FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | January 17, 2007
(San Francisco, CA, January 17, 2007) — Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) announced the launch of the Family Protection Project, which will improve access to family law services for low-income same-sex parent families. Existing legal services for poor and low-income families generally lack the specialized knowledge and expertise to effectively serve lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) clients. NCLR's Family Protection Project will fill this gap by providing specialized training and materials to legal services programs in selected states, beginning with California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Nationally, experts estimate that at least six million children in the U.S. have LGBT parents. On average, according to recent studies by the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA School of Law, same-sex parents with children earn $10,000 less than married couples with children. Despite the need for free or low-cost legal services for these families, however, they are virtually non-existent in most states.
"Every day, NCLR receives calls from LGBT people across the country who are desperate because they cannot afford an attorney," said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. "This is a huge unmet need. By training attorneys who work specifically with low income and poor communities about the unique legal issues facing the lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender community, we will be giving them the tools to assure that their LGBT clients get meaningful help and representation."
The Family Protection Project will help low-income LGBT parents protect their relationships with their children by increasing and improving the capacity of legal services organizations and by educating families about their rights. The Project will train and assist attorneys who provide free and low-cost family law representation. NCLR is working with community groups to educate families about their rights and reach out specifically to communities of color with relevant, culturally competent information.
"Children with LGBT parents often don't have a legal relationship with at least one of their parents, which leaves them and their families vulnerable," said NCLR Equal Justice Fellow and attorney Cathy Sakimura, who manages the Project. "If a child's biological parent dies or is incarcerated and her other parent isn't a legal parent, she can end up in foster care, even though she has another parent who is able to take care of her. Also, low-income families are ineligible for many government benefits if their parent-child relationships aren't recognized. NCLR's Family protection Project will address these vulnerabilities by supporting and expanding free and low-cost family law services to enable these families to protect their parent-child relationships."
In each state, NCLR will collaborate with organizations serving low-income families, LGBT people, and communities of color. NCLR's first partnership is in Pennsylvania with Equality Advocates Pennsylvania, one of the few organizations providing free representation specifically for low-income LGBT families. NCLR's Family Protection Project will assist Equality Advocates Pennsylvania in their efforts to expand their network of pro bono attorneys.
For more information on NCLR's family law work, click here
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.