June 01, 2015 Summer 2015

From the Chair

Greetings and welcome to the inaugural edition of American Bar Association's Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) newsletter, The Equalizer!

What a great year to be gay! By now you have had plenty of time to digest and enjoy the results from the United States Supreme Court – recognizing the rights of same-sex couples to marry and have those marriages recognized in every state of the union. With every step we make, our goal of full equality and equal treatment under the law is becoming a reality. It is truly a time to celebrate and thank all of those who have helped us get where we are: Those brave couples who took our cause all the way to the Supreme Court; their advocates, families and supporters; The Court; and our many terrific allies – without whom none of this could have happened. 

We still have more that we need to do. Remember that the LGBT community still faces outright discrimination. In 29 states it is legal to fire someone based on their sexual orientation. In 32 states it is legal to fire someone based on their gender identity. This discrimination extends beyond employment and into the legal system as LGBT citizens can be denied their civic participation on juries because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This must be stopped.  We still have LGBT bullying, including abusive and discredited “conversion” therapy. We have an obligation to our community to do all that we can to stop this abuse.  Our transgender family continues to face denial of benefits and basic human rights. We must do everything in our power to change this.  This all starts today and continues until we are done.

The SOGI Commission is dedicated to combating these and other issues still facing the LGBT legal community. In this newsletter you will read about just a few of the projects and programs the commission is working on. In addition, here are just some of the other things that are going on that you should know:

Anti-Bullying Initiative: at Annual meeting in Chicago we will be coordinating another roundtable on the topic of school anti bullying. As we did in Boston and Houston, various stakeholders from legislators, administrators, educators, students and parents spent will spend the afternoon discussing the anti-bullying efforts in Illinois, including in the Chicago school systems.

Model Rules of Professional Conduct: We continue in our efforts to amend the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to preclude discrimination, including harassment/intimidation as a form of bias. Harassment and bullying of witnesses, employees, and even opposing counsel on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, and other protected categories should not be tolerated within the legal profession. We are also working to include gender identity in the groups protected against discrimination.

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.

House of Delegates Resolution: At the Annual Meeting, SOGI will be presenting Report & Resolution 112A —advocating for the elimination of so-called “conversion” therapy. We are honored that the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities and the Commission on Youth at Risk have joined us as co-sponsors to do away with this abusive and discredited practice.

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.

JIM HOLMES
Chair, ABA Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity