MONTPELIER (AP) - The long-time head of Vermont's state Human Rights Commission is stepping down.

Sixty-one-year-old Robert Appel will become a lawyer in private practice with a Hinesburg law firm.

Appel has been the commission's executive director since 2001, heading up its various investigations of discrimination cases and representing it at the Statehouse.

He helped a mother challenge an airline that kicked her off a plane in Burlington for breast-feeding her child, and a lesbian couple challenge a Lyndonville inn's reluctance to host their wedding.

Before taking the job with the commission Appel served in other state jobs, including as defender general.