Dear ABA Friends and Colleagues,
The opportunity for me to serve as Chair of the ABA Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) is a humbling undertaking which I accepted from President Bob Carlson with much pride and commitment to doing the best job possible.
As we embark together as a Commission, we are cognizant that the lives of countless individuals and families are affected by our collective work within the context of the overall ABA and our legal profession across the nation and the globe. We at SOGI depend on the collective support of the entire ABA. We cannot and do not operate in a vacuum, but rather we actively collaborate with numerous entities both within the ABA organization as well within the fabric of the national and international legal community. One of our primary mandates is to uphold the Rule of Law for our LGBTQ constituents. If you are reading this, that makes you a partner as we strive to work within the colorful fabric of what brings us together at the ABA in our pursuit of liberty and justice for all under our U.S. Constitution and through the application of due process and equal protections.
Whether we are advocating for the protections of past precedents or pursuing the creation of fair and equal precedent setting laws, under the 14th Amendment, the 20th Amendment, the 1st Amendment or the 2nd Amendment, or any other part of the constitution, we are doing so collectively to create a more just and inclusive society. Our LGBTQ2 community not unlike other sectors of our society have been under attack recently under the current political climate. Attacking any one group or any part of a group which has traditionally been vulnerable and/ or disenfranchised is an affront not only to that class of people, but it to that which we hold so dear, the Rule of Law. We cannot and must not become numb. We cannot find it acceptable that our civil and/or human rights may be denigrated, and certainly not based on who we are or because of the person we love happens to be of the same sex, gender, sexual orientation or because they may be of a different racial or ethnic background, or because we may have a disability. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.
As we look back, just a few decades ago, interracial marriage was outlawed in the U.S. and South Africa as miscegenation. It was not until 1967, under the U.S. Supreme Court landmark civil rights decision in the case of Loving v. Virginia that interracial marriage became legal based on the ruling that race-based restrictions on marriages violated the Equal Protection Clause of our constitution. The precedent setting case struck down all state laws banning interracial marriage. Prior to Loving, there were 16 states that had still not repealed anti- miscegenation laws that forbade interracial marriages. However, it was not until 2000, that Alabama became the last state in the country to overturn its ban on interracial marriage despite more than three decades having passed since Loving. Not far behind was South Carolina which was the second-to-last to get rid of its interracial marriage ban in 1998, 31 one years after the U.S. Supreme court deemed it illegal. On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its precedent setting decision in Obergefell v. Hodges ruling that state bans on same-sex marriage and on recognizing same-sex marriages duly performed in other jurisdictions are unconstitutional under both the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to theU.S. Constitution. In brief, Justice Kennedy asserted both that the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person and thereby protected by the due process clause, and, by virtue of the connection between liberty and equality, the right to marry is also guaranteed by the equal protection clause. As such, he concluded that “same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry”.
While there are other noteworthy civil rights and human rights struggles that have yielded significant precedent setting cases, I thought of briefly referring to Loving and Obergefell as a way to illustrate how our hard work and advocacy at the ABA and with our national sister organizations often intersect. Here, the fundamental protections for interracial marriage helped to form the basis for our success in obtaining protections for same sex marriage. In reading Obergefell, you will see how the seminal case of Loving and other key decisions played a crucial role in the court’s analysis in Obergefell. And, I also note that Sharp v. Perez, the first U.S. Supreme Court case which helped get us to get to Loving, is noteworthy of acknowledgement. And of course, it is important to see the rulings of Eisendtad v. Baird, and, Griswold v. Connecticut, respectively, on the Due Process Clause extending to certain personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices defining personal identity and beliefs.
There are many more fights ahead of us as we strive to achieve a more just and inclusive society. We are undeterred in these fights. As we dive into the good fight of getting rid of Conversion Therapy laws, or advocating for the rights of Trans persons to be able to serve our country, we at SOGI will continue in earnest to advocate the rights of the LGBTQ2 community as a whole, and at the same time be ready to help where we can to advance the rights of others by working in partnership with you our supporters, including but not limited, to our partner organizations that form the ABA Diversity Center.
Towards this end, I am proud to announce that SOGI will be launching its Public Interest Law LGBTQ2 Scholarship Program in 2019. More to follow on this amazing project. We are also formalizing SOGI’s Amicus Brief Project, and, the Banning of Conversion Therapy Initiative whose work will be highlighted during the Las Vegas Midyear Meeting. And we will revamp and relaunch our Ally Toolkit to help our friends help us. And, much more to come.
In closing, I wish to congratulate our 2019 Stonewall Awards Honorees, Sharon McGowan, Mary Eaton, and Mark Agrast. You are all amazing advocates and we cannot thank you enough for your incredible work to protect the rights of others and for advancing the Rule of Law. We are proud of you. Cheers!
Thank you for your partnership and support.