Day in and day out, Lambda Legal works to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals and everyone living with HIV. And our unwavering commitment to our community has not gone unnoticed.
In fact, in just the last month alone, our legal experts and staff have been featured in more than 100 published articles, and in media outlets like The Advocate, the Associated Press, The Kansas City Star, them. and The Houston Chronicle. Much of the coverage focused on our continued push for gender-affirming care for young Texans, our momentous health care win in Florida, the Supreme Court’s ruling in 303 Creative v. Elenis, and the unprecedented drag ban out of Montana.
These media hits help amplify Lambda Legal’s vital work and mission. More importantly, they highlight the humanity and courage of our clients and the oft-forgotten communities they represent.
Scroll on below for a handpicked list of media hits:
Lambda Legal has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Jane Roe, a formerly incarcerated transgender woman living with HIV, who was put in solitary confinement for over six years. The lawsuit names Anne Precythe, the Director of the Missouri Department of Corrections, as well as 11 other corrections staff members as defendants.
Richard Saenz, a senior attorney at Lambda Legal, condemned the prison’s treatment of the woman. “No person should be subjected to the inhumane and devastating effects of long-term solitary confinement, conditions that Ms. Roe faced every day for more than six years.”
“We filed this lawsuit to hold the Missouri Department of Corrections accountable for its use of an unconstitutional and discriminatory policy that singles out people living with HIV.”
Kansas Moves to Block Trans People from Correcting Their State IDs (them.)
Since 2019, trans people in Kansas have been able to update the gender markers on their birth certificates, thanks to Lambda Legal’s win of federal case Foster v. Andersen. However, the state’s Attorney General Kris Kobach is now looking to quash this policy.
In a recently filed motion, Kobach wrongly argues that the 2019 federal order conflicts with Kansas Senate Bill 180. This new bill, which went into effect July 1, 2023, requires state agencies to issue IDs and other similar documents based on a resident’s assigned sex at birth.
Lambda Legal’s Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, who served as the lead attorney in Foster v. Andersen, refuted this argument and denounced Kobach’s motion, calling it “yet another unnecessary and cruel move to target the transgender community with animus and discrimination for political gain.”
“We will vigorously oppose this gimmick by Attorney General Kobach,” Gonzalez-Pagan said in a statement. “Let us be clear, Lambda Legal will not allow the Attorney General to nullify a binding, years-old federal judgment.”
Equality Act, the Sweeping LGBTQ+ Rights Bill, Reintroduced in Congress (The Advocate)
In a rather fitting end to Pride Month, the Equality Act, a wide-ranging LGBTQ+ rights bill, was reintroduced in Congress on June 21.
This legislation would update already existing federal nondiscrimination laws so that they explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in education, housing, employment, credit, public accommodations, federally funded programs, and more. Previous versions of the Equality Act were introduced and passed by the House in recent years, though they never made it through the Senate.
News of the reintroduction was met with praise from LGBTQ+ advocates and the community at large, including Lambda Legal. In a statement, Lambda’s CEO Kevin Jennings said:
“Lambda Legal applauds the re-introduction of the Equality Act, long past-due federal legislation which provides clear, comprehensive, and explicit protections for LGBTQ+ people in federal law. In a year when we have seen unprecedented, coordinated attacks by states on LGBTQ+ people, especially on transgender and non-binary youth, the need for the Equality Act could not be clearer.
“As has been made abundantly clear this year, LGBTQ+ people across the country remain vulnerable to discrimination on a daily basis and too often have little recourse. Without comprehensive federal protections, the basic rights of LGBTQ+ people vary state to state. This year, we have read countless stories of LGBTQ+ individuals and families trying to flee states that are intent on harming them, and our Help Desk has been fielding calls nonstop this year as state-led attacks on trans and non-binary youth ramped up at a frenzied pace. While some families can afford to relocate, many cannot. The current patchwork of protections for LGBTQ+ people is inadequate and unjust, which is why we need the absolute clarity of the Equality Act, and we need it now.”
Supreme Court Says 1st Amendment Entitles Web Designer to Refuse Same-Sex Wedding Work (NPR)
June was not without its lows, however. In the final hours of Pride Month, the Supreme Court handed down their much-anticipated decision in 303 Creative v. Elenis.
The case involved a Denver-based web design company that wanted to start to offer wedding websites to the public, but not for same-sex couples. The company’s owner, Lori Smith, also wanted to post a message on the business website explaining her discriminatory stance. Both actions would violate Colorado’s law that prohibits businesses that are open to the public from discriminating against LGBTQ+ people or announcing their intent to do so.
Defending her intended business practices, Smith argued that these websites would only be done as selective commissions and would include her own messages about marriage – that is, “pure speech”. And she said that being forced to create messaging praising marriages that she doesn’t agree with would violate her freedom of speech.
SCOTUS unfortunately sided with Smith in a disappointing 6-3 vote, though the decision should have limited practical impact in the marketplace because few commercial services involve original artwork and pure speech offered as limited commissions. But civil rights lawyers and advocates are worried about the implications of such a ruling.
“This decision says that the laws apply effectively to everyone but doesn’t apply to this type of business, and I think there’s an enormous question moving forward,” said Jenny Pizer, Lambda Legal’s Chief Legal Officer. “How is this going to be applied to the range of goods and services… some customizing, and arguably some artistry, depending on the eye of the beholder.”
“The danger here is the message, and the understanding, that this court majority consistently favors those who seek to discriminate,” Pizer added. “And that sends a particularly alarming message to members of communities who are under sustained attack.”
Gov. Abbott Signs Bill Making Texas Largest State to Ban Transgender Health Care for Minors (The Houston Chronicle)
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has signed a bill that will block trans youth from receiving life-affirming medical care.
Set to take effect Sept. 1, SB 14 prohibits doctors from prescribing puberty blockers and hormone therapy to minors diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Medical providers would also not be allowed to perform affirming surgeries on such minors.
In response, Lambda Legal, alongside the Transgender Law Center, the ACLU and other organizations, filed a lawsuit (Loe v. Texas) against the state on behalf of five trans families in Texas, two health providers, and orgs PFLAG and GLMA. In a joint statement, the civil rights groups said:
“Medically necessary health care is a critical part of helping transgender adolescents succeed in school, establish healthy relationships with their friends and family, and live authentically as themselves. We will defend the rights of transgender youth in court, just as we have done in other states engaging in this anti-science and discriminatory fear-mongering.”
Montana First to Ban People Dressed in Drag from Reading to Children in Schools, Libraries (Associated Press)
In late May, Montana signed House Bill 359 into law. This unique, unprecedented law officially makes Montana the very first US state to ban drag reading events in libraries and public schools. It also sets a dangerous precedent for the rest of the country.
Sasha Buchert, Lambda Legal attorney and Director of the Non-Binary and Trans Rights Project, argued that the new law impinges on free speech. “It’s just constitutionally suspect on all levels.”
For more from our blog, read a recent post celebrating Nonbinary Awareness Week, written by Lambda’s own Dani Alexander-Burk.