Jennifer C. Pizer
Chief Legal Officer
Los Angeles, CA
Jennifer C. Pizer is the Chief Legal Officer for Lambda Legal, the oldest and largest national legal organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and people living with HIV. Since joining Lambda Legal’s staff in 1996, Pizer has been a leading voice for ending marriage discrimination against lesbian and gay couples, for stopping anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, health care, and education, and against the misuse of religion to discriminate. In addition to litigating impact cases, she develops legislation, advises policymakers, and works with community advocates to advance family law and nondiscrimination protections, and to oppose overbroad religious exemptions.
Pizer was lead counsel in Majors v. Jeanes, the successful federal case against Arizona’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. She also was co-counsel in the litigation that won marriage for same-sex couples in California in 2008, and then protected the marriages 18,000 lesbian and gay couples celebrated there before passage of Proposition 8. In 2013-2014, Pizer co-authored a series of friend-of-the-court briefs explaining the threats to LGBT people of the religious challenges by Hobby Lobby and other businesses to the Affordable Care Act’s birth control insurance rule. In 2008, she won a unanimous California Supreme Court victory for Guadalupe Benitez, a lesbian denied infertility care due to her doctors’ discriminatory religious objections.
Pizer also has handled many cases to secure domestic partner protections and the rights of LGBT parents. She was lead counsel in litigation to win civil union protections for same-sex couples in Hawai’i, and was co-counsel for Arizona state workers in litigation that secured health coverage for same-sex partners. Pizer also represented federal court employee Karen Golinski against the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, obtaining multiple rulings that excluding her wife from her family health plan was unlawful. In addition, she represented Lydia Ramos in her successful court fight to retrieve her daughter after homophobic relatives took the child after the death of Lydia’s partner, and Keith Bradkowski, a gay man whose partner was killed on September 11, in his high-profile struggle for recognition.
Pizer is a national leader in policy development to protect same-sex couples and their families. She consulted extensively on the marriage bills enacted in Hawai’i, Illinois, Minnesota and Washington, and on marriage equality ballot language for numerous other states. In California, she co-drafted AB 205, the broad Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act of 2003, and later bills to further develop the rights of domestic partners. Recently, she drafted local ordinance protections for same-sex couples, and nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people, which have been adopted in numerous Arizona cities. She currently is a lead drafter within the team providing technical support on LGBT nondiscrimination to Congressional leadership, and nondiscrimination campaigns in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Pizer is a frequent advocate for LGBT family equality in academic and public settings, and is often quoted by the national media. She has received many professional achievement and community service awards, including being named among California’s top women litigators seven times. From 2011 to 2012, she was Legal Director of the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. Before joining the Williams Institute, she directed Lambda Legal’s Marriage Project.
Pizer has served as an adjunct professor of law at USC School of Law, Loyola Law School and Whittier Law School. Before joining Lambda Legal, she litigated intellectual property and complex business cases with a leading San Francisco firm, was legal director of the National Abortion Rights Action League, and clerked for Hon. Ann Aldrich of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. She is a graduate of NYU School of Law and Harvard College.
Jennifer C. Pizer, Navigating the Minefield: Hobby Lobby and Religious Accommodation in the Age of Civil Rights, 9 Harv. L. & Pol. Rev. 1 (2015)
Jennifer C. Pizer, How Has Perry Affected Other Marriage Rights Litigation Strategies? Reflection on a Silver Anniversary and the Golden Rule, 37 N.Y.U. Rev. L & Soc. Change 165 (2013).
Jennifer C. Pizer & Sheila James Kuehl, Same-Sex Couples and Marriage: Model Legislation for Allowing Same-Sex Couples to Marry or All Couples to Form a Civil Union (Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, August 2012).
Jennifer C. Pizer, From Outlaws to In-Laws, Legal Standing of LGBT Americans’ Family Relationships, Ch. 3, The LGBT Casebook (Petros Levounis, Jack Drescher, Mary E. Barber, eds., American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc., 2012).
Jennifer C. Pizer, Brad Sears, Christy Mallory and Nan D. Hunter, Evidence of Persistent and Pervasive Workplace Discrimination Against LGBT People: The Need for Federal Legislation Prohibiting Discrimination and Providing for Equal Employment Benefits, 45 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 715 (2012).
Jennifer C. Pizer , with Ninez A. Ponce, Susan D. Cochran and Vickie M. Mays, The Effects Of Unequal Access To Health Insurance For Same-Sex Couples In California, Health Aff., Vol. 29, No. 8, pp. 1539-1548 (August 2010).
Jennifer C. Pizer, Facial Discrimination: Darlene Jespersen’s Fight Against the Barbie-fication of Bartenders, 14 Duke J. of Gender L. & Pol. 285-318 (2007).
Jennifer C. Pizer and Doreena P. Wong, Arresting the Plague of Violence: California’s Unruh Act Requires School Officials to Act against Anti-Gay Peer Abuse, 12 Stan. L. & Pol’y Rev. 63 (2001).