Nancy Polikoff, McDonald/Wright Visiting Chair of Law
Nancy Polikoff is Professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law where she teaches Family Law and Sexuality and the Law. For academic year 2011-12, she is the Visiting McDonald/Wright Chair of Law at UCLA School of Law and Faculty Chair of the Williams Institute. In 1976, Prof. Polikoff co-authored one of the first law review articles on custody rights of lesbian mothers. For the past 35 years, she has been writing about, teaching about, and working on litigation and legislation about LGBT families. Prof. Polikoff was instrumental in the development of the legal theories that support second-parent adoption and custody and visitation rights for legally unrecognized parents. She was successful counsel in In re M.M.D., the 1995 case that established joint adoption for lesbian, gay, and unmarried couples in the District of Columbia, and Boswell v. Boswell, the 1998 Maryland case overturning restrictions on a gay noncustodial father’s visitation rights. From 2007-2009, she played a primary role in the drafting and passage of groundbreaking parentage legislation in the District of Columbia, for which she was honored with a Distinguished Service Award from the DC Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance. She describes that legislation in her most recent law review article, A Mother Should Not Have to Adopt Her Own Child: Parentage Laws for Children of Lesbian Couples in the Twenty-First Century, 5 Stanford J. Civ. Rts. & Civ. Lib. 201 (2009).
Prof. Polikoff is a passionate advocate of the view that the law should recognize and protect the many ways in which LGBT people form families and that marriage is an incomplete LGBT family law agenda. Her book, Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage: Valuing All Families under the Law, was published by Beacon Press in 2008, the inaugural volume in its Queer Ideas series. A former chair of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Issues, Prof. Polikoff is also a member of the National Family Law Advisory Council of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
Prof. Polikoff coordinated the legal representation of the hundreds of protesters arrested in October 1987 for civil disobedience at the US Supreme Court in protest of the Court’s 1986 ruling in Bowers v. Hardwick. Her article reflecting on that and other lawyering experiences, Am I My Client?: The Role Confusion of a Lawyer Activist, 31 Harv. Civ. Rts.-Civ. Lib. L. Rev 445 (1996), has been assigned in numerous law school courses.
Before joining full time academia in 1987, Prof. Polikoff co-founded the Washington, DC Feminist Law Collective and then supervised family law programs at the Women’s Legal Defense Fund (now the National Partnership on Women and Families). She holds a JD from Georgetown and a Masters Degree in Women’s Studies from George Washington University, and she blogs at www.beyondstraightandgaymarriage.blogspot.com.