June 01, 2017 Summer 2017

A Look Back, Thoughts and Reflections from Past SOGI Chair

I became involved with SOGI soon after its start (2007).  I served as a liaison from TIPS, was a commissioner and then had the honor to chair the Commission from 2012 – 2015. Looking back on that time, I am amazed at how much we accomplished.

A couple of favorite memories with SOGI:

  • The inaugural LGBT Advocacy Day in Washington, DC. I remember the planning sessions and the incredible enthusiasm of all of the participants. We had a briefing at the White House, ran around the Capitol speaking to members of Congress and their staff and a couple of really remarkable (and crowded) receptions. We proved that anything and everything is possible with a dedicated group of people who care;

  • CLE programs and webinars on DOMA and Prop 8, Implicit Bias, Ethical Implications of LGBT Bias, Transgender Rights, Employment Rights for LGBT. We had groups of informative and inspiring attorneys and LGBT leaders and allies willing to jump in and help and inform and lead the discussion on these very important topics;

  • “Out and About: The LGBT Experience in the Legal Profession” – a book edited and by the SOGI Commission with the National LGBT Bar Association, allowing LGBT attorneys the opportunity to tell their own stories about their contributions, struggles and successes;

  • The Anti-Bullying Roundtables across the country, coinciding with ABA Annual and Midyear meetings. It was absolutely inspirational to hear from students, parents, teachers, administrators and legislative leaders all willing to make a difference for our next generation. We never put these roundtables on the schedule for the ABA Meeting, wanting to keep the focus on the students, their families and those who cared. But, somehow, word got out and I was forever amazed at the leadership and support of the ABA for this project;

  • Resolutions before the House of Delegates on elimination of DOMA and conversion therapy, detainee rights and ABA governance. It was not merely that the House of Delegates passed every one of our resolutions, but that the entire membership, from state delegations, to sections, the Board of Governors and individual Delegates took up our cause;

  • The Stonewall Awards. Meeting and honoring leaders, LGBT and allies, who have made such a difference for our community. Each of the receptions were spectacular and became the “go to” event at the Midyear meeting. Maybe it was the champagne that got people there. But, I think it was the opportunity to meet the honorees. Every time, the room was packed;

  • Cementing long-lasting relationships with allies throughout the Association, the profession and the world. It meant so much when the all levels of support were there for us. All of the ABA Presidents took the time to learn, care and make a difference for the LGBT community. They did not merely “fly by” for a visit. Each sat with us, listened to us and joined in the conversation. I am also keenly aware that our Presidents found a way to make things happen for us. I am not sure what we could have done without their support. We also had the support of the other Goal III Commissions. Even though we were the “new kid on the block,” the leaders, members and staffs of the other Goal III entities were there for us. And, the members of the ABA who wanted to show that they cared and were part of our family. I remember multiple presentations to the Board of Governors, numerous meetings and presentations to almost every section and division of the Association. And, every time, I was greeted as a colleague and a friend and never lacked for support for me, the SOGI Commission or the LGBT community.

  • Although I note there is an opportunity to remember some funny nights out during some of our meetings. However, I think it best that some things that happen in New Orleans, Nashville, Dallas, New York, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, Houston, etc., stay there (but forever with a smile and a laugh in my minds!).


 But, the greatest memories came from sharing and achieving our goals for the LGBT community through the members, staff and liaisons of the SOGI Commission. It was this group of people that led the way for the SOGI Commission to do all that it did. As I write this, I can see everyone’s face and remember both time of humor, leadership, support and responsibility. Each of these people made the SOGI Commission what is, was, and was meant to be – the voice, heart and soul of the LGBT community in the ABA, the profession and the world. I am truly humbled to have been part of such an amazing group of people who cared and were willing to more (and ever more) to make a difference. Thanks for all that the ABA and SOGI Commission has done and will do for the LGBT Community.

JAMES J. S. HOLMES

Chair, ABA Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

2012 - 2015