Nancy Polikoff

Professor of Law

Office: Room 450
Phone: 202-274-4232
E-mail: vCard

Nancy D. Polikoff is Professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law, where she teaches in the areas of family law, civil procedure, and sexuality and the law. Previously, she supervised family law programs at the Women’s Legal Defense Fund (now National Partnership for Women and Families), and before that she practiced law as part of a feminist law collective. For 30 years, she has been writing about and litigating cases involving lesbian and gay families. Her articles have appeared in numerous law reviews, and her history of the development of the law affecting lesbian and gay parenting appears as a chapter in J. D’Emilio, W. Turner, and U. Vaid, eds., Creating Change: Sexuality, Public Policy, and Civil Rights (2000). She helped develop the legal theories in support of second-parent adoption and visitation rights for legally unrecognized parents, and she was successful counsel in In re M.M.D., the 1995 case that established joint adoption for lesbian and gay couples in the District of Columbia, and Boswell v. Boswell, the 1998 Maryland case overturning restrictions on a gay noncustodial father’s visitation rights.

Professor Polikoff is the author of the recently published book, Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage: Valuing All Families Under the Law (Beacon Press 2008). For more on the book, go to Please also visit Professor Polikoff's blog.

Areas of Specialization

  • Civil Procedure
  • Family and Juvenile Law
  • Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Issues

Degrees & Universities

  • M.A., George Washington University 1980
  • J.D., Georgetown University Law Center 1975
  • B.A., University of Pennsylvania 1972

  • Selected Publications

    • + More Publications...

  • + Selected Presentations

    • Nancy Polikoff, Testimony, Testimony Before the D.C. City Council on Marriage Equality & Domestic Partnerships (Wash., D.C., Oct. 26, 2009).
    • Nancy Polikoff, Speech, Marriage, Civil Unions, Domestic Partnerships and Other Family Structures in a Mobile Society (National Lesbian and Gay Law Foundation Lavender Law Conference, San Diego, Cal., Oct. 2005).
    • Nancy Polikoff, Speech, Valuing All Families: What is a Comprehensive LGBT Family Policy and Which American Arguments for Same-Sex Marriage Move us Farther Away From It (International Lesbian and Gay Law Conference 3, University of Toronto, Toronto, Can., June 27, 2005).
    • Nancy Polikoff, Speech, Beyond Marriage: Broadening the LGBT Family Agenda (17th Annual National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Creating Change Conference, St. Louis, Mo., Nov. 12, 2004).
    • Nancy Polikoff, Speech, The Rhetoric of Same-Sex Marriage and Our Children (City University of New York School of Law, N.Y.C., N.Y., Nov. 5, 2004).
    • Nancy Polikoff, Speech, Lesbian and Gay Parents: Thirty Years of Legal Issues (James R. Browning Symposium on Children and the Law, Montana Law Review, University of Montana, Missoula, Mont., Sept. 23, 2004).
    • Nancy Polikoff, Speech, Marriage or Multiple Options? The Impact of Same-Sex Marriage Claims (2004 Annual Meeting, Law and Society Association, Chi., Ill., May 2004).
    • Nancy Polikoff, Speech, Eliminating Marriage’s ‘Special Rights (Women’s Rights Law Reporter Symposium 2004, Rutgers University School of Law, Newark, N.J., Apr. 1, 2004).
    • Nancy Polikoff, Speech, Ending Marriage as We Know It: Does the Movement for Same-Sex Marriage Divert Attention from a More Just Reform of the Law of Families? (Family Law Distinguished Scholar Lecture, University of Wisconsin Law School, Madison, Wisc., Mar. 25, 2004).
    • Nancy Polikoff, Speech, Why the ALI Domestic Partners Principles Get it Right (AALS Annual Meeting, Section Program for the Property Law Section, Atlanta, Ga., Jan. 2004).
    • Nancy Polikoff, Speech, Questioning Ourselves: The Pros and Cons of Marriage and Domestic Partnership Registration (George Washington University, Wash., D.C., Nov. 2003).
    • Nancy Polikoff, Speech, Making Marriage Matter Less: The ALI Domestic Partners Principles are a Step in the Right Direction,” (University of Chicago Law School, Chic., Ill., Oct. 2003).
    • Nancy Polikoff, Speech, Ending Marriage as We Know It (International Society of Family Law North American Regional. Conference, University of Oregon School of Law, Eugene, Or., June 2003).
    • Nancy Polikoff, Speech, Lessons Beyond U.S. Borders (Symposium on Marriage, Democracy, and Families, Hofstra Law School, N.Y., Mar., 2003).
    • Nancy Polikoff, Speech, Values Underlying Adoption Criteria (Symposium on Marriage, Adoption and the Best Interests of the Child, Capital University Law School, Columbus, Ohio, Nov. 2002).
    • Nancy Polikoff, Speech, Defining Domestic Partners (National Gay and Lesbian Task Force 15th Annual Creating Change Conference, Portland, Or., Nov. 2002).
    • Nancy Polikoff, Speech, Parenting by Same-Sex Partners Marriage, Partnerships and Parenting in the 21st Century: The Current International Situation and New Perspectives for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered People and Their Families – A Comparative Approach (Conference of the Center for Research and Comparative Legal Studies on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, University of Turin, Turin, Italy, June 2002).
  • + Selected Media Appearances

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