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William J. Thom
(1941 - living) U.S.A.

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Judge, activist

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New York City's first openly gay judge, William was the founder of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the world's first gay rights public interest law firm.

Originally envisioned in 1971, New York judges denied the organization's non-profit organization application. The New York Supreme Court finally allowed the organization to exist in 1973. Its national headquarters remain in New York City, but today has regional offices in Atlanta, Georgia, Chicago, Illinois, Dallas, Texas, and Los Angeles, California.

In 1973, The New York Times printed a one-paragraph story headlined, "Homosexual Legal Aid Group Set Up." A rare mention of lesbians and gay men, it said the announcement came from a New York City lawyer, William J. Thom. "The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund was designed to aid homosexuals in the same way that similar organizations assist blacks, Puerto Ricans and members of other minority groups," the newspaper-of-record said.

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