Nation’s oldest and largest legal non-profit advocating for the LGBTQ+ and HIV+ communities marks its #unprecedented past and #unstoppable future with advocacy events throughout the month of October
The nonprofit organization, along with its donors and allies, pledges to battle for another 50 years in the courthouse and the statehouse against the renewed onslaught on the LGBTQ+ community with an emphasis on protecting transgender communities
In October, during LGBTQ+ History Month, Lambda Legal — the country’s oldest and largest nonprofit dedicated to advancing the legal rights of LGBTQ+ people and everyone living with HIV — will celebrate its 50th anniversary. To mark the occasion, the leaders of the organization renew and underscore their commitment to continue that battle for the next 50 years, if necessary, in particular to fight the recent wave of attacks targeting transgender and nonbinary people, LGBTQ+ youth, and other marginalized LGBTQ+ communities.
For the past 50 years, Lambda Legal has been at the forefront of the march to equality for the LGBTQ+ community and everyone living with HIV. From winning the first challenge to HIV discrimination in 1983 and securing core protections for LGBTQ+ youth in schools, to its breakthrough victories securing the right to marriage for same-sex couples, Lambda Legal has driven fundamental progress in the fight for equality, dignity, and justice.
Lambda Legal will honor its historic anniversary with a nationwide celebration, including an in-person event in New York City on October 18. The event will be livestreamed at regional watch parties in cities across the country. For more details, please visit 50years.LambdaLegal.org. The anniversary celebration will also include an exhibition held in partnership with the American LGBTQ History Museum that debuts in November, and the upcoming publication of a Lambda Legal history book in 2024.
“Since 1973, Lambda Legal has fiercely advocated for the LGBTQ+ community and, since the 1980s, for everyone living with HIV. No matter what effort has been launched to force us back into the closet or to undercut our fully lived equality – we have beaten back those efforts in the court of law.” said Kevin Jennings, CEO of Lambda Legal. “Now more than ever, the LGBTQ+ community must and will stand up and fight for our rights. At Lambda Legal, we vow to keep fighting for the next 50 years to protect and advance our rights and freedoms.”
“Make no mistake, Lambda Legal is ready and prepared, and has no illusions about the fights ahead. For 50 years, we have confronted bigotry and opportunistic ignorance in many forms, defending our community and steadily establishing one-after-another breakthrough precedents in courts nationwide,” stated Jenny Pizer, Chief Legal Officer of Lambda Legal. “Our litigation strategy in the coming decades will continue to be proactive and determined, challenging the cruel and blatantly unlawful policies flooding state legislatures and, now in the House of Representatives as well. We will continue to call on the American public and our elected leaders to reject the extremists working to impose their narrow, self-serving orthodoxy on all of us, to erase our entire LGBTQ+ community, and to make daily existence for queer and trans youth. As we have for a half century, we will defend them fiercely. And in doing so, we will push our courts and country to honor ever more fully our founding principles of equality and freedom for everyone.”
As Lambda Legal celebrates its anniversary, the organization’s dedicated team continues to fight anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, particularly anti-transgender policies in more than 27 states across the country challenging discrimination in healthcare, school policies and curricula, public school sports programs, access to school restrooms and other facilities, and access to accurate identity documents.
The historic anniversary will occur during LGBTQ+ History Month, surrounding National Coming Out Day on October 11, and in advance of Trans Awareness Week from November 13-19 and the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) on November 20.
BELOW IS MORE INFORMATION ABOUT 50 YEARS OF OUR HISTORY AND FUTURE:
A 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION OF PRIDE AND STRENGTH
Lambda Legal’s 50th anniversary is a testament to the LGBTQ+ community’s pride and strength – and willingness to go to battle for itself. Lambda Legal celebrates the diversity and resilience of the LGBTQ+ community and everyone living with HIV through the following events and activities to inform, motivate and inspire.
- Celebration event in New York City open to press and livestream watch parties nationwide:
- What: Lambda Legal’s 50th Anniversary Celebration
- Date: Wednesday, October 18, 8:30 PM Live Broadcast
- Location: By invitation only; Public livestream online at 50years.LambdaLegal.org
- A museum exhibit in partnership with the American Museum of LGBTQ+ History opening in New York City in November and then touring across the country.
- The anticipated release of a book about the organization’s history in 2024.
- A new brand identity, logo, and website reflecting the new challenges and diversity of the LGBTQ+ community.
“We encourage our community, supporters and allies from all over the country to join us to celebrate our half-century of legal victories that have driven profound social progress,” said Jennings. “It is time for us all to come together and look ahead to the next 50 years, finding new courage, joy and dedication to support our entire LGBTQ+ community. Appreciating how far we have come proves yet again that truth persuades, that love rules, and that freedom, justice and respect are the birthright of each and every one of us.”
50 YEARS OF IMPACT IN THE COURTS AND COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION
While the organization, its supporters and allies have impacted millions of lives over the last 50 years, the actual, estimated and anecdotal data surrounding Lambda Legal’s commitment and efforts are best understood as a stalwart reminder that the LGBTQ+ community is determined to maintain its freedoms:
- Recorded key achievements with immeasurable impacts in reversing anti-sodomy laws (Lawrence v. Texas) and securing marriage equality.
- Litigated more than a thousand cases on behalf of tens of thousands of clients, securing legal rights and protections for privacy and freedom of speech and assembly rights, access to healthcare, employment anti-discrimination, safe and welcoming schools and youth welfare policies, marriage benefits and rights, housing anti-discrimination, immigrants’ rights, and so much more.
- Responded to approximately 250,000 inquiries from community members and community partners to Lambda Legal’s Help Desk since its inception, providing legal information, educational materials, and self-advocacy resources.
- Educated millions of friends and families, corporate and other allies, as well as politicians and community leaders through its advocacy, public education, and victories.
- Drafted statutes, trained judges, published Know-Your-Rights toolkits, generated FAQ, and led awareness campaigns.
- Grown into an organization of just under 100 team members, with 36 full-time legal staff.
- Trained thousands of legal industry and non-legal volunteers.
- Lifted the spirit of the LGBTQ+ community and saved countless lives through its courage and advocacy.
And Lambda Legal’s impact extends beyond the cases we’ve litigated to our frequent collaborations with partner organizations, both inside and outside the courtroom. With our allies, we’ve achieved even larger success in establishing and confirming rights for the LGBTQ+ and HIV communities.
Lambda Legal’s first client was Lambda Legal because, in 1973, we had to take on the State of New York to be allowed to incorporate as a tax-exempt non-profit. We haven’t looked back. In addition to our historic 2003 victory before the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas striking down anti-sodomy laws, that track record of accomplishment includes:
- HIV Discrimination: Lambda Legal has been on the frontlines of the battle against HIV discrimination from the very beginning. In fact, we fought—and won—the nation’s first AIDS discrimination case in 1983 where we represented Dr. Joseph Sonnabend. In that case, we persuaded a court to stop the efforts of neighbors to evict Dr. Sonnabend and his clinic because he treated HIV-positive patients. This work continues today.
- Anti-gay Bullying: In 1996, Lambda Legal established the equality right for gay students to be protected against abuse in schools, which then put a $1 million price tag on the vicious anti-gay bullying endured by James Nabozny because school administrators refused to protect him and in fact blamed him for the violence. Lambda Legal’s victory in the case laid the foundation for in-school safety and advocacy for LGBTQ+ students.
- Marriage equality: Lambda Legal’s work on marriage equality from the early 1990s to 2015 comprised efforts on both coasts and in Hawaii, and includes our successful collaboration with the ACLU and National Center for Lesbian Rights initially securing the right to marry in California, but it was our 2009 victory in Iowa, in Varnum v. Brien, that astonished the country and brought marriage equality to the Heartland, showing that same-sex couples live, love, and can prevail everywhere. And, of course, as part of the team behind Obergefell v. Hodges, we secured the right to marry nationwide.
- Social Security: One of the enduring harms of state marriage bans was the inability of longtime partners to secure Social Security survivor benefits after a partner died. And the legacy endured not just for those same-sex couples unable to marry, but also for those who did marry when it became possible, but, usually due to aging and illness, their marriages did not last the nine months Social Security requires. In 2021, in Thornton v. Saul and Ely v. Saul, and building on the expertise developed during more than two decades of marriage and family protection legal work, Lambda Legal secured the right of surviving spouses and partners to access those benefits that the unconstitutional marriage bans had denied them.
- Identity documents: Lambda Legal has succeeded in winning the right of transgender people to update essential identity documents to accurately reflect their gender, including birth certificates with the correct gender marker and proper identification of parents. In 2021, after a six-year battle, Lambda Legal also secured the United States’ first passport with a gender neutral gender marker, “X”, on behalf of Dana Zzyym, an intersex U.S. Navy veteran for whom neither an “M” nor an “F” gender marker on their passport application would have been honest and accurate.
- Religious Exemptions: Lambda Legal has waged a multi-faceted battle to restrain the efforts of some to use freedom of religion as a justification for discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, including the California Supreme Court victory in 2008 against a Southern California OB/GYN practice that refused standard infertility care to a lesbian patient; representing LGBTQ+ people and same-sex couples blocked from fostering or adopting foster children in the child welfare system; representing would-be customers and filing friend-of-the-court briefs detailing the harm experienced by LGBTQ+ people when refused services offered to the general public by all manner of for-profit commercial businesses, from lodging to barbers, bakers, florists, and website builders, and advocating against license-to-discriminate laws in Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, and many other states.
- Employment discrimination: Lambda Legal has worked nationwide from earliest days on behalf of workers denied jobs or fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. These change-driving cases have ranged from securing redress for Sgt. Leonard Matlovich in 1978 and Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer in 1994, for their respective discharges from the Army under the military’s generations-old anti-gay policy, to the 2011 federal appellate precedent established on behalf of Vandy Beth Glenn, who was fired by the Georgia General Assembly when she notified her supervisor of her upcoming gender transition, to the 2017 federal appeals breakthrough won for Kim Hively, a math instructor at an Indiana community college fired because she is a lesbian, to the compensation and policy changes secured for Julia Frost, a California high school teacher harassed and denied opportunities because of her advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ+ students.
KEY CASES TODAY AND A COMMITMENT FOR THE NEXT 50 YEARS
The work of Lambda Legal is not done and continues today. At present, we continue to combat the cruel, sustained, despicable and ignorant attacks on the LGBTQ+ community and especially transgender, nonbinary, and intersex people, as well as those in other marginalized communities. The LGBTQ+ community is facing a massive and coordinated attack on its rights by extremist opponents who are spreading misinformation and creating false fears for political gain.
Lambda Legal has recently achieved key victories, however, surrounding and protecting gender-affirming care for transgender people. On the heels of these successes, other notable pending cases include the following:
- Florida: Dekker, et al., v. Weida, et al successfully challenged Florida’s anti-transgender health care rule, which denyies gender- affirming care coverage for transgender Medicaid beneficiaries.
- Texas: Doe v. Abbott and PFLAG v. Abbott challenges the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services’ attempt to investigate and charge as child abusers parents who work with medical professionals to provide their adolescent children with medically necessary gender-affirming care. Also, Loe v. Texas, our challenge to Texas’s new gender-affirming care ban.
- Missouri: Southampton Community Healthcare v. Bailey challenges Missouri’s attempt to restrict access to gender-affirming care for transgender people. As a result of our lawsuit, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey issued an order terminating his anti-transgender emergency rule.
- Tennessee: L.W. et al v. Skrmetti et al seeks to block the state’s recently enacted discriminatory ban on medically necessary gender-affirming care for Tennessee’s transgender youth; and L.E. v. Lee challenges the state’s ban on participation in school sports programs by students who are transgender, on behalf of a 14-year-old boy who is banned from participating on the boys’ golf team at his Knoxville high school.
- Oklahoma: Poe et.al. v. Drummond et.al is a lawsuit on behalf of five families with transgender adolescents and Dr. Shauna Lawlis of OU Health charging that SB 613—Oklahoma’s gender-affirming healthcare ban—unjustifiably discriminates against transgender youth and interferes with parents’ rights to make decisions about their children’s health care. Bridge v. Oklahoma State Department of Education is a challenge on behalf of three transgender students to S.B. 615, which bans all transgender students in Oklahoma from using school restrooms consistent with their gender identity.
- Montana: van Garderen v. State of Montana is a lawsuit on behalf of three families with transgender youth and two medical providers who work with transgender youth asserting that SB 99—Montana’s trans youth healthcare ban—violates their rights under the Montana Constitution, including the right to equal protection and the right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children.
- West Virginia: BPJ v. WV State Board of Education challenges West Virginia’s H.B. 3293, which bans girls and women who are transgender from participating in school sports. The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year rejected an effort by the West Virginia attorney general to remove the stay on implementation of the ban imposed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
- Idaho: Roe v. Critchfield, where Lambda Legal is representing a transgender student and a high school LGBTQ+ student organization challenging SB1100, Idaho’s discriminatory ban on transgender students using school facilities consistent with their gender identity.