Tom was born in Seattle and spent much of his adolescence in Glenview, Ill., a Chicago suburb. He had a 20-year affiliation with the ACLU that began immediately after he graduated from New York University Law School in 1977 and served as counsel to the legislative director for the New York Civil Liberties Union.
He served as Vice President on the ACLU's National Board for the past several years.As an adjunct professor at the New York University School of Law, beginning in 1981, Tom taught one of the first legal courses on sexual orientation discrimination.
Tom was the executive director of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York from 1986 to 1992, fighting discrimination against gay men, lesbians and people with AIDS patients in employment, housing, health care, insurance, family law and military service.
In 1993, he held a wedding ceremony with Walter Rieman, a partner in the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. Also in 1993, he and other leaders of gay groups met with President Clinton, the first such delegation to be welcomed to the Oval Office.
Participants said Mr. Clinton assured them he would keep his promise to end the policy of banning gays from military service. But three months later, Mr. Clinton endorsed a "compromise" policy that retained the ban, though it nominally limited the scope of official investigations.
Recognizing that history was in the making, Tom and others created the Campaign for Military Service to head off the compromise plan and secure a complete repeal of the ban. The six-month effort, however, ended in defeat when Congress codified the anti-gay policy into law.
In October 1995, the Tom Stoddard Fellowship was established at New York University, under which a third-year law student is to work with public-interest organizations on gay civil rights cases.
He died from AIDS-related complications at his home in Manhattan, survived by his companion Walter Rieman. He was 48.