Senior Counsel and Director of Constitutional Law Practice
Karen L. Loewy is Senior Counsel and Director of Constitutional Law Practice for Lambda Legal, the oldest and largest national legal organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, and those with HIV. Since joining Lambda Legal in 2013, Ms. Loewy has handled groundbreaking litigation and supervised attorneys in all areas of Lambda Legal’s work. As Director of Constitutional Law Practice, she provides thought leadership, develops strategy, and supports organization-wide efforts to secure and advance the constitutional rights of the communities Lambda Legal serves.
Most recently, Ms. Loewy has played a leading role in Doe v. Abbott and PFLAG v. Abbott, challenging Texas’s targeting of transgender youth by declaring the provision of gender affirming care to be child abuse. She also works to confront federal and state governments’ enabling and sanctioning of discrimination against same-sex couples and LGBTQ individuals in government funded and contracted programs. This includes Family Equality v. Becerra, challenging the U.S. Dep’t of Health and Human Services’ decision to end its enforcement of regulations barring discrimination in agency-funded grants programs, and Rogers v. U.S. Dep’t of Health and Human Services and Marouf v. Becerra, both of which involve married same-sex couples turned away from being foster parents for children in the government’s custody – one by a South Carolina state-contracted child placing agency, and the other by federally-contracted child placing agency – because they failed to meet the agencies’ religious criteria.
Ms. Loewy is deeply involved in Lambda Legal’s work to secure and enforce antidiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people in every area of life, from co-authoring Lambda Legal’s Supreme Court amicus briefs in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, Zarda v. Altitude Express, and RG & GR Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, the landmark cases holding LGBTQ people to be protected from employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; to serving as co-counsel in Smith v. Avanti, the first case in the country holding LGBTQ people to be protected by the Fair Housing Act (FHA); to challenging the Trump Administration’s efforts to exclude LGBTQ people from the antidiscrimination protections of the Affordable Care Act in Whitman-Walker Clinic v. HHS. As lead counsel in Wetzel v. Glen St. Andrew Living Community, a case on behalf of a lesbian senior alleging sex- and sexual orientation-based harassment and discrimination in her senior living community, Ms. Loewy obtained a groundbreaking decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, holding that a landlord may be held liable under the FHA for failing to protect a tenant from known, discriminatory harassment at the hands of other tenants.
As Seniors Strategist for over nine years, Ms. Loewy led Lambda Legal’s work on issues affecting LGBTQ older adults and people aging with HIV. She helped successfully end the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) denial of survivor’s benefits to same-sex partners and spouses for whom marriage equality came too late in two nationwide class actions, Ely v. Saul and Thornton v. Commissioner of Social Security. Ms. Loewy’s advocacy on behalf of Robina Asti, a 92-year-old transgender woman who was denied benefits after her husband’s death, led to SSA updating its policies regarding spousal benefits for transgender people.
Ms. Loewy was also one of the key players behind Lambda Legal’s efforts to secure the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, along with its attendant protections and responsibilities. Ms. Loewy served as counsel in the successful challenges to the discriminatory marriage bans in Louisiana in Robicheaux v. Caldwell, North Dakota in Jorgensen v. Montplaisir, West Virginia in McGee v. Cole, and Puerto Rico in Conde Vidal v. García Padilla. She also served as lead counsel in Birchfield v. Armstrong, successfully suing on behalf of a class of Florida widows and widowers seeking recognition of their marriages on their spouses’ death certificates, and sued to ensure that children born abroad to married same-sex couples via surrogacy were granted equal citizenship rights in Mize v. Pompeo and Kiviti v. Pompeo.
In addition, Ms. Loewy has participated as party counsel and friend of the court in numerous cases across the country seeking respect for the relationships of children and their same-sex parents, and ensuring that a parent’s LGBTQ identity plays no role in custody determinations.
Ms. Loewy has dedicated her entire professional life to advancing the rights of LGBTQ people and people living with HIV. Prior to joining Lambda Legal, Ms. Loewy was a Senior Staff Attorney with GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), where she engaged in a wide range of LGBTQ impact litigation and policy work throughout New England for nearly 12 years, including O’Donnabhain v. Comm’r of Internal Revenue, ensuring equal tax treatment for gender affirming care, and Goodridge v. Dep’t of Public Health and Kerrigan v. Comm’r of Public Health, GLAD’s marriage equality cases in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Ms. Loewy is a graduate of Fordham University School of Law, where she was a Stein Scholar for Public Interest Law and Ethics, and Brandeis University, where she obtained a B.A. in Music and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. In 2006, Fordham University School of Law’s Stein Scholars Program recognized Ms. Loewy with its “In the Service of Others” Distinguished Graduate Award. She was also recognized as one of Crain’s New York’s 2019 Notable Women in Law.
Ms. Loewy is a member of the bars of Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.