BY ANDY HUMM | Arthur S. Leonard, award-winning legal reporter for Gay City News and the editor and principal author of LGBT Law Notes online (le-gal.org/about-law-notes), has been on the faculty of New York Law School since 1982. On April 26, he was honored as the school’s first Robert F. Wagner Professor of Labor and Employment Law, named for the US senator and New York Law graduate of the class of 1900 who wrote the Social Security Act and the National Labor Relations Act (known as the Wagner Act) during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration.
Leonard’s long record of accomplishment was praised in an introduction by the out dean and president of New York Law School, Anthony Crowell, a former counselor to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“Professor Leonard and US Senator Wagner share a bond as bold leaders of emerging social movements,” Crowell said. “He continues to be a passionate advocate, inspiring his students and his colleagues in the fight for equal rights.”
Following his investiture, Leonard addressed friends, colleagues, and students with a talk titled “A Battle over Statutory Interpretation: Title VII and Claims of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination” – a subject he has been addressing for decades and that has become more urgent as court rulings accepting anti-LGBTQ discrimination as sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are becoming more common – a conclusion inching its way to the US Supreme Court. Leonard said that there is a “split in the circuits” on interpreting sexual orientation as sex discrimination, making it ripe for high court review, “but someone has to ask them to do it.” The Supreme Court still has a 5-4 pro-LGBTQ majority as currently constituted. But Leonard said that if full en banc decisions by the circuit courts continue to hold that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are covered “that may make Supreme Court review unnecessary.”
Professor Leonard was the founder of the LeGaL, the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York, in 1978.