June 01, 2016

Message from the Chair

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

It cannot be denied, it has been a trying time for the LGBT Community since the events that took place at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando Florida on June 12.  During the month where the LGBT Community celebrates its accomplishments we were all ripped back to reality. The ABA stood firmly with the Citizens of Florida and the LGBT and Hispanic Communities. 

ABA President Paulette Brown had this to say about the tragic events:

The American Bar Association condemns the recent terrorist attacks in Orlando. Our thoughts and sympathies are with the families and friends of the victims as well as all of the communities devastated by this tragic attack.

As an association committed to fairness and equality, the ABA is horrified by any acts that target particular groups for their lifestyles, beliefs, background or ethnicity.  The ABA will redouble our efforts to ensure that hatred, bigotry and violence do not take control of our nation.  Our country’s commitment to the rule of law needs to prevail as we work to heal from this tragedy.

Where the first issue of The Equalizer celebrated the historic Obergefell Marriage decision, and the second issue focused on transgender rights, this third edition will highlight individual personal reflections on the events in Orlando, while touching on the great accomplishments we have seen one year after the Obergefell decision. 

Yes, it is healthy to mourn and to reflect. But there is much to be hopeful about. The ban on transgender individuals serving in the military has been lifted. President Obama and Department of Education officials took steps to protect trans youth with their guidance supporting trans students’ access to appropriate bathrooms in schools. And while that guidance is now the subject of two lawsuits, Massachusetts has passed landmark legislation allowing transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms in accordance with their gender identity and banning discrimination in public accommodations based on gender identity.

The SOGI Commission remains dedicated to effectuating change in the LGBT community through the rule of law. In this newsletter you will read about how some of those efforts are expanding to the global LGBT Community.  In addition, here are just some of the other things that are going on that you should know:

Model Rules of Professional Conduct: We continued in our efforts to amend the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to prohibit discriminatory conduct by attorneys, including harassment and intimidation as a form of bias. Harassment and  bullying of witnesses, employees, and opposing counsel on the basis of sexual orientation and other protected categories
should not be tolerated. The model rule resolution went before the ABA House of Delegates at the Annual meeting in San Francisco and was passed and adopted into ABA policy.

International Efforts: We have begun working with the Rule of Law Initiative, the Center for Human Rights, and the Fund for Justice and Education on a number of issues ranging from aiding migrants seeking asylum as LGBTs, to programming to ensure that civil society organizations and governments have effective tools, resources and capacity to reduce, prevent and respond to anti-LGBTI bias-motivated violence.

Ally Training: On Friday, July 29th, we will sponsor an education program as part of our How to Be an Ally toolkit that will examine Transgender Allyship in the workplace and beyond. We are also continuing to grow and expand the Ally toolkit.

Transgender Name & Gender Marker Changes: We are working with the National Center for Transgender Equality to create state-specific scripts that will walk individuals through the legal name and gender marker change procedures.

We on the SOGI Commission continue to work hard on behalf of the LGBT community. If you are interested in being a part of this very exciting and essential work, please do not hesitate to contact me, or any member of the Commission, our liaisons, or our outstanding staff.

MARK JOHNSON ROBERTS

Chair, ABA Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity