Lambda Legal works to fight discrimination and broaden the laws under which we live, bringing more fairness into every aspect of life for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and people with HIV or AIDS. Through litigation, policy and education work nationwide, we tackle the issues that matter most — every day equality in the workplace, respect for our relationships with our partners and children, access to medical care without discrimination, safe and supportive schools for our young people, fair treatment by the police and the government, and protection from violence on the streets.
Lambda Legal’s Proyecto Igualdad aims to inform LGBT Latinos about their legal rights and how to enforce them, and to work with LGBT Latinos to expand their legal protections. We provide bilingual educational materials, host community events and trainings, and offer legal assistance through our Help Desks around the country.
Protecting Our Families
Lambda Legal fights in the courts and in our communities to protect LGBT families. We work on behalf of LGBT parents so that they are not denied custody or visitation with their own children, or the right to adopt, just because of who they are. We use the courts, advocacy and education to win legal protections for our relationships, including the right to marry and domestic partner benefits.
Our work to win legal protections for gay parents helps to keep families like that of Lita Ramos together. Although her biological mother, Linda, and her mother’s partner, Lydia, raised Lita since birth, when tragedy struck Lita was vulnerable because her family wasn’t legally protected. When Linda was killed in a car accident, Lita was separated from her family by Linda’s relatives, who denied Lydia any visitation and refused to reveal where Lita was. Fortunately, Lambda Legal was able to help Lydia gain full custody of Lita — creating a permanent legal relationship between mother and daughter.
Defending Our Youth
Because LGBT youth often face tremendous hostility and isolation, we work to ensure that they are safe and respected at school, that gay student clubs have the same rights as other student groups, and that school administrators are educated about their legal obligations. In addition, we work to make foster care safe, more inclusive and respectful of LGBT youth.
We defend the younger members of our community, like Anthony Colín, whose application to form a gay student group at his school was denied by school officials. Lambda Legal sued. Today the GSA meets on school grounds, uses the school public address system to announce meetings and is featured in the school yearbook, just like other clubs.
While LGBT student clubs are thriving in schools across the country, lots of LGBT youth are still forced to fight for their safety. Like many gay high school students, Derek Henkle regularly confronted violence and harassment at school. When he reported the abuse, school officials ridiculed him for “acting like a fag.” Eventually, Derek was forced to drop out of school. Thanks to Lambda Legal’s successful lawsuit on Derek’s behalf, the school district gave Derek the money he needed to complete his education, and agreed to respect and protect all other gay students.
Fighting HIV/AIDS Discrimination
Whether it’s the blatant discrimination that has occurred since the AIDS epidemic began more than two decades ago or the more subtle bias we sometimes see today, Lambda Legal fights for and wins fair treatment where it matters most — at work, in our communities, and in medical care.
We stand-up for people like Joey Saavedra, an auto glass installer who disclosed that he has HIV on his first day at a new job. Although he almost always worked alone, and never put anyone in danger, Joey was still fired because, according to his employer, he posed a threat to other employees. Because Joey’s firing was wrong, and based on ignorance about how HIV is spread, Lambda Legal has taken on Joey’s case and will fight to win justice for him.
Securing Immigrant Rights
Current immigration law does not recognize same-sex relationships, almost always excludes immigrants with HIV from entering the United States, and makes it very difficult for people fleeing persecution in their homeland based on sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status to get asylum in the U.S. Lambda Legal continues to advocate for change in our immigration laws and to help LGBT immigrants who face discrimination.
For example, when a young gay man who fled violence and persecution in Mexico faced deportation from the U.S., we helped. Throughout his childhood, Geovanni Hernandez-Montiel was harassed and victimized by school officials and the police because he was considered effeminate. After fleeing Mexico, Geovanni was denied asylum in the U.S. Lambda Legal intervened and helped win a court decision in Geovanni’s favor.