February 15, 2019

Fighting for LGBT Rights in Philadelphia

In this issue, we spotlight Andrew A. Chirls, a lawyer at Fineman, Krekstein & Harris, P.C., in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mr. Chirls, who was Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association in 2005, has worked with LGBT rights and civil liberties organizations in recent years on a number of issues of constitutional and Pennsylvania law.

Mr. Chirls wrote a series of amicus briefs as counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and for the Legal Clinic of the Mazzoni Center, an LGBT health and wellness clinic, supporting the jurisdiction of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations when the Commission investigated and pursued claims of sexual orientation and other types of discrimination by state agencies. A series of briefs were submitted to the Commonwealth Court and twice to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Mr. Chirls, working with his colleague Michael Needleman, also submitted an amicus brief for Lambda Legal, of which he was a board member in the 1990s, arguing that the Pennsylvania courts should invalidate a last vestige of the Pennsylvania Defense of Marriage Act. The courts of original jurisdiction were refusing to hear cases aimed at dissolution of domestic partnerships contracted in other states. The denial was on the grounds that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania could not recognize marriages or domestic partnerships between people of the same sex that were contracted in other states. The Superior Court ordered the Family Divisions of the county courts to accept these cases. Mr. Chirls also has worked on immigration cases establishing the rights of refugees to gain asylum after suffering harassment by governmental officials in other countries because of their sexual orientation.

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