Susan Sommer is Associate Legal Director and Director of Constitutional Litigation for Lambda Legal, the oldest and largest national legal organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and people with HIV.
Sommer handles groundbreaking litigation and supervises attorneys in all areas of Lambda Legal’s work, including fighting for recognition of same-sex relationships; securing the rights of LGBT parents; battling anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and law enforcement; protecting LGBT youth in out-of-home care; and enforcing rights for people living with HIV. Sommer has overseen the work of the Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project and the Seniors priority area since the inception of each.
Sommer is leading Lambda Legal’s effort in Henry v Hodges, the Ohio marriage case currently pending at the U.S. Supreme Court. The case seeks recognition of out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples and their rights as parents to their children. An experienced litigator, she played a key role in Lawrence v. Texas, Lambda Legal's landmark 2003 U.S. Supreme Court case that struck down Texas's "Homosexual Conduct" law--and therefore anti-sodomy laws nationwide--in the most significant gay rights breakthrough of its time. She has also submitted numerous amicus briefs at the high court.
In addition to the Ohio marriage case, she has fought for marriage and marriage recognition in state and federal courts across the country and is currently on the legal team for Lambda Legal’s Louisiana and Georgia marriage cases. Her advocacy helped pave the way to marriage along the East coast in states like New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and New York, where Hernandez v. Robles, in which she was lead counsel, helped move public opinion forward significantly by showing the hardships couples face when they are denied the rights, responsibilities and protections of marriage.
Sommer has participated in Lambda Legal’s challenges to Section 3 of DOMA and has led nationwide efforts to implement United States v. Windsor broadly, including serving as lead counsel on cases seeking Social Security and veterans’ benefits for the surviving partners of same-sex spouses. She has also worked extensively on litigation and legislative efforts to win protections for LGBT parents and their children.
Recognized as a learned voice on, and passionate fighter for, LGBT equality, Sommer has spoken at conferences at many of America’s leading law schools, including Yale, Harvard, NYU, and Columbia, and bar associations and professional societies, including the American Constitution Society. She has received numerous awards from bar associations and political and professional affinity groups. Regularly consulted by news outlets regarding the civil rights of LGBT people and their families, Sommer has been profiled in or interviewed by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Salon, Glamour, New York Magazine and C-SPAN.
A seasoned litigator, Sommer was a partner at Lankler Siffert & Wohl in New York before joining Lambda Legal. Earlier, Sommer was an associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell. She has taught at Brooklyn Law School and Cardozo Law School. Sommer clerked for U.S. District Court Judge William Schwarzer in the Northern District of California.
She graduated from Yale Law School and received her bachelor's degree from Yale College, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude, and with distinction in the major.