Jim Holmes, Chair
Greetings and welcome to the American Bar Association’s Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI), leading the ABA’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and full and equal participation by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in the Association, the legal profession and society.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead.
What a terrific Midyear Meeting in Houston. The SOGI Commission was very busy:
Anti-Bullying Initiative: On Thursday, February 5, 2015, we repeated a version of the roundtable SOGI hosted with the Young Lawyers Division during the Annual Meeting in Boston on the topic of school anti-bullying. Various stakeholders-from legislators, administrators, educators, students and parents-spent the afternoon discussing the anti-bullying efforts in Texas, including in the Houston school systems. We were joined by ABA President William Hubbard and President-Elect Paulette Brown. It was incredible to hear the stories and see the commitment of everyone involved to end bullying in the Texas schools and we hope to repeat this program at future ABA Meetings. President Hubbard has tasked SOGI with identifying what the ABA can do to implement the results of this anti-bullying project.
CLE: On Friday, February 6, 2015, SOGI partnered with the International Law Section and presented a CLE program on International LGBT Human Rights Violations. This followed the recent adoption by the House of Delegates of Resolution 114B – recognizing that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have a human right to be free from discrimination, threats and violence based on their LGBT status and condemns all laws, regulations and rules or practices that discriminate on the basis that an individual is a LGBT person and urges the governments of countries where such discriminatory laws, regulations, and practices exist to repeal them with all deliberate speed and ensure the safety and equal protection under the law of all LGBT people. Copies of the CLE materials can be found on the Highlights page.
Stonewall Awards: On Saturday, February 7, 2015 , SOGI hosted the Third Annual ABA Stonewall Award reception. This year we honored Lise Iwon, Kate Kendall and Representative Brian Sims, three outstanding leaders in the efforts at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inclusion. The reception was packed as we heard from the awardees, President Hubbard, President-Elect Brown and ABA Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer Jack Rives. My thanks to our incredible list of sponsors and to our amazing staff who pulled it all together. Links to the program book and the videos of the recipients can be found on the Stonewall Award page.
Commission Meeting: On Sunday, February 8, 2015, the SOGI Commission held its Winter Business meeting. We were honored with the participation of ABA President William Hubbard and President-Elect Paulette Brown. The agenda materials reflect how much is going on with SOGI and our efforts for the LGBT and straight-ally communities. Copies of the agenda materials can be found on the Highlights page of this website.
Podcast: Somewhere in all of this activity, SOGI Staff Director Skip Harsch and I recorded a podcast on the SOGI Commission. If you want to give a listen, a link is found on the Highlights page.
Out Day: The inaugural "Out Day" in Washington, D.C. will take place May 19, 2015 in Washington, DC. We are planning on meeting with many members of Congress highlighting and advancing the ABA's commitment to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. You are welcome to join us in this effort.
Law Students: We are continuing our efforts at securing inclusion and recognition of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender law students through revisions to Law School Standard 206. SOGI is working with Commission on Disability Rights to ensure that law schools reflect the ABA’s Goal III.
Publications: We are on schedule for publication of "Out and About", our publication in partnership with the National LGBT Bar Association which shares the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender attorneys, academics, and jurists in the profession, through their own words, in an effort to educate the legal profession and the general public about this diverse group, its contributions and it's struggles. We are planning a publication release party at this year’s Annual Meeting in Chicago.
Our next "Best Practices Guide" will focus on How to Be and Ally and we plan to have a series of webinars and programs on this topic.
Liaisons: Our efforts to remove barriers in the legal profession are paying off through the outstanding involvement of liaisons to the Commission from the many sections, divisions and forums as well as other Goal III entities. Please take a look at the list of liaisons on this page. If you are a member of any of the ABA sections, divisions or forums, please contact your entity's liaison.
We on the SOGI Commission are very proud of our accomplishments on behalf of the LGBT community. The SOGI Commission has and will be instrumental in directing policy, leading efforts for full LGBT inclusion and education efforts. Take a look at both the Goal III and Annual Reports for even more information on what is being done within the Commission and the ABA.
The past and future success of the SOGI Commission is based on the efforts of our Commissioners and liaisons, but also the ABA's on-going commitment to diversity and inclusion, a thriving LGBT legal community, and the efforts of our allies within the legal profession and justice system.
As the Chair of the SOGI Commission, I am dedicated to ensuring that we continue to seek out opportunities to collaborate with ABA leadership and others on diversity and inclusion initiatives; advocate for LGBT issues through policy development; be an informational resource on LGBT matters for the legal profession and justice system; and, educate the profession and public about the barriers that LGBT persons face with the legal profession and justice system.
If you are interested in being a part of this very exciting and essential work, please do not hesitate to contact me, any member of the Commission, our liaisons or our outstanding staff.