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July 29, 2019 Summer 2019

Another Successful LGBT Forum

(L-R) Opening plenary session; closing plenary session,; Martha Shelly on the Stonewall Riot.

(L-R) Opening plenary session; closing plenary session,; Martha Shelly on the Stonewall Riot.

The ABA’s Section of Litigation held is second biannual LGBT+ forum on April 30th & May 1st in Manhattan. Coming less than two months before the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots, the forum brought together lawyers, academics, students, and LGBT+ advocates from around the country and provided a range of sessions and speakers including lawyers at the forefront of LGBT legal issues who have navigated their way to the top of the profession. The forum’s plenary sessions focused on litigating LGBT issues before the U.S. Supreme Court after Justice Anthony Kennedy’s departure and how the Stonewall uprising has shaped the LGBT+ civil rights movement.

The forum was kicked off by ABA President Bob Carlson whose remarks focused on three key points:  1)The ABA’s official endorsement of the Equality Act, 2.) lawyer wellness and issues related to substance use and abuse, anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses in our profession, and 3) the ABA as the champion for due process and the rule of law.

The opening plenary session “LGBT+ Issues in a Post-Kennedy World,” featured among others, Melissa Sherry, a Latham & Watkins partner and member of the law firm’s Supreme Court & Appellate Practice, who is also a former assistant to the U.S. solicitor general; as well as Joshua Matz, an attorney at Gupta Wessler, a former law clerk to Justice Kennedy, and publisher of “Take Care,” a blog focusing on “incisive analysis of the legal issues raised by Donald Trump’s presidency,” according to Gupta Wessler’s website. At the heart of the program was how Kennedy’s  departure could affect the future of LGBT+ litigation.  Including the exclusion of transgender persons from the military; the application of state parentage laws in light of Obergefell v. Hodges and Pavan v. Smith; and the applicability of Title VII.

Rounding out the two days was a plenary session titled, “From Rebellion to Rights: An Overview of How the Stonewall Uprising Sparked the LGBT+ Civil Rights Movement.” The program, moderated by Section  chair- elect James Reeder, JR. featured legendary LGBT+ activists, Perry Brass and Martha Shelley. Both Perry and Martha are authors/ activists and early members of the Gay Liberation Front New York.  Each had a front row seat to the Stonewall Riots and events

that unfolded in the days after the riots took place. Perry referred to the Stonewall Riot at the LGBT+ communities, “I’ve had enough moment.” Martha ended he remarks with this, “Everyone has a contribution to make, what risks will you take…?”

Skip Harsch

Director, ABA SOGI Commission