Achieving LGBT Equality Through Litigation, Legislation, Policy, and Public Education

Issues: Civil Rights
As a non-profit legal organization dedicated to LGBT civil and human rights, NCLR works to ensure LGBT individuals enjoy full fairness, opportunity, and equality. Our work often includes civil rights advocacy related to issues beyond our identified program areas, such as freedom of speech, full and equal access to public accommodations, and as in our recent advocacy on behalf of DYKES ON BIKES, even trademark law. NCLR is committed to addressing the full range of legal issues that affect the LGBT community in all aspects of work, family, and community life.

news & opinion

Press Release

NCLR, ACLU Welcome New Mexico Supreme Court Order Setting Hearing on Freedom to Marry for Same-sex Couples Statewide
09.06.13 (Albuquerque, NM, September 6, 2013)—Today, the New Mexico Supreme Court issued an order setting a hearing for October 23, 2013 to consider a request by the New Mexico Association of Counties that the court immediately decide whether New Mexico law permits same-sex couples to marry. All 33 county clerks in the state joined in the Association’s request that the Supreme Court resolve the issue.

Press Release

NCLR Launches Campaign Calling on Top Companies Doing Business in Russia to Urge Repeal of Extreme Anti-LGBT Laws
09.05.13 (San Francisco, CA, September 5, 2013)—Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) announced the launch of a campaign—"Stop LGBT Hate in Russia"—calling on global companies doing business in Russia to demand the repeal of new laws that target and hurt lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and allies.

Press Release

New Mexico Woman Suffering from Life-Threatening Brain Cancer Asks Court to Let Her Marry Her Partner of 21 Years
08.21.13 (Santa Fe, NM, August 21, 2013)—Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico, the national ACLU, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) filed an emergency request with New Mexico’s Second Judicial District Court to allow a Pojoaque same-sex couple, Jen Roper and Angelique Neuman, to legally marry immediately because Jen suffers from a severe medical condition that may prove fatal in the near future. Jen suffers from a life-threatening form of brain cancer, and her health has deteriorated severely in the past few months. Today’s request seeks an emergency order from the court that would allow the couple to marry so that Angelique and their three children will be legally protected should Jen pass away.

Press Release

Federal Court Rules That Widow Is Entitled to Survivor Benefits From Deceased Wife’s Employer Plan
7.03.13 (Philadelphia, July 29, 2013)—Late Today, Judge C. Darnell Jones II of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ordered payment of death benefits to Jennifer Tobits, the widow of Sarah Ellyn Farley, under a profit-sharing plan administered by Farley’s employer, the law firm Cozen O’Conner P.C. The court held that because the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was recently struck down as unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court, federally-regulated retirement and benefit plans must recognize the legal marriages of same-sex couples for purposes of spousal benefits such as those due to Tobits.

Press Release

Nation’s Leading LGBT Advocacy Organizations Reject Efforts by House GOP to Play Politics and Leave Millions of Immigrants Behind with KIDS Act
7.23.13 (San Francisco, CA, July 23, 2013)— This afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives will meet to discuss the so-called KIDS Act, a piece of craven political theater that threatens to tear apart immigrant families. Singling out some immigrant youth for a path to citizenship while subjecting their families to constant fear of deportation is as senseless as it is out of step with the American public. It’s time to stop playing politics with people’s lives.

Press Release

Nation’s Leading LGBT Advocacy Organizations Respond to Senate Bill, See Opportunities for Immigrants and Demand No More Punitive Measures
6.27.13 Today, the Senate passed a bill with the potential to transform the lives of 11 million immigrants, including 267,000 LGBT immigrants.

We are one step closer to reforming our immigration policies and keeping more families together. The Senate’s action follows on the heels of the Supreme Court’s historic ruling to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, which provides an estimated 28,500 same-sex, binational couples with an easier road to citizenship.

Press Release

NCLR Hails Historic Supreme Court Decisions Striking Down Federal Defense of Marriage Act and Restoring the Freedom to Marry in California
6.26.13 (San Francisco, CA, June 26, 2013)—Today, the United States Supreme Court struck down section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law that prohibited the federal government from recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples for purposes of federal programs and benefits such as Social Security and immigration. In a separate decision today, the Court also ruled that the supporters of Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that stripped same-sex couples of the freedom to marry in California, did not have the legal right to appeal a 2010 decision by federal District Judge Vaughn Walker striking down that proposition as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court’s decision means that Judge Walker’s decision will be the final ruling in the case, clearing the way for same-sex couples to marry again in California in the near future.

Press Release

Thirty-Five LGBT and HIV Advocacy Groups Mark Pride Month with Joint Statement on HIV/AIDS
6.03.13— (San Francisco, CA, June 3, 2013)—As the nation marks the opening of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month, executive directors from 35 LGBT and HIV/AIDS organizations from across the United States have released a joint letter committing themselves and their organizations to re-engaging the broader LGBT community in the fight against HIV. While issues like marriage equality and employment protections for LGBT workers have taken center stage, HIV continues to ravage the LGBT community. Despite making up just two percent of the population, gay and bisexual men accounted for more than 63 percent of new HIV infections in 2010. In fact, gay men are the only group in which HIV infections are increasing.

Press Release

Nation's Leading LGBT Advocacy Organizations Respond to Senate Judiciary Committee Failure to Consider UAFA
5.21.13—This statement can be attributed to the National Center for Lesbian Rights, GLAAD, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, United We Dream and Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project, Lambda Legal, Equality Federation and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to passing compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform that will provide a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented men, women and children living in our country, including at least 267,000 LGBT undocumented immigrants.

Press Release

NCLR Celebrates 36 Years of Legal Victories
5.18.13—(San Francisco, CA, May 18, 2013)—More than 1,500 people gathered today to celebrate the National Center for Lesbian Rights’ 36th Anniversary Celebration and to recognize lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender movement heroes who are changing the legal landscape for every member of our diverse community.

Press Release

Maine Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics Joins Other Child Welfare Organizations on Brief Supporting Transgender Girl
5.3.13—Today, the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and other child welfare organizations filed an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in support of a transgender girl who experienced discrimination and harassment at her Orono school.

Statement

NCLR Applauds House and Senate Introduction of ENDA
Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell
4.25.13—(San Francisco, CA, April 25, 2013)—Today, a bi-partisan group of Senators and House members introduced the fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit most employers across the country from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers. In the Senate, the bill was introduced by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mark Kirk (R-Ill), and Susan Collins (R-ME). In the House of Representatives, the bill was introduced by Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and joined by more than 100 co-sponsors.

Statement

NCLR Responds to Introduction of Federal Immigration Reform Legislation
Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell, Esq.
4.17.13—Today, a bipartisan group of Senators who have been working on a plan to fix the current broken U.S. immigration system released their long-awaited proposal for comprehensive immigration reform legislation. The bill, called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, presents a massive overhaul to many aspects of our current approach to immigration. The plan provides a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people, including an expedited process for DREAMers, creates new types of visas, and requires the government to clear the high backlog for family-sponsored visas.

Statement

NCLR Responds to U.S. Supreme Court Oral Argument in Defense of Marriage Act Case
Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell, Esq.
3.27.13—Today, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument in a constitutional challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The Supreme Court heard 50 minutes of argument concerning the Court’s jurisdiction to hear the case and one hour of argument concerning the constitutionality of DOMA.

Statement

NCLR Responds to U.S. Supreme Court Oral Argument in Proposition 8 Case
Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell, Esq.
3.26.13—Today, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument in the constitutional challenge to California’s Proposition 8. The Court heard one hour of arguments from attorneys supporting and opposing the constitutionality of Prop 8.

Statement

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Groups Release Joint Statement on Immigration Reform as U.S. Senators Release Set of Principles for Comprehensive Immigration Reform
1.28.13—National lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights organizations, including the National Center for Lesbian Rights, today released a joint statement reiterating the call for a comprehensive immigration policy that ensures fair and just treatment for all those currently impacted by our failed immigration policy. It comes as a bipartisan group of U.S. senators today released a set of principles for comprehensive immigration reform, and as President Obama prepares to announce his own immigration plans tomorrow.

Statement

HUD Enforces LGBT Equal Access Rule
Statement by NCLR Policy Director Maya Rupert, Esq.
1.2.13—Today, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a settlement agreement in a claim it brought against Bank of America for discriminating against a lesbian couple applying for a federally insured mortgage loan. This settlement marks HUD’s first enforcement action taken under its recently enacted LGBT Equal Access Rule.

Press Release

NCLR and EQCA Move to Intervene in Lawsuit to Defend Law Protecting LGBT Youth From Psychological Abuse
10.20.12—Late Friday, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson filed court papers seeking to intervene in a federal lawsuit challenging the new California law protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender young people from dangerous and potentially deadly psychological abuse. NCLR and Munger Tolles filed the motion on behalf of Equality California asking the federal district court in Sacramento to permit them to join California Attorney General Kamala Harris in defending Senate Bill 1172, which prohibits state-licensed therapists who claim to be able to change their clients’ sexual orientation or gender expression from using dangerous practices that can lead to extreme depression and suicide.

Press Release

CA Governor Brown Signs Bill To Protect LGBT Youth From Psychological Abuse
9.29.12—California Governor Jerry Brown made history today by signing a landmark bill that will protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth from psychological abuse by deceitful mental health professionals who falsely claim to be able to change their sexual orientation or gender expression.

Press Release

NCLR Files Federal Lawsuit Against Indianapolis Public Schools For Failing to Protect Gay Student
8.31.12—Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the law firms of Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Waples & Hanger filed a federal lawsuit challenging Indianapolis Public Schools’ (IPS) discriminatory treatment and failure to protect an openly gay former student who faced severe and relentless harassment at Arsenal Technical High School (Tech) throughout the 2011-2012 school year. Rather than address the constant harassment and abuse suffered by 17-year-old Dynasty Young, school administrators blamed the harassment on Young’s gender nonconforming clothes and “flamboyant” behavior. Ultimately, IPS expelled Dynasty instead of taking effective measures to protect him from the harassment.

Press Release

CA State Assembly Passes Landmark Bill to Protect LGBT Youth From Dangerous Psychological Abuse
8.28.12—The California Assembly today voted 52 to 21 in favor of a bill that will protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth from dangerous and abusive treatments by mental health practitioners who falsely claim to be able change their sexual orientation or gender expression. Authored by Senator Ted Lieu, Senate Bill 1172 is co-sponsored by Equality California, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Gaylesta, Mental Health America of Northern California, Lambda Legal, and the Courage Campaign. The bill will return to the Senate for a vote to concur in amendments made in the Assembly before proceeding to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk.

from the docket

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.

Loss (U.S. Supreme Court)

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! (California)

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).

federal hate crimes bill

The Federal Hate Crimes bill has passed in Congress. On October 8, 2009 the House of Representatives voted on the conference report on the DoD Authorization bill, including the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act as an amendment, and passed at 281–146. The Senate approved the report, 68-29, on October 22, 2009, passing the bill to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.
NCLR has long supported passage of this key measure – assisting with drafting bill provisions, drawing public attention to the problem of hate violence and the need for hate crimes legislation, and providing grassroots support necessary for its passage.

proyecto poderoso | powerful project

NCLR has partnered with California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) to expand civil rights enforcement on behalf of low-income LGBT residents of rural California.
In rural communities, crosscurrents of poverty, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and immigration status have marginalized LGBT people. Low-income individuals in rural communities struggle to find affordable, local counsel with expertise in LGBT-related law.
In the face of these challenges, NCLR and CRLA have created Proyecto Poderoso—Powerful Project. Proyecto Poderoso will improve the daily lives of LGBT people in small towns and communities across California by helping them protect their rights.

national lgbt legal aid forum

The National LGBT Legal Aid Forum is a new listserv dedicated to improving legal services for low-income LGBT clients. This listserv is a forum for members to post questions and answers related to serving LGBT clients, and to share resources and updates on new developments in LGBT-related law. Legal aid advocates who are committed to effectively advocating for LGBT people and their families are invited to apply for membership. Attorneys from national, state and regional LGBT legal organizations who wish to communicate directly with a community of LGBT-supportive legal aid advocates are also invited to apply.
The Forum’s members include advocates with expertise in various aspects of LGBT-related law, including, but not limited to family, employment, health, immigration and domestic violence law. Legal aid advocates with no prior experience serving LGBT clients, but who wish to build their knowledge base and access related information, are also welcome. This listserv is administered by California Rural Legal Assistance and the National Center for Lesbian Rights with guidance and support from a committee of attorneys from New York Legal Assistance Group, Lambda Legal and Legal Services of Northern California.
© 2014 National Center for Lesbian Rights. All rights reserved. Give us Feedback. Read our Privacy Policy.