With a broad vision, NCLR’s life-and-law-changing work advances the legal landscape for every LGBT person. Our cases focusing on elder law, employment, family law, healthcare, immigration, marriage, relationship protections, transgender law, youth, and other civil rights create safer homes, safer jobs, and a more just world.
Pickup et al. v. Brown et al.
and Welch et al. v. Brown et al.
On September 29, 2012, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the first law in the nation prohibiting state-licensed therapists from trying to change the sexual orientation or gender expression of a patient under 18 years old. Every leading medical and mental health organization in the country has warned that these practices do not work and put young people at risk of serious harm, including depression, substance abuse, and suicide. NCLR and Equality California, the state’s leading LGBT political organization, were the primary organizational sponsors of the law, which was authored by Senator Ted Lieu.
Pending (New Mexico)
Griego v. Oliver
On March 21, 2013, NCLR, along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of New Mexico, and Albuquerque law firm Sutin, Thayer & Browne, APC, and local cooperating attorneys Maureen Sanders, Lynn Perls, and Kate Girard, filed a lawsuit on behalf of two New Mexico couples seeking the freedom to marry for all same-sex couples in the state. The couples are Rose Griego and Kim Kiel, and Miriam Rand and Ona Porter.
Frazier v. Goudschaal
Marci Frazier and Kelly Goudschaal were in a same-sex relationship and decided to have children together through insemination. Kelly was the birth mother for their two children, who they then raised for many years as co-parents. They gave the children hyphenated last names, and the two mothers signed a written agreement saying that they both intended to be parents and share custody of the children. Unfortunately, the relationship between Kelly and Marci broke down in 2008. They co-parented the children for a period of time after separation, but then Kelly cut off contact between Marci and the children.
Young v. IPS
Dynasty Young is a seventeen-year-old openly gay young man. Just before the beginning of his junior year of high school, he moved to Indianapolis and enrolled in Arsenal Technical High School. From the first day of school, Dynasty was subjected to relentless, severe harassment and abuse by his peers because he was perceived as gay and gender non-conforming and because he sometimes dressed in clothes and accessories such as knee-high boots, rings, and bangles, and carried a purse.
Port v. Cowan
Jessica Port and Virginia Anne Cowan married in California in 2008. Unfortunately, their relationship broke down and they made the difficult decision to end their marriage. They were residents of Maryland at that time, and sought a divorce in a Maryland court in 2010. On May 18, 2012, the Court of Appeals unanimously held that married same-sex couples are entitled to divorce under Maryland law, and that regardless of whether same-sex couples are allowed to marry in Maryland, out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples must be respected in the state.
Victory! (New Mexico)
Chatterjee v. King
Bani Chatterjee and her partner, Taya King, were in a committed, long-term relationship and decided to raise a child together through international adoption. Because they could not adopt jointly due to discrimination against same-sex couples, only Taya legally adopted their child from abroad. Bani and Taya eventually ended their relationship, and Taya moved to Colorado with their daughter and tried to prevent Bani from having any contact with their child. On June 1, 2012, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that a woman who holds herself out as the child’s parent and has a parental relationship with the child can be a legal parent under New Mexico law, in the same way that a man would be under New Mexico law. This ruling makes it clear that when a same-sex couple raises a child together, they can both be recognized as full legal parents.
Pending (Illinois, Pennsylvania)
Cozen O’Connor, P.C. v. Jennifer J. Tobits, et al. and Estate of Sarah Ellyn Farley (IL)
Jennifer Tobits and Sarah Ellyn Farley married in Toronto in 2006. Two weeks after their wedding, Ellyn was diagnosed with cancer. The Chicago couple fought the disease together for their entire marriage, until Ellyn passed away in September 2010. Because Ellyn’s parents had never accepted her marriage to Jennifer, they feared that Ellyn’s parents would make legal claims to their property and generally attack Jennifer’s status as Ellyn’s spouse. Shortly after Ellyn’s death, those fears came true.
Doe v. Anoka-Hennepin School District No. 11 and
E.R. v. Anoka-Hennepin School District No. 11
All students should be able to receive an education in an environment that is safe and inclusive. Unfortunately, many schools in the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota have become a frightening and harmful toxic environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. Many students in the district are harassed every day by their peers because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender expression. NCLR joined the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Faegre & Benson LLP in investigating the school district in the fall of 2010 after four LGBT students from the district died by suicide.
Florida Department of Children and Families v. M.J.H.
V.A., a lesbian who lives in Florida with her partner, has been raising a baby boy, E.L.A., since nine days after he was born. He was placed with V.A. in part because she is a relative. After Florida’s Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) terminated the parental rights of E.L.A.’s birth mother, V.A. applied to adopt E.L.A.
Adams v. Federal Bureau of Prisons et al.
Vanessa Adams is a transgender woman who is seeking medically necessary treatment for Gender Identity Disorder (GID) while she is incarcerated in the federal prison system.
Greene v. County of Sonoma et al.
In a tragic case that touched the hearts of thousands across the country, NCLR clients Clay Greene and the estate of Harold Scull, Greene's deceased partner of 20 years, reached a settlement on July 22 resolving their lawsuit against the County of Sonoma and other defendants.
Victory! (U.S. Supreme Court)
Christian Legal Society v. Martinez
Like many public schools, the University of California - Hastings College of the Law allows law students to organize student groups that can apply for university funding and other resources for group-related events. To be recognized as an official student group, all student groups must abide by Hastings' policy on nondiscrimination. In 2004, the Christian Legal Society (CLS) filed a lawsuit against Hastings, arguing that the nondiscrimination policy violated the group's First Amendment right to discriminate against LGBT and non-Christian students. NCLR represents Outlaw, the LGBT student group at Hastings, which intervened to defend the University's policy. Hastings is represented by Ethan Schulman of Crowell & Moring LLP.
John Doe v. Alberto Gonzales
John Doe, a gay man from Egypt, applied for asylum based on anti-gay persecution he suffered in Egypt, where gay men are frequently arrested and subjected to brutal physical mistreatment for private, non-commercial, consensual adult sexual conduct. The Immigration Judge and Board of Immigration Appeals denied his application. NCLR and the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission filed an amicus brief in support of Doe’s eligibility for withholding of removal and relief from removal under the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Victory! (U.S. District Court)
Perry v. Brown
On May 22, 2009, two same-sex couples filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, challenging California’s Proposition 8, which amended the California Constitution to prohibit marriage by same-sex couples.
The NCLR, the ACLU, and Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case on June 26, supporting the argument that Proposition 8 violates the federal Constitution.
In re Eduardo
Eduardo is a transgender man from Mexico. When he was a child, his parents often verbally and physically abused him in an attempt to alter his gender identity. After enduring this physical and verbal abuse, Eduardo left his home town for another city in Mexico. He was able to obtain a degree in order to work as a teacher, but he was often harassed because he presented himself as a male, while his ID identified him as female.
In re S.K.
S.K. is a gay Pakistani man seeking asylum and withholding of removal because he fears persecution based on his sexual orientation and HIV status. Under Pakistani law, being gay is punishable by death, and LGBT people are forced to live in secrecy and constant fear of exposure. The Immigration Judge ignored the serious risk of persecution that S.K. faces and denied his application for asylum. The judge held that S.K., who is HIV positive, and was in a committed relationship with a man in Minnesota, could avoid persecution by hiding his sexual orientation, marrying a woman, and having children. The Immigration Judge also failed to recognize that S.K.’s traumatizing diagnosis of HIV understandably delayed his filing.
Nancy C. v. Alameda County Fire Department
Nancy C. is an emergency dispatcher with the Alameda County Fire Department. Nancy and her wife, a Canadian citizen, were married in Canada in October 2009. When Nancy learned about the passage of SB 54, the new California law requiring the state government to grant all the rights and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples who get married in other states or countries any time after November 5, 2008, she asked her employer to add her wife as a beneficiary on her health and retirement plans.
Victory! (El Salvador)
In re Barbara
Born male in El Salvador, Barbara was abused throughout her childhood by family, neighbors, and classmates because she was “too feminine.” When Barbara turned 18, she began to live as a woman, but she still suffered frequent harassment and violence. In one instance, Barbara and her boyfriend were viciously beaten outside of a club. Barbara was kidnapped and taken to an isolated area where she was physically and sexually assaulted. After the kidnapping and assault, Barbara lived in constant fear, and finally fled to the U.S.
In re S.H.
S.H. is a lesbian from Bosnia who came to the United States in 2006 to escape the oppressive and abusive conditions she faced because of her sexual orientation in her home country. While vacationing with her girlfriend in another town, a group of men found out that they were lesbians and raped them. The police initially took a report but later that night told the two women that they had to leave town. The police blamed the women for the assault and accused them of trying to cause problems in a small town. After the rape, S.H. told her mother about her sexual orientation, and her mother turned her back on S.H. and refused to talk to her.
In re M.G.
M.G. is a gay man from Mexico who came to the United States fleeing physical abuse from gangs and extortion by the police. When his mother died when he was 17, M.G. faced more physical violence from his father and his oldest brother because of his sexual orientation. Feeling desperate, he moved out and was homeless until he was eventually taken in by a neighbor in his small town of Mixquiahuala de Juarez. This neighbor treated him like a son and gave him shelter, food, and protection. Nevertheless, her sons were unhappy about M.G. staying there and would not allow him to eat at the table with them or enter their homes. By the time he was 20, he left and headed for the capital, where he found a job in an auto shop.
In re M.Q.
M.Q. is a native and citizen of Mexico. When M.Q. was a child, his father often accused him of being a “sissy,” and as he grew up, M.Q. was physically assaulted many times by his family, peers, and police because he was gay. One gang of teenage boys who had beaten M.Q. threatened him and told him that if they ever saw him again, they would kill him. In December 2003, M.Q. encountered them again and barely escaped alive. M.Q. fled Mexico, and arrived in the U.S. in January 2004. Although he was afraid to return to Mexico, M.Q. went back once in May 2005 to see his eldest sister, who was dying. M.Q. re-entered the United States in August 2006, and applied for asylum with help of NCLR. After 2 years of waiting, M.Q. was granted asylum in September 2008.
In re Marriage Cases
NCLR was lead counsel on behalf of same-sex couples, Equality California, and Our Family Coalition in In re Marriage Cases, the marriage equality case decided favorably by the California Supreme Court on May 15, 2008. This was the first decision to hold that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry and that LGBT people are subject to the highest level of protection under the California Constitution. NCLR’s co-counsel in the case were Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe LLP; Lambda Legal; the ACLU; and the Law Office of David C. Codell.
In re Marta
Marta is a transgender woman from Mexico who suffered unthinkable verbal, physical, and sexual abuse because of her sexual orientation and gender identity. The abuse began in her youth when she was abducted by a group of armed men. When her brother came to rescue her, he was shot to death in front of her. When the police arrived, Marta was arrested for refusing to give them the names of the men who had abducted her. She was put in jail for several days where she was raped by the police. After that, she became a frequent target of the police, and when placed in jail for not paying a bribe, she was detained for days at a time and repeatedly raped while imprisoned.
Victory! (Saudi Arabia)
In re N.A.
N.A. is a young gay man from Saudi Arabia, who lived his life in fear that others would discover his sexual orientation. He knew that gay men were often detained by police, tortured and killed—and he also knew that his family would disapprove or even turn him in to the police if they found out about his sexual orientation. As a result, he often hid his feelings towards men, fearing the repercussions.
In re R.F.
R.F. is a young gay man from Honduras who is seeking asylum in the United States. Growing up, R.F. was physically and emotionally abused by his grandmother and uncles because he didn’t conform to gender stereotypes. At school he was also targeted by older children, and when he would try to seek help from his teachers or the principal, he was told that he needed to behave more like a “man” so that the other kids would stop harassing him. By the time he was 13-years-old, his neighbors perceived him as gay and physically assaulted him in public, and he was not safe at home with his family. When he was 17-years-old, he left his home town for the capital, hoping to find a safe environment; instead, he encountered even more violence.
In re R.T.
R.T. is a gay man from Peru who fled to the United States because he was the victim of severe harassment and violence in his home country. While in Lima, Peru, he was physically assaulted several times in public, and was subjected to sexual abuse as well. The persecution started when he was young, with verbal and emotional abuse that eventually led to physical abuse. As he grew older, the abuse and harassment only worsened. After being stripped naked at his workplace by co-workers who constantly harassed and physically abused him, he fled to the United States fearing for his life.
Pending (Cherokee Nation)
Reynolds & McKinley
NCLR represents Kathy Reynolds and Dawn McKinley, a same-sex couple who are members of the Cherokee Nation. In May 2004, Reynolds and McKinley obtained a marriage certificate from the Cherokee Nation and married shortly thereafter. The next month, another member of the Cherokee Nation filed a petition seeking to invalidate Reynolds and McKinley’s marriage. NCLR successfully defended Reynolds and McKinley before the Cherokee high court. Two days later, various members of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council filed a new action seeking to invalidate Reynolds and McKinley’s marriage. In December 2005, the high court dismissed this second challenge to their marriage.
In re V.R.
V.R., a gay man from Mexico, had been taunted, harassed, and assaulted for most of his life. His stepfather was particularly abusive and attempted to “make a man” out of V.R. and “correct” his sexual orientation. V.R. was also subject to constant verbal and physical harassment at school, which only worsened as he got older. He suffered physical, sexual, and emotional abuse at the hands of classmates, family members, and people in his neighborhood. He eventually left his home town of San Jose Chiltepec when he was 25 after suffering several public attacks. He moved to Tijuana where his situation improved slightly, but deteriorated when his neighbors discovered his sexual orientation.
In re Vicky
Vicky is a young transgender woman from Mexico. Throughout her childhood, Vicky’s family and the people in her small town attacked her for her femininity. When she was 16, Vicky came home from school to find that her parents had abandoned her. She fled to the United States in 1994. In 1997, she began living as a woman.
In re Y.G.
Y.G. is a transgender woman from Mexico who suffered severe physical and mental abuse from her family because of her gender identity. Growing up, her family insisted that she act more “masculine,” and she was physically abused when she refused. She went to the police, but they ignored her need for protection. In February 2007, Y.G. was badly beaten by gang members who left her bleeding from head wounds. Fearing for her life, she fled to the United States.
Steven Apilado, et al. v. North American Gay Amateur Athletic Association
All sports leagues, including leagues organized within the LGBT community, should be about fair play, diversity, and inclusion. Unfortunately, when NCLR clients Steven Apilado, LaRon Charles, and Jon Russ traveled with their softball team to the 2008 Gay Softball World Series in Seattle, they encountered discrimination, hostility, and suspicion. Their team, D2, had been playing together in the San Francisco Gay Softball League for years. In 2008, they had practiced more than ever in the hopes of winning the World Series, and they made it all the way to the championship game.
In re Angelica
Angelica was born in Mexico City to a family that raised her with the expectation that she would get married and have children. Her family was also extremely controlling and abusive. She was not permitted to participate in any activities outside of the home and was physically abused throughout her childhood. When a rumor spread at her school that she had been spotted kissing a girl, in addition to being terrified of her family’s reaction, Angelica began facing regular harassment and even physical assaults by classmates and men from her neighborhood. After a young gay man from the neighborhood was viciously murdered, Angelica fled to the U.S.
Charisma R. v. Kristina S.
Charisma R. and Kristina S. were in a committed relationship for 6 years. They decided to have children together, and Kristina gave birth to their child in 2003. They started a baby journal and sent out a joint birth announcement. Charisma and Kristina cared for their child together, and Charisma provided the primary care after Kristina returned to work. When their child was only a few months old, Kristina abruptly left their shared home and refused to allow Charisma to have any contact with their baby.
Victory! (Inter-American Human Rights Commission)
Karen Atala Riffo v. Chile
On May 31, 2004, a Chilean Court ordered Karen Atala Riffo, herself a judge in Chile, to relinquish custody of her three children to her estranged husband because she is a lesbian and living with her female partner. The Supreme Court of Chile based its decision on the long-discredited and unsupportable notion that being raised by lesbian parents is harmful for children. With no legal recourse left in Chile, Ms. Atala took her case to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IAHCHR) in Washington, D.C.
Partial Loss (California)
Strauss v. Horton (Prop 8 Legal Challenge)
On November 5, 2008, NCLR, the ACLU, Lambda Legal, Munger, Tolles & Olson, LLP, the Law Office of David C. Codell, and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP filed a petition asking the California Supreme Court to invalidate Proposition 8. Our petition argued that Proposition 8 is invalid because the California Constitution does not permit the constitutional rights of a minority to be stripped away by a simple majority vote.
Gammett v. Idaho State Board of Corrections
Jenniffer Spencer is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for possession of a stolen car and a failed escape attempt that occurred when she was a teenager. Since she has been incarcerated in Idaho, Spencer, a transgender woman, made repeated requests—75 in total—for treatment for her gender identity disorder (GID), but the Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC) failed to provide her with any appropriate care.
California Education Committee, LLC, et al. v. Jack O’Connell et al.
In November 2007, anti-LGBT organizations filed a lawsuit in federal court, challenging California’s safe schools laws that, among other things, protect students from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. NCLR clients Equality California and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network got involved in the case in order to defend and protect the anti-discrimination laws.
Pending (U.S. Court of Appeals)
Iqbal v. Ashcroft
Pakistani national Javaid Iqbal was arrested in New York as part of a post-September 11 dragnet by federal officials that targeted Arab men, among others. The U.S. detained Iqbal, subjecting him to beatings, frequent invasive body searches, and other forms of mistreatment, and often confiscated his Koran and forbade his participation in Friday prayers. NCLR has a strong interest in ensuring that all persons receive the protections of the basic civil liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and is concerned about government treatment of individuals, racial/ethnic targeting, and religious freedom violations. NCLR joined an amicus brief opposing the government’s efforts to make it more difficult for civil rights plaintiffs to discover information about higher government officials who set and oversee policies that violate people’s rights.
Victory! (U.S. Supreme Court)
Doe v. Reed
In this case, anti-gay groups are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a decision ordering the release of the names of 138,000 people who signed petitions supporting a ballot initiative to repeal basic protections for same-sex couples in Washington State.
Smith v. Quale
Kim Smith and Maggie Quale are two women who were in a committed romantic relationship for over two years. They held a commitment ceremony before family and friends in January 2008. They decided to have children together and, after they were unable to get pregnant using sperm from a sperm bank, they ended up using a friend’s boyfriend as a sperm donor. Kim and Maggie paid the donor $540 for his sperm from their joint bank account. They had twins, and raised them together for approximately six months before breaking up.
Victory! (District of Columbia)
Jackson v. D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics
NCLR is a member of the Campaign for All D.C. Families, a diverse coalition working to achieve marriage equality for same-sex couples in the District of Columbia. Since July 6, 2009, D.C. recognizes the marriages of same-sex couples performed in other jurisdictions. On December 15, 2009, the D.C. City Council passed “The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009,” which permits same-sex couples to marry.
Colombia Diversa, Expediente No. D-6362, Corte Constitucional de Colombia
A group of Colombian human rights and LGBT organizations challenged their country’s marriage laws that excluded same-sex couples under the Colombia Constitution’s equal protection provision. NCLR filed an amicus brief along with the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Center for Health, Science and Public Policy at Brooklyn Law School, and the Center for the Study of Law & Culture at Columbia Law School. The Colombia Constitutional Court ruled on January 28, 2009 that same-sex couples must be granted the same legal rights and responsibilities as different-sex couples in common-law marriages.
D.A. v. J.W.
Seventeen-year-old J.W. and 18-year-old D.A. had been dating for almost six months when J.W.’s mother, Ms. W., learned about their relationship. Because she disapproved of her daughter dating another woman, in December 2007, Ms. W. petitioned a Florida court to get a restraining order to prohibit any contact between the two. Ms. W. admitted in court that she was seeking a restraining order only because she did not want her daughter to have a relationship with another woman.
Partial Loss (Colorado)
Demers v. Zupancic
Marilynn Zupancic and her former partner Dianne were together for 30 years and planned on spending the rest of their lives together. Although they could not legally marry in their home state of Colorado, Marilynn and Dianne were partners in every respect. Marilynn, a teacher, supported Dianne while she was in graduate school, and they took out a mortgage on their jointly-owned home so that Dianne could pay off her school loans. In 2007, their relationship ended.
In re E.G.
E.G. is a young gay man from Uganda who came to the United States in order to pursue higher education. As a child and young adult, he was often verbally abused by his family members for behaving in a way that seemed too different from other boys. As he grew older, he learned to hide his sexuality for fear of being arrested by the police on the basis of his sexual orientation. E.G. hid from government operatives who hunt down men who are suspected to be gay, and then once arrested, are often tortured.
Sulpizio v. Mesa Community College
Lorri Sulpizio was the Head Women’s Basketball Coach at San Diego Mesa College, and her domestic partner, Cathy Bass, assisted the team and served as the team’s Director of Basketball Operations for over eight years. Despite Sulpizio’s and Bass’s dedication and demonstrated track record of success leading the women’s basketball program at the community college, Mesa officials discharged both coaches at the end of the 2007 academic year after Coach Sulpizio repeatedly advocated for equal treatment of female student-athletes and female faculty, and following publication in a local paper of an article identifying Sulpizio and Bass as domestic partners.
In re J.D.F.
T.L. and D.F., a lesbian couple, planned to have a child together. D.F. gave birth to their child, J.D.F. In order to protect the child’s relationship with both parents, the couple entered into a court-approved joint custody agreement. Several years later, T.L. and D.F. separated and agreed to share custody. But in 2004, Ohio’s anti-LGBT constitutional amendment excluding same-sex couples from marriage was passed.
Johnson v. SooHoo
Marilyn Johnson and Nancy SooHoo raised two children together while living in Minnesota. When the couple broke up, Johnson unilaterally cut off contact between SooHoo and the children.
Kerrigan & Mock v. Connecticut Department of Public Health
The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the state cannot exclude same-sex couples from marriage. The Court held that preventing same-sex couples from marrying is unconstitutional discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Court also held that the state’s civil union system for same-sex couples was inherently unequal because civil unions do not provide the same dignity, stature, and respect as marriage.
L.E. v. K.R.
L.E. and K.R. had two children together. Each was the biological mother of one child, and each adopted her non-biological child through a second-parent adoption in Washington State, where they lived. The couple moved to Florida, and their relationship ended several years later. They entered into an agreement and successfully shared equal custody and visitation with both children until K.R. broke the agreement.
Benitez v. North Coast Women's Care Medical Group
Guadalupe "Lupita" Benitez was denied infertility treatment by her Southern California healthcare providers because she is a lesbian. The trial court rejected the doctors’ claim that they do not have to follow California’s anti-discrimination law because they have religious objections to serving lesbian patients.
Partial Victory (New York)
Debra H. v. Janice R.
Debra H. and Janice R. were a same-sex couple living in New York who planned to have a child together and entered a Vermont civil union. After Janice gave birth to a child conceived through alternative insemination, Debra and Janice lived together and parented their child together for over two years.
In re Alejandra
Alejandra is an 18-year-old transgender woman from Guatemala who struggled for her family’s acceptance from a very young age. When Alejandra’s father found out that she identified as a girl, he abandoned the family, leaving Alejandra’s mom to support two kids alone. Alejandra also faced daily verbal and physical attacks.
Varnum v. Brien
On April 3, 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously struck down the 1998 state ban on marriage for same-sex couples.
Martinez v. Holder
Saul Martinez is a gay man from Guatemala who was beaten, sexually assaulted, and threatened by Guatemalan Congressman and repeatedly harassed by the Guatemalan police because of his sexual orientation. He fled to the United States and applied for asylum. However, in 1992, when he initially applied for asylum without an attorney, the U.S. had not yet recognized sexual orientation as a ground for asylum. Afraid of being forced back to Guatemala, where he feared for his life, Martinez did not disclose his sexual orientation in his initial asylum application, stating instead that he feared returning to Guatemala because of his political opinion. Once he retained an attorney, however, he immediately corrected his application and told the Immigration Judge the real reason he feared returning to Guatemala—because of the persistent persecution he had faced for his sexual orientation.
In re A.C.
A.C. is a prominent lesbian activist for LGBT rights and women’s rights in Honduras. A paramilitary gang of masked, armed men attacked A.C. in her home in Honduras and sexually assaulted her while making derogatory comments about her sexual orientation. A.C. did not report the sexual assault to the police, fearing that the police would subject her to further harassment or violence. After the attack, A.C. received a series of threatening phone calls that also used derogatory terms to describe her sexual orientation. She eventually fled to the United States and filed for asylum.
Represented by NCLR and the law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, Michael and Rich Butler, a San Jose couple, filed a lawsuit challenging the discriminatory policies of the for-profit websites Adoption.com and ParentProfiles.com after these businesses refused to post their profile online solely because they are a same-sex couple.
In re Armando
In Mexico, Armando endured harassment, threats, violence, extortion, and robbery at the hands of a police officer and his friends. In February 2005, he came to San Francisco. Through the help of a former client of NCLR, he contacted us and we immediately approached the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights to locate a pro bono attorney for him. With the help of Angela Bortel at Kerosky & Associates, his asylum application was filed in January 2006. Armando successfully obtained asylum in June 2007 and he is currently attending San Francisco City College.
Application of A.W.
L.W. and K.R. raised their child, A.W., together from the time that K.R. gave birth to him. After the couple split up, L.W. became the child’s sole caregiver. L.W. obtained a parentage judgment from a California court establishing that she is A.W.’s legal parent. L.W. is disabled and receives Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. The Social Security Act provides benefits for the children of people who receive SSDI, and L.W. applied for A.W. to receive benefits as her child. A.W.’s application was initially denied because the Administration refused to recognize L.W. as his parent.
Victory! (U.S. Supreme Court)
Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England sought a declaratory judgment that the New Hampshire Parental Notification Prior to Abortion Act is unconstitutional. The Act prohibits abortions for minors unless the parents have been notified.
Elisa B. v. Superior Court
Elisa and Emily had twins together while they were in a committed relationship. One of the twins has Down Syndrome and requires round-the-clock medical care. After Elisa and Emily separated, Elisa, the non-biological mother, stopped visiting the twins or providing any financial support.
Victory! (West Virginia)
Tina B. v. Paul S.
Tina B. and Christine S., a lesbian couple, lived together for many years and had two children together. When Christine died, Christine's parents tried to obtain custody of one of the children, over Tina's strong objection.
Bennett v. Bowen
A number of legal organizations filed a lawsuit in the California Supreme Court to remove Proposition 8 from the November ballot. Proposition 8 was a measure to change the California Constitution to eliminate the right to marry for same-sex couples. The lawsuit argued that the proponents of Proposition 8 did not follow the appropriate rules for revising the California Constitution. The California Supreme Court denied the petition to remove Proposition 8 from the ballot prior to the election.
B.F. v. T.D.
B.F. and T.D., a lesbian couple, were in a committed relationship for seven years. When their attempts to get pregnant were unsuccessful, the couple decided to adopt. Because the availability of second parent adoptions is unclear in Kentucky, only T.D. adopted the child. For the next six years, the couple raised their child together. After the couple separated, however, T.D. cut off all contact between B.F. and the child, forcing B.F. to file for visitation.
Bowler v. Lockyer
The anti-gay group Campaign for California Families (CCF) submitted a proposed initiative to amend the California Constitution to permanently exclude same-sex couples from the right to marry and to eliminate the rights and responsibilities provided to registered domestic partners. After the Attorney General issued its description of the proposed initiative and its effect, CCF filed a lawsuit challenging the Attorney General's description.
Burrows v. ILWU
Marvin Burrows and his partner William Swenor were together for 51 years. Burrows and Swenor did everything within their power to demonstrate their commitment to each other and to provide for the surviving partner in the event of one partner's death, including registering as domestic partners. Swenor worked as a warehouse crew leader for more than 35 years. Throughout Swenor's employment, he was a member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and contributed to their pension plan.
Katherine Anne Fisher Davenport et. al v. Deborah Little-Bowser et al.
The ACLU of Virginia sued on behalf of four children adopted by same-sex couples after the Virginia Department of Vital Records refused to issue new birth certificates listing both of the children's adoptive parents. The children were born in Virginia, but adopted by same-sex couples in the District of Columbia and New York. NCLR assisted Professor Joan Hollinger, one of the nation's foremost scholars on adoption law, in filing an amicus brief supporting the children's right to obtain accurate birth certificates.
Davis v. Fleming High School
NCLR represented Kelli Davis, a senior at Fleming High School, who was denied the right to appear in her senior yearbook because she wore a tuxedo rather than stereotypically feminine clothing.
Victory! (El Salvador)
In re Dina
Dina, a native and citizen of El Salvador, knew at a young age that she was a lesbian. She was rejected by her mother who constantly threatened to expose her sexual orientation to friends, coworkers, and employers. Living under this constant threat of exposure, Dina was pressured to marry a man. Her husband, a police officer, knew she was gay and used her sexual orientation to control her and her children. For years, he physically abused and raped her, causing near death experiences and prolonged hospital recoveries. Dina and her children escaped El Salvador in 2003. Since their arrival in the United States, the family has found refuge at various churches and domestic violence shelters. With NCLR as her counsel, Dina and her two children were granted asylum on November 23, 2005.
Dykes on Bikes
NCLR, Oliver-Sabec, P.C., and Townsend and Townsend and Crew LLP represented the San Francisco Women's Motorcycle Contingent in a lengthy action to register the name "Dykes on Bikes" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Etsitty v. Utah Transit Authority
Despite her spotless employment record, Krystal Etsitty, a transgender woman, was fired from her job as a public bus driver by the Utah Transit Authority (UTA), solely because the UTA feared that members of the public might be offended by Etsitty’s transgender identity.
Florida Anti-Gay Ballot Initiative
NCLR, the ACLU, and Equality Florida challenged a proposed anti-gay voter initiative in the Florida Supreme Court. The measure, if passed, would block recognition of marriage and jeopardize the current domestic partner protections.
Angela G. v. D.W.
Angela G. and D.W., a lesbian couple, had a child together in 1998. After the couple separated, D.W. arbitrarily cut off all contact between Angela and the child, forcing Angela to file for custody.
Kristine H. v. Lisa R.
Kristine H. and Lisa R. had a child together using alternative insemination. Before the child was born, they petitioned a court to issue an order declaring both women to be the child's legal parents. When the couple separated a few years later, however, Kristine challenged Lisa's parental status and tried to prevent her from having any right to custody or visitation.
Jennifer Harris v. Maureen Portland, Penn State University, and Timothy
NCLR client Jennifer Harris reached a settlement with Penn State and its women's basketball coach Rene Portland and athletic director Tim Curley in a groundbreaking lawsuit. Harris had alleged discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and invasion of privacy.
Hedberg v. Detthow
In June 2005, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled that gay father Ulf Hedberg, must be given an opportunity to challenge a custody restriction prohibiting him from living with his same-sex partner.
In re Irma
Irma is a monolingual Spanish-speaking Mexican transgender woman who has suffered a lifetime of loss, violence, and abuse. It wasn’t until 2005, when she moved to San Francisco, that she sought help. In January 2006, she began to receive services from the Mission Neighborhood Resource Center (MNRC) and it was there that she was referred to NCLR for assistance with her immigration status. With the pro bono representation of the Transgender Law Center’s Executive Director, Chris Daley, Irma’s asylum application was submitted on August 2006. Irma was granted asylum in August 2007.
Jensen v. St. Augustine
NCLR, on behalf of Equality Florida and St. Augustine Pride Committee, won the right to fly rainbow flags over the historical Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine, Florida, for the 2005 Pride celebration.
Jespersen v. Harrah's Casino
NCLR and the Transgender Law Center filed an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit supporting Darlene Jespersen, who was fired by Harrah's Casino after she refused to comply with a new policy requiring female employees to adopt a hyper-feminine appearance. Harrah's policy required all women to wear heavy makeup applied in exactly the same way every day, to match a photograph held by the supervisor.
Donna Jones, et al. v. San Joaquin Community Hospital
When Donna and Sharolyn brought their 9-year old daughter to the emergency room, hospital staff refused to honor the daughter’s request to have both mothers with her and even physically blocked Donna and Sharolyn from trading places so that Donna could comfort their daughter.
Jones v. Barlow
In a decision issued on February 16, 2007, the Utah Supreme Court reversed three decades of Utah case law holding that courts may protect children's relationships with non-biological parents. Keri Jones and Cheryl Barlow had a child together in Utah using alternative insemination. After they separated, Barlow tried to keep Jones from having any contact with their child.
Jones v. Boring
Ellen Boring and Patricia Jones had twin children together in the context of a long-term committed relationship. When the couple separated, Boring tried to cut off Jones' contact with the children. After hearing extensive evidence, a trial court awarded custody to Jones. Boring appealed, arguing that she automatically should be given custody because she is the birth mother.
K.M. v. E.G.
A lesbian couple, K.M. and E.G., had twins together through ovum-sharing, with an egg removed from K.M., fertilized in vitro, and implanted in her partner E.G. The couple raised the twins together for several years. When the couple separated, however, E.G. (the birth mother) refused to allow K.M. (the genetic mother) to see the children.
Margaret K. v. Janice M.
Margaret K. and Janice M. adopted a daughter during their committed relationship of 17 years. Because they adopted their daughter from India, which does not allow unmarried couples to adopt, only Janice adopted the child, but she and Margaret raised their daughter together. When their daughter was 7, Margaret and Janice separated and Janice refused to allow Margaret to see their daughter.
In re Martin
Martin is an HIV-positive gay man from Mexico. Martin felt ‘different’ from other boys from a very young age. His father would punish him harshly for “not acting like a boy.” Upon finding out about his son’s homosexuality, Martin’s father beat him, verbally abused him and then kicked him out of the house with no belongings. He was 15 years old. Since then he has had no contact with his family. He moved in with a friend and started working at the age of 16. For three years, he tried his best to survive in a world that was hostile towards him because of his homosexuality.
Kantaras v. Kantaras
In June 2005, love, patience, and persistence, combined with a visionary judge and a little help from Dr. Phil, led to an historic settlement agreement between NCLR client Michael Kantaras and his former wife. Michael, a transsexual father, has been fighting for almost seven years to retain his parental rights to his two children, aged 16 and 13.
Knight v. Superior Court
Thomasson v. Schwarzenegger
Shortly after AB 205—the California Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act of 2003—was signed into law, two right-wing groups filed lawsuits seeking to prevent the law from going into effect.
Koebke v. Bernardo Heights Country Club
Birgit Koebke and Kendall French, a lesbian couple who have been domestic partners for 12 years, sued the Bernardo Heights Country Club for refusing to provide them with the same membership benefits given to different-sex couples and for allowing other members to harass and insult them because of their sexual orientation.
Loss (New York)
Mariah L. v. Administration for Children’s Services
Mariah L. is a 20 year old male-to-female transgender youth who is a foster child in the custody of the New York Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), which has a duty to provide and pay for all necessary medical care and treatment for children placed in NYC foster care. Although all of Mariah’s medical providers agreed that surgery is medically necessary for her particular needs, ACS refused to provide it.
In re Parentage of L.B.
Sue Ellen Carvin and Page Britain were in a committed relationship for 12 years. They had a child and raised her together for six years. After the couple separated, Britain cut off all contact between Carvin and the child.
Lessik and Manzon-Santos v. East Bay Iceland, Inc.
John Manzon-Santos and Alan Lessik, award-winning amateur figure skaters, filed a lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court seeking redress for sexual orientation discrimination under the Berkeley Municipal Code and the Unruh Civil Rights Act. Manzon-Santos and Lessik alleged that, while training for the pairs competition at Berkeley, California's Iceland, they were harassed, discriminated against, and kicked out of their home rink for skating together, hampering their ability to practice their routines and properly train for the Gay Games.
Victory! (New Jersey)
Lewis v. Harris
In June 2002, seven same-sex couples filed suit alleging that New Jersey’s marriage law violated the New Jersey Constitution’s guarantees of equality and liberty. In a unanimous ruling on October 25, 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that denying same-sex couples the right to marry violates their right to equality under the New Jersey Constitution.
Lewis & Ortiz-Taylor v. Westminster Oaks Retirement Community
NCLR clients Sheila Ortiz-Taylor and Joy Lewis reached a confidential settlement with Presbyterian Retirement Communities, Inc., a national chain of retirement communities.
In re Luis
Luis, a 24-year-old gay man from Mexico, suffered years of discrimination, harassment, ostracism, and exclusion from school, sports, his family, and peers because of his sexual orientation. Rather than protect him, police officers in Mexico physically assaulted Luis on numerous occasions.
In re Marriage of S.
NCLR assisted S., a transgender father in Chicago. S. has lived his entire adult life as a male and has undergone medical treatment for sex-reassignment. He and his wife had a child together in 1992 through alternative insemination. When S. filed for divorce in 1998, his wife counter-petitioned to have their marriage declared void and to terminate S.'s parental rights.
In re Meriella and Edit
On October 13, 2003, Mariella, a transgender woman, and her wife, Edit, were attacked in broad daylight on the streets of Lima, Peru by a gang of youth who beat them with stones while yelling disparaging homophobic comments. After months of continued harassment and threats, the couple fled Peru seeking safety in the United States. Through the support of pro bono counsel David Augustine and NCLR interpreter Noemi Calonje, Mariella and Edit were granted asylum on September 9, 2004.
In re Monica
Monica, a native and citizen of Colombia, came to the United States under a student visa. While in the United States, Monica came out as a lesbian. As a student Monica flourished in the arts, especially film making. She became an activist in the LGBT, immigration, and women's rights movements. Her films have been screened throughout the United States and internationally, winning her awards of recognition. Since her coming out and artistic expressions of activism, Monica fears returning to Colombia where homosexuality is seen as a sin and gay people have to live in hiding. With NCLR as her counsel, Monica was granted asylum on June 13, 2006.
Pinellas County Juvenile Welfare Board
On February 7, 2005, a member of the Pinellas County Juvenile Welfare Board issued a written memo stating that that GLSEN and PFLAG "endorse unhealthy sexual practices among youth, including sex between underage youth and adults." NCLR, acting on behalf of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), issued a demand letter insisting that the statements be retracted.
Ramirez v. Los Angeles Unified School District
NCLR and the ACLU of Southern California filed suit against the Los Angeles Unified School District and Washington Preparatory High School for discriminating against students based on their sexual orientation. The students alleged that administrators, teachers, and staff repeatedly called students derogatory anti-gay names and made anti-gay comments, threatened to out students to their families, and failed to protect students from anti-gay assaults.
In re Raul
Originally from Peru, Raul is a transgender man who, from a very early age, knew that he was in the wrong body. As a child, he woke up every morning waiting for his body to change from female to male. His family had a difficult time adjusting to their child’s gender identity and expression. In school, he endured verbal and physical attacks, isolation, and harassment on a daily basis. Raul sought refuge in the United States where his relatives resided. His search for legal help went on for nine months and he was ready to give up when he found NCLR. Raul made his way to San Francisco where he proceeded to file for asylum. NCLR, with the assistance of pro bono attorney Cara Jobson at Ark, Wiley and Jobson, filed his application in February 2007. Raul was granted asylum in July 2007.
Loss (U.S. Supreme Court)
Scheidler v. NOW
The National Organization for Women (NOW) filed a lawsuit alleging that anti-abortion protesters had engaged in a nationwide conspiracy to shut down abortion clinics through "a pattern of racketeering activity." NCLR joined an amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court supporting NOW's argument.
Sharon S. v. Annette F.
Sharon and Annette were in a committed relationship for many years and had two children together. Annette completed a second-parent adoption of the older child and was in the process of adopting the younger when the couple separated. Sharon, the birth mother, tried to block the adoption by arguing that second-parent adoptions are not permissible under California law.
In re Shinegerel
In Mongolia, Shinegerel was arrested and detained by the Mongolian police because she is a lesbian. In custody, Shinegerel suffered severe physical abuse while being interrogated about her sexual orientation.
Stephens v. Bloomburg School District
Merry Stephens was an award-winning teacher and basketball coach in Bloomburg, Texas. Despite numerous teaching and coaching awards, in December 2004, the School Board initiated proceedings to terminate Coach Stephens. The school board president testified under oath that the board's decision to terminate Coach Stephens was based on the personal anti-gay animosity of several school board members.
Strong v. Board of Equalization
Under California law, when a spouse dies and the other spouse inherits the couple’s home, the state will not reassess the tax value of the couple’s home. In 2003, the California Board of Equalization (BOE) adopted a rule that extended a similar protection to same-sex couples. When several counties filed a lawsuit challenging this rule in 2005, NCLR, Lambda Legal, and the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson, LLP, represented Equality California and three same-sex couples to defend the rule’s validity.
Stanton v. City of Largo
NCLR represents Susan Stanton, who was threatened with termination from her longtime position as the City Manager for the City of Largo, Florida after her employer learned that she is transgender and will be undergoing sex reassignment. Despite Stanton's 17 years of dedicated service to the City of Largo, the City Commission voted on February 28, 2007 to begin the legal process of firing Stanton, who informed the Commission that she is transgender after learning that a local newspaper was going to disclose the information to the public.
In re Valeria
Raised in Cuernavaca, Mexico, Valeria suffered tremendous abuse from the time she was a young child. By the time she was eight, her parents realized that Valeria was different from her nine siblings because of her gender identity. Years of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse followed. And at the age of thirteen, Valeria’s parents kicked her out of the house. In 1985, at age eighteen, Valeria came to the United States, where she received a scholarship to attend beauty school and became a successful hair stylist. Proud of her achievements, she returned to Cuernavaca, hoping to win the approval of her family. Unfortunately, her family did not accept her. Despite this, she remained in Mexico, until she suffered a brutal assault. In 1994, Valeria was attacked, mutilated, and left to bleed to death. As soon as she was well enough to travel, Valeria left Mexico and settled in the Bay Area. For years after her attack, she suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and serious depression. Tired of living in fear, she began to feel imprisoned by her uncertain immigration status. With NCLR as counsel, Valeria filed an application for asylum with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2005. Asylum was granted in September 2007.
In re Vanessa
In September 2003, Vanessa left Nicaragua and fled to the United States in search of safety. She grew up in Nicaragua, where being lesbian or gay is still a criminal offense. Because of Nicaragua's strong social and religious bias against LGBT people, she suffered harassment and ostracism by her family and peers. NCLR partnered with local attorney Betsy Allen and filed an asylum application on her behalf based on her gender and sexual orientation. On May 10, 2005, Vanessa was granted asylum in San Francisco, California.
Soto Vega v. John Ashcroft
As a child in Mexico, Soto Vega suffered abuse, harassment, and ridicule from family members and classmates because he was perceived to be gay. As a teenager, Soto Vega was severely beaten by officers of the Mexican police force upon suspicion that he was gay. An immigration judge initially denied Soto Vega's application for asylum, based on the judge's view that Sota Vega does not "look gay."
W.K. v. Gonzales
The Eighth Circuit denied a petition for reconsideration of its prior decision denying asylum to W.K., a gay man from Zimbabwe. As a teenager in Zimbabwe, W.K. was imprisoned for being gay and suffered harassment and abuse from local authorities and neighbors, including being shocked with an electric wire. Robert Mugabe, the current President of Zimbabwe, is one of the most notoriously anti-gay leaders in the world. He has called lesbians and gay men "worse than dogs and pigs" and promised that he will do "everything he can" to eliminate them from Zimbabwean society.
Wood v. Wood
NCLR represents Hannah Wood in a Florida child custody case against her former partner, Courtney Wood. Hannah and Courtney had a child together using alternative insemination. After the couple separated, a Colorado court granted Hannah visitation with the couple's daughter.