesbian Rights both co-sponsored the fellowship to provide direct legal assistance to low-income LGBT people in rural California.  Over time the program expanded to train legal services providers nationwide, and work in collaboration with rural community groups, as well as state and national organizations to improve conditions for LGBT people outside of major metropolitan areas.  Lisa directed the program from 2007 to 2010, and returned to the program in late 2014.  Her work has been covered by National Public Radio and NBCout, and featured at a recent White House convening on rural LGBT issues.  Lisa’s professional experience also includes a federal judicial clerkship and complex civil litigation at a nationally recognized plaintiffs’ firm.  Currently her advocacy focuses on employment discrimination, school climate reform and immigration relief for LGBT individuals and their families, as well as leadership development.  In 2015 and 2016 Lisa was selected to Super Lawyers’ Rising Stars list.  She currently serves as the Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Fellows Update: LGBTQ Youth in DCFS Custody Receive Affirming Care

Current Pride Law Fund Tom Steel Fellow Ghirlandi Guidetti is fighting to improve conditions for LGBTQ foster youth in Illinois. Recently, Windy City Times published a story on Ghirlandi's work with the ACLU of Illinois. http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/m/APPredirect.php?AID=58633. You can read more about the specifics of his advocacy on the ACLU website. http://www.aclu-il.org/aclu-working-to-ensure-lgbtq-youth-in-dcfs-custody-receive-affirming-care/


2017 Joy Tomchin Community Grant Awardee Red Light Legal

2017 Joy Tomchin Community Grant Awardee Red Light Legal

Red Light Legal is a sex worker-led legal services and community education project based in Oakland. It is their mission to reduce violence the stigma, discrimination, and violence associated with the sex industry, particularly for those who face intersection oppressions due to racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and classism. Current projects include ongoing Know Your Rights trainings for sex workers (with an emphasis on the special needs of queer and trans youth,) advanced directive and identity document legal clinics, court support, and an online legal clinic. 

Meet Ghirlandi Guidetti, 2016-2017 Tom Steel Fellow

Pride Law Fund is proud to announce that it has selected Ghirlandi Guidetti as the 2016-2017 recipient of the Tom Steel Fellowship. Ghirlandi is sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

Ghirlandi will represent and advocate for LGBTQ children in the custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). His project will provide advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ youth who are overrepresented in the child welfare system. Ghirlandi is well-poised to do this work because ACLU of Illinois has a long-standing consent decree with DCFS to provide civil rights protections for youth in foster care. We are thrilled to support Ghirlandi's ground-breaking work.

For more information about his project check out American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and check our Facebook feed for his periodic updates about his ongoing work

2016 Trailblazer Awardee Professor Russell Robinson

UC Berkeley Law Professor Russell Robinson is the Pride Law Fund’s 2016 Trailblazer Award winner for his work as a pioneer and leader in the LGBTQ movement. The nonprofit will honor Robinson during an award ceremony and fundraising cruise in the San Francisco Bay on August 14.

Robinson’s research and teaching interests include antidiscrimination law, race and sexuality, law and psychology, constitutional law and media and entertainment law. His scholarship has highlighted the abuses LGBTQ people face in incarceration, and more. In Masculinity as Prison: Sexual Identity, Race, and Incarceration, Robinson has helped shape the conversation about the arbitrary and discriminatory processes for incarcerated LGBTQ people to access protective spaces within jails and prisons.

Read more about Professor Russell Robinson at BerkeleyLaw.