Matt Coles

Director of the ACLU's Center for Equality

Matthew Coles, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project

Matthew Coles graduated cum laude from Yale University in 1973 and from Hastings College of the Law (University of California) in 1977. Almost since graduation from law school, he has been a leader in the lesbian and gay civil rights movement. Mr. Coles practiced law for 10 years in San Francisco, specializing in civil rights, including LGBT rights, race discrimination and sex discrimination. In 1987, he joined the ACLU of Northern California as a staff lawyer. Since 1995, he has been the Director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and AIDS Project.

Mr. 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 & 1990). Based on his experience, in 1996, he wrote Try This At Home!, a practical guide on how to pass nondiscrimination and domestic partnership laws.

Mr. Coles was one of the principal lawyers on the successful challenge to Colorado's Amendment 2, Romer v. Evans, which culminated in the landmark 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 has also been 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." Mr. Coles has taught at Hastings College of the Law and Boalt Hall Law School, both part of the University of California, and at Stanford University. Mr. Coles is a member of the Board of Directors of the Guttmacher Institute.