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From the desk of Kate Kendell, Esq.
Dear Friend of NCLR,
Tomorrow in Washington, D.C., transgender people will speak before Congress about the devastating and pervasive problem of gender identity discrimination. What is so extraordinary (and at the same time so ordinary) about this hearing is that for the first time sitting before Congress will be a line-up of people who can speak to this issue with undeniable authority—authority that comes from the authenticity of lives lived as trans citizens in a nation where they are exposed to the most blatant and wrenching discrimination based on gender identity and expression. NCLR's Legal Director Shannon Price Minter will be among those who testify on the more technical aspects of the law.
click here to read more from Kate's Blog: Out for Justice
We did it! Marriage Victory in California
It was the decision heard round the world. On May 15, 2008 the California Supreme Court held that LGBT individuals and couples have the fundamental freedom to marry. This is truly an historic decision, and its effects are far-reaching. People around the world are talking about this extraordinary moment and new chapter of history. From China to Sweden, to New York and back, people around the globe are rejoicing. On June 16, 2008 hundreds of couples were finally afforded the dignity and respect they deserve by the state of California as they began to marry in ceremonies across the state. The outpouring of support worldwide has been inspiring, as friends and allies from all over the country have joined NCLR in celebration of this landmark victory. Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were the first couple to wed in San Francisco, and Executive Director Kate Kendell was there. There’s no better way to express the emotion and gravity of that day than through her words.Click here to read Kate’s post, “Enduring Love,” on her blog, Out for Justice.
Nevertheless, the fight is far from over and our work is not yet done. Right-wing groups have qualified an initiative on the November ballot, and we must join together to protect our right to marry. NCLR is working around the clock from now until November to make sure that our relationships are granted full equality and respect. For more information about how you can get involved, please visit http://www.equalityforall.com/.
Give a Wedding Gift That Lasts: Justice.
Whether you’re getting married or you’re a friend or family of a couple who’s about to make it legal, NCLR has a great idea for a wedding gift—a gift to NCLR in the name of a married couple.
It’s easy and simple to do, and your gift will have a lasting impact—it will help NCLR continue to do all of the much-needed life-and law-changing work yet ahead of us. Click here to register your wedding with us so that your guests can give to NCLR in your honor, or to find out how to give a gift in honor of a couple who is marrying.
Protecting SB 777 and California’s Students
Since late last year when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill 777 into law, a coalition of right-wing organizations has worked to overturn these important youth protections—both in the courts and on the ballot. On June 23, our opponents failed for a second time to collect signatures for a ballot initiative which would reverse a law that protects California students in public schools from harassment and discrimination. Despite launching signature-gathering efforts earlier in the year, the Capitol Resource Institute announced it would no longer seek to overturn Senate Bill 777 at the ballot box this November.
But our work to keep our schools safe continues. On February 7, 2008, the same right-wing groups filed a lawsuit in Superior Court of California, County of San Diego to overturn SB 777. On June 23, Equality California and Gay-Straight Alliance Network filed a friend-of-the-court brief asking the court to dismiss the case. The brief argued that “the Legislature properly enacted the hate crimes and non-discrimination statutes in order to enforce the core constitutional principles of eradicating discrimination and ensuring equal protection of the law, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.” Equality California and GSA Network are represented by NCLR, Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP, Lambda Legal, Transgender Law Center, and Law Office of David C. Codell.
A hearing is scheduled for August 22, 2008. Please check back in with the Youth section of our website for more developments in the case.
NCLR Expands Our Legal Team
NCLR is proud to welcome three new attorneys to our growing legal team. Liz Seaton, Ilona Turner, and Ming Wong bring years of expertise, passion, and commitment to social justice to the NCLR legal team.
Liz Seaton, Esq.
Director of Projects and Managing Attorney
Liz Seaton joined the staff of NCLR after two years as Deputy Director at the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy. She is a founding member and current board member of the Transgender Law and Policy Institute. Prior to working at ACS, she spent six years at the Human Rights Campaign, most recently as HRC’s General Counsel and Legal Director. She originally joined the staff of HRC as Deputy Field Director focusing on HRC’s efforts to support the legislative work of state LGBT groups organized as the Equality Federation. Prior to taking leadership of HRC’s legal work, she worked extensively on HRC’s federal legislative agenda, including building support for transgender-inclusive legislation and co-authoring “Transgender Americans: A Handbook for Understanding.”
Her background includes practicing family law and employment discrimination law with NCLR’s National Family Law Advisory Council member Susan Silber at the law firm of Silber & Perlman., P.A. in Takoma Park, Maryland. Liz is the former Executive Director of Equality Maryland (then Free State Justice) and the former Associate Legal Services Director at the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington, D.C.
She earned her J.D. from American University’s Washington College of Law in 1994 where, as adjunct faculty she has taught both Legal Methods and Sexual Orientation (and Gender Identity) and the Law. Liz earned a Master’s degree in Public Policy and Women’s Studies at The George Washington University in 1990. Liz lives in Takoma Park with her partner and their child.
Ilona Turner, Esq.
Ilona M. Turner came to NCLR from Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP, a union-side labor law firm in New York City, where she represented unions, union-affiliated health and retirement plans, and employees. Ilona earned her bachelor’s degree in women’s studies and linguistics from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 2000, where she graduated with honors including Phi Beta Kappa. In 2006, she received her law degree from the University of California, Berkeley (Boalt Hall). While in law school, she was awarded the Mary C. Dunlap Fellowship to spend a summer at NCLR working to advance transgender rights, and also worked at the public interest law firm of Bredhoff & Kaiser, P.L.L.C. She served as Managing Editor of the California Law Review, and authored Sex Stereotyping Per Se: Transgender Employees and Title VII, 95 Cal. L. Rev. 561 (2007).
Prior to law school, Ilona worked as a Legislative Assistant to progressive icon Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg and subsequently as Legislative Advocate for Equality California. She helped win the passage of groundbreaking LGBT-rights legislation that, among other things, significantly expanded the rights of domestic partners under California law, and prohibited discrimination based on gender identity and expression in employment and housing.
Ming Wong, Esq.
Shin-Ming Wong graduated with a BA from Stanford University in 2003, where he majored in Philosophy. He was awarded his JD from U.C. Hastings in 2007, with a focus on Public Interest law. As an undergraduate he was active in student organizing around LGBT and people of color issues and was on staff at the Stanford LGBT Community Resources Center. While in law school he did clinical work at the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies and volunteered at the General Assistance Advocacy Project. He also served as co-chair of Hastings’ LGBT student group, Outlaw. He clerked at NCLR his first summer and after law school. In his second summer, he clerked for Julian Burnside, a QC in Melbourne, Australia. He is admitted to practice in California.
Family Protection Project Update
Over the last several months, NCLR’s Family Protection Project Coordinator Cathy Sakimura has been on the road. She has been reaching out to attorneys and advocates from around the country that provide family law services to low-income LGBT parent families and educating them on the unique legal challenges that LGBT individuals, families, and parents face.
At the Pathways to Justice: Delivering Social Justice Conference, sponsored by the State Bar of California and Legal Aid Association of California, Cathy and NCLR cooperating attorney Diane Goodman presented a legal training on family law issues affecting same-sex parent families.
The audience consisted of legal services providers who provide direct legal assistance to low- and moderate-income Californians, including pro bono programs, self-help legal centers, and court-based programs for individuals representing themselves.
“The legal services and family law communities have really made it a priority to learn about new developments in LGBT family law and to include these issues in their conferences,” noted Cathy. “Being able to provide these trainings and resources to legal services and pro bono attorneys is an essential part of the Family Protection Project’s goal of supporting free family law services for low-income LGBT parents and their children.”
The Family Protection Project has also developed a Resource Kit for Serving LGBT Clients, which has been distributed to nearly 75 legal services and pro bono programs around the country. This kit provides materials that organizations can give to LGBT clients, information about LGBT family law for attorneys, and tips for advocates serving low-income LGBT clients. To order a free resource kit, please click here.
In 2007, NCLR partnered with California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) under the leadership of Lisa Cisneros to form Proyecto Poderoso. The project has the goal of improving legal services for low-income LGBT people in rural California, particularly for LGBT farm workers.
Over the course of the last nine months, Proyecto Poderoso has broadened its impact through trainings, direct legal services, and community education. The project has increased CRLA’s capacity to serve LGBT clients in legal matters by offering an extensive training program.
The training draws on materials from the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Transgender Law Center, among other advocacy groups. Proyecto Poderoso has worked closely with CRLA to make sure that LGBT advocacy is included as a priority for the organization. In May 2008, CRLA held a three-day conference to explore organizational priorities for the coming five years, and NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell was invited to speak on the importance of LGBT advocacy and the challenges facing the LGBT community.
Since the project’s inception, Proyecto Poderoso has addressed 18 LGBT legal matters, many of which are still under investigation. These early cases are laying a strong legal foundation for future cases involving LGBT issues in rural California. Apart from handling legal matters, Proyecto Poderoso is also working with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) to improve the administrative processes for enforcing state and federal law prohibiting discrimination for all individuals.
Much of Proyecto Poderoso’s success is due to a massive community education campaign. Thus far, spokespeople from the project have participated in multiple interviews in English, Spanish, and Mixtec, an indigenous language from Oaxaca, Mexico. Radio and television broadcasts have reached Salinas, Watsonville, Santa Rosa, the San Joaquin Valley, and southern parts of Santa Clara County. By breaking the silence about LGBT issues through these efforts, Proyecto Poderoso is changing the way people think and talk about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in their communities.
NCLR Extends Sports Outreach
In 2001, NCLR made history by becoming the first LGBT national organization to tackle the rampant homophobia and transphobia in sports with the launch of our Sports Project. Since the Project’s inception, NCLR has worked to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in sports at all levels of athletic competition. Under the leadership of Helen Carroll, the Sports Project has recently expanded its outreach by forming a coalition with national sports organizations that share similar goals of combating LGBT discrimination in sport.
On May 19th, Helen met with Dr. Pat Griffin, director of It Takes a Team, Ted Rdyka, director of the Sports Media Desk at GLAAD, and Laurie Priest, Athletic Director of Mt. Holyoke College in New York City, to explore the many ways that these groups could work together to wage a public education campaign regarding these issues. The three groups are bringing diverse perspectives and approaches to combating these problems. It Takes a Team is an educational program designed to end homophobia in sport. Dr. Griffin organizes panels and works with an array of colleges/universities and groups to educate people about LGBT athletes and coaches. GLAAD recently created the Sports Media desk to ensure that the stories of LGBT athletes, coaches, and sports reporters are included in media as a way to combat anti-gay prejudice in American sports culture. And NCLR’s Sports Project plan of action includes impact litigation, public policy and advocacy, free legal assistance, and public education. At the end of the day-long meeting, the groups had made plans to organize two panels within the next year to spread the word about their work and collaborate to promote effective action. NCLR’s supporters can look forward to sessions for LGBT student life professionals in colleges/universities around the country on ways to connect with their athletic department and panels and panels with athletic representatives in NCAA colleges and universities throughout the country.
Helen said of the meeting, “Having these three organizations with the input of an NCAA athletic director in collaboration strengthens all of our work as we can contribute and assist each other in our organization’s missions. This alliance will also help with the visibility of our programs and direct those LGBT sports persons in need of education, legal or media resources to the right place for immediate assistance.”
The Party That Wouldn't Quit
All of us at NCLR would like to extend a very special thank you to Kate Clinton, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, and all of our corporate sponsors and supporters for making our 2008 Anniversary Celebration on May 31st a smashing success. We had an incredible time with a full house of our favorite friends at this historic moment in our organization and movement’s history. Look for your glamour shot on our online photo gallery. And let’s do it again soon.
A Special Kind of Election!
Are you a member of Working Assets or CREDO Mobile? Then take a moment to VOTE!
For the first time, the National Center for Lesbian Rights has been chosen as a Working Assets donations recipient. We are one of only 50 non-profits across the country that will receive a portion of the donations that Working Assets raises from its customers.
By filling out the 2008 Donations Ballot, you can vote to allocate this year’s funding to NCLR. The distribution of funds is determined solely by how many votes we receive. The more votes we get, the more funding we get. It’s that simple.
Voting is easy. Simply go to http://www.workingassets.com/vote.
Since 1985, Working Assets members have raised over $50 million for worthy groups like ours. Working Assets offers mobile, long distance, and credit card services that donate a portion of customers’ charges to progressive organizations, at no extra cost.
If you’re not a member of CREDO Mobile, join today by going to http://www.credomobile.com so you can help increase donations to NCLR. Thanks for participating!