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January 01, 2016

Honoring Abby

The Nashville Scene has recently dubbed civil rights attorney Abby Rubenfeld as “the warrior,” referencing her pivotal role in the recent marriage equality victory. Those of us who have known Abby for more than five minutes, and the more of us who have known of Abby and benefited from her hard work and dedication, congratulate the Nashville Scene for pointing out the obvious. With all due respect to the Nashville Scene (and seriously, major respect is due to the Scene for its outstanding homage to Abby), the term “warrior” is a grave understatement. Perhaps one of the best terms that could be used to describe Abby Rubenfeld is “champion.”

Abby was fighting for LGBT equality before it was cool. Abby enrolled in Princeton University which with the desire to be the first woman to serve as the President of the United States. She played basketball and served as the school’s first female student body president. When Abby realized she was a lesbian, she discounted a ca reer in politics and decided instead to do everything in her power to ensure that a woman would one day serve in the post of President. From her enrollment in the Boston University School of Law to her present day law practice in Nashville, Tennessee, Abby has been our champion.

Of course, Abby has not just battled for women’s rights, but for equal rights for all people under the law. Her resume is impressive: A former director of Lambda Legal Defense Fund, board member for the Human Rights Campaign, chair of the ABA Section on Individual Rights and Responsibilities, and deep partnerships with the Tennessee Equality Project, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, among many other organizations. Throughout Tennessee, the southeast, the nation, and the world, Abby’s influence and dedication is both taken to heart and celebrated. Abby has truly made this world a better place for everyone.

Of course, her most recent achievement has been the marriage equality victory. But her entire life and career has been a testimony to the significance of equality and justice. She served as a voice for the voiceless during the AIDS crisis. She has stood beside parents who lost legal rights to their children because of intolerance for the parent’s sexual orientation. She has represented those who have lost their jobs because they were LGBT. She led the successful charge to have Tennessee’s sodomy law overturned.

And of course, Abby is a mother, a spouse, a teacher, a mentor, and a friend to so many people. She is a role model for those who pursue justice and equality. She is deeply loved and respected, both for her efforts to make this world a better place and for being the tremendous human being that she is. Please join me in congratulating Abby for her receipt of the ABA Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity’s prestigious Stonewall Award. The fight is far from over, but with Abby and so many other champions on our side, we can have high hopes for our future.

SOGI Liaison from Young Lawyers Division