Yesterday I got back from Washington, D.C. where Lavender Law 2016 was held. Hosted by the LGBT Bar Association, Lavender Law collects the most LGBT and ally legal professionals in one place to meet, network, and share ideas on how the American legal system can be reformed to protect and enrich the lives of LGBT people.
Unfortunately, your treasurer couldn’t attend all of the sessions offered and had to plan out which ones I would go to. I focused on sessions that dealt with practical, day-to-day legal issues for LGBT people, such as job and housing discrimination, ending conversion therapy for young people, and fighting state level laws that are transphobic and homophobic, such as North Carolina’s notorious HB2.
One common thread through several sessions was expanding the definition of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While obvious forms of discrimination such as firing women have always fallen under Title VII, it is less clear if other forms of sex discrimination such as firing someone if they apply for benefits for a same-sex partner or are harassed with homophobic language also fall under its ambit.
In the 1980s, LGBT advocates tried this legal theory in the courts but were handed a series of setbacks by hostile courts. Recently, much litigation has been focused on overturning this bad legal legacy and it has been met with success in the federal district courts as well as some circuit courts of appeals.
Despite the good news, much remains to be done – a theme that was constantly repeated at the conference. Marriage equality in all 50 states has been a reality for over a year thanks to Obergefell v. Hodges, but LGBT people – and especially transgender people – still interact with a legal system that is at times indifferent and at other times hostile to their lives. Indeed, over 100 bills have been introduced in 22 state legislatures as part of the backlash against queer people.
Lavender Law 2017 will be held in San Francisco, CA. Hopefully we’ll be able to send more people from Allies & Advocates in 2017!
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. paraphrasing Theodore Parker.
– Trevor Brass, Allies & Advocates Treasurer