At the end of June, the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Windsor, striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), marked a turning point in the nation’s struggle for LGBT equality. One notable feature of this case and others like it is the significant contribution made by pro bono lawyers, both as counsel of record and on behalf of various amici curiae.
Despite the recent accomplishments, the struggle for LGBT equality marches on. The PBEye previously highlighted examples of pro bono efforts aimed at reducing bullying in schools. Additional inspiring examples of law firms collaborating with public interest organizations to undertake pro bono work to promote welcoming school environments for LGBT students and to combat discrimination in schools include:
• Nixon Peabody*† partnered with the Southern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union in March to advocate on behalf of students at Sultana High School in the Hesperia School District. They accused faculty and administrators of repeated discrimination against LGBT students and demanded that school officials cease such behavior, stop censoring the Gay Straight Alliance’s speech and activities, and let students wear “gender non-conforming” clothing to prom.
• Fulbright & Jaworski*† and the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF) celebrated a high-profile victory recently when the state of Colorado ruled in favor of six-year-old Coy Mathis, whose school prevented her from using the girls’ bathroom because she is transgender. The case is the first ruling in the nation stating that transgender individuals must have access to bathrooms that match their identity and marks a momentous triumph for transgender rights.
• Kirkland & Ellis*† also recently teamed with TLDEF to resolve a claim on behalf of a 12-year-old transgender girl from Kansas who was barred from wearing girls’ clothing to school and using a girls’ name. Rather than dress as a boy, the girl and her family had settled for home-schooling. With the help of TLDEF and Kirkland & Ellis, the school district relented and the girl is now attending a new school that has taken measures to prevent discrimination and harassment
and allows her to express her identity.
No doubt, pro bono lawyers will play major roles in cases to come. If you are undertaking pro bono work to fight discrimination and promote LGBT equality, leave a comment below or send us an email to share your experience.
*denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge ®
†denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project