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Lawyers of San Diego is a specialty bar association committed to advancing the status of women in the law and society. We use this space to share articles written about Lawyers Club events and programs and items of interest to our members which are relevant to our mission. The opinions outlined in content published on the Lawyers Club of San Diego blog are those of the authors and not of Lawyers Club. All members are encouraged to participate respectfully in discussions regarding the topics posted on the blog. Guest writers are welcome.

 

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Stonewall at 50 – Building on the Legacy of Pride and Freedom

Posted By Kim Ahrens for Lawyers Club's LGBTQ Committee, Monday, July 8, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, July 9, 2019

 

Like too many, I lived my entire law school career plus the first part of my professional career suppressing part of my identity in fear that my orientation, instead of my skill, would define me and distract prospective employers, or worse, clients. So, while I developed my knowledge of the law and sharpened my litigation skills, I also became an expert at avoiding questions that revealed the gender of my partner. 

Around the same time, I attended my first Lawyers Club event where a room full of successful women greeted me and opened my eyes to the possibilities available for female attorneys in the San Diego legal community. It’s hard to put into words the impact that 2005 mentor-mentee reception had on me and how it affected the trajectory of my career, but without a doubt it decreased my concern that my gender would be an insurmountable obstacle. However, it did nothing to thwart my fear of the professional consequences of revealing my orientation.

At the time, Lawyers Club did not have an LGBTQ Committee, and I did not learn about the Tom Homann LGBT Law Association until years later. I continued to be an active member, and even a leader, in Lawyers Club. And I continued to be closeted.

This status quo remained until opponents of same-sex marriage put a proposition on the ballot to amend the California constitution to exclude same-sex marriage. For me, Prop 8 opened my eyes to the importance of being an open lesbian in my professional career, gave me motivation to hit the streets to oppose the discriminatory proposition, and propelled me into being an activist in the LGBTQ rights movement. It was my personal tipping point.

I now appreciate how fortunate I am to have the freedom to use my voice, especially compared to LGBTQ people across the U.S. and world who risk far more than potential professional obstacles if they reveal their authentic selves. With this in mind, one can imagine the intensity of oppression and violence it took to trigger Stonewallers to rebel against police in the early morning of June 28, 1969. 

This year, I traveled to New York and visited the now National Historic Landmark. As I stood outside Stonewall Inn, I took a moment to acknowledge the historical significance of the Stonewall uprising. Fifty years ago, the aftermath of Stonewall opened the door to the first LGBTQ rights and activist organizations, and the first pride parade kicked off one year later. I also reflected on how much we accomplished during this first year of San Diego Lawyers Club’s LGBTQ Committee and the pride that overwhelmed me when I heard the Lawyers Club mission statement blasted to the audience as the very first Lawyers Club contingent passed in the 2018 San Diego Pride parade. 


My thoughts then turned to the theme of this year’s San Diego Pride, Stonewall 50: A Legacy of Liberation, and my heart filled with pride as I took a moment to acknowledge Lawyers Club is building on the legacy passed down by so many trailblazers, including the Stonewallers.


 With all this in mind, I could not be more excited to invite you to march with Lawyers Club in San Diego’s Pride Parade on Saturday, July 13, 2019 (register here to join us). 


Kimberly Ahrens wrote this for the San Diego Lawyers Club LGBTQ Committee, she is the founder of Ahrens Law, APC, and a Director of Lawyers Club of San Diego.

 

 

 

Tags:  civil rights  closet  LGBTQ  Mentee  Mentor  National Historic Monument  New York  parade  Pride  Stonewall Inn  Stonewallers 

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A Roadmap for Balancing LGBTQ+ Protections with Religious Freedom

Posted By by Tristan Higgins for Lawyers Club's LGBTQ Committee, Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2019

At Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s 19th Annual Women and the Law Conference, The Way Forward: Gender, LGBTQIA Rights, and Religious Liberties, on February 1, 2019, the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lecturer was former EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum. Feldblum was raised an Orthodox Jew, but at 18 lost her faith. She is also a “practicing lesbian” and joked that she would like to continue “practicing for as long as possible.”


To Feldblum, there are two important, and sometimes conflicting, principles in the workplace: 1) to ensure religious liberty in both religious practice and pluralism, and 2) that everyone has the right to live an honest life, free from discrimination and harassment. Feldblum encouraged us to engage in this discussion with a “generosity of spirit,” regardless of the emotions invoked.


She laid out four “locations” that justify different outcomes for LGBTQ+ employee protection and religious freedom:

  1. Individuals seeking protection in the public sector from an employer’s requirement [e.g., an employer bans any head coverings and an employee wants to wear a hijab at work];
  2. Religious individuals who provide a service to the public seeking an exemption [e.g., a baker asserts religious beliefs as the basis for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple];
  3. Religious institutions seeking an exemption [e.g., the Catholic church refusing to hire a trans priest]; and,
  4. Institutions controlled by a religious institution or beliefs [e.g., a Yeshiva Day Camp denying admission to Christian children].

In the first location, the employer should accommodate the employee’s request for an exception to the employer’s requirement as long as it does not place an undue burden on the employer. If the employee can still get their work done, why shouldn’t the employer grant a religious exemption? That said, this protection for the religious employee does not grant that same employee license to harass, say, LGBTQ+ employees at work—because the religious person’s right to free speech does not outweigh the LGBTQ+ person’s right to be free from harassment.


In the second location, Feldblum argues that the balance should be in favor of the LGBTQ+ individual. It is key to our society that people are free from harassment and discrimination. It is not enough to tell the LGBTQ+ individual to go to another bakery. Rather, if the baker works in a bakery that is open to the public, they should bake the cake regardless of their religious beliefs. Feldblum commented that if the baker worked in a bakery with 50 employees (instead of only a handful), perhaps that employee could be excused from baking such cakes. The LGBTQ+ couple need never know there was an issue. A balance can, and should, be struck.


It is not controversial that a religious institution be allowed to select only ministers, priests, rabbis, and imams that embrace the tenants of its religion. It is crucial to that religious organization that it be allowed to pass on its teachings unobstructed by anti-discrimination laws. This need outweighs my need as a lesbian to serve as a minister in a church that believes being a lesbian is a sin.


The last location is tricky. Feldblum argues that if that location wants to discriminate, it needs to be consistent. For the Yeshiva Day Camp to keep out a Christian child, they need to only allow Jewish children, and employ only Jewish employees. If their religious beliefs are so crucial to them that they cannot allow a Christian child to attend, they better mean it and prove it with consistency.


As a member of the LGBTQ+ community and an atheist with a long and storied background in religion, I very much appreciate the framework that Feldblum set forth. Members of both the LGBTQ+ and faith communities need to understand that a balance must be struck between, for example, my right to be a proud lesbian free from harassment and discrimination and my friend’s right to practice and celebrate sincerely held religious beliefs. The balance will not always be the same, but if we discuss these issues with a generosity of spirit and profound respect for each other, we can work to create an equilibrium.


Editor’s Note: Feldblum explains the concepts summarized above, and more, in her recent post, which you can read here: What I Really Believe About Religious Liberty and LGBT Rights.


Tristan Higgins, who wrote this post for San Diego Lawyers Club’s LGBTQ Committee, is a seasoned lawyer specializing in diversity and inclusion speaking and consulting.

 

 

 

Tags:  Chai Feldblum  churches  discrimination  diversity  EEOC  exemptions  LGBTQ  LGBTQ+  pluralism  religious freedom  schools 

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How Many Freakin’ Pronouns?

Posted By Ari Hornick, Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Last year, Laci Green posted How Many Freakin Genders, and How Many Freakin Genders, Part 2. If you’ve never thought about issues surrounding sex and gender, her videos are a good introduction. However, Green makes a common mistake when she says that biological sex has basically two options (male and female). To this point, scientific research has found that the genetic switches determinative of your biological sex are not binary like an on/off switch. They're more like dimmer switches with an infinite number of settings between extremes. How many freakin’ biological sexes? Possibly infinite.


Even if there were only one gender for each biological sex, there would be an infinite number of genders. If different genders use different pronouns, how many freakin’ pronouns? He and she don’t come close to covering infinity, so people have come up with a variety of first person, singular pronouns to fill the gap. There is some resistance to the new pronouns, but remember, we learned how to say “Ms.” We learned to say “African-American.” If a friend changes their name when they get married or divorced, we adapt to the new name. If we know a judge personally, we don’t forget to call them “your honor” in court. We can definitely learn which pronouns people use.


How do you know which pronouns a person uses? They tell you. Until then, stick with gender neutral pronouns. Perhaps the easiest path is to start with the familiar: Use “they” as a singular pronoun. “They” has been both singular and plural (like “you”) since, at least, Chaucer, and we still use it that way. (See e.g. “If a friend changes their name…”). If you don’t want to take my word for it, check out the Motivated Grammar post “Singular ‘they’” or Grammar Girl’s “Gender-Neutral Pronouns” and “Singular ‘They’.”


How do you tell someone which pronouns you use? It’s easy to insert this into your introduction, “I’m Ari—they, them—nice to meet you.” Include your pronouns in your signature block. My signature block says “Pronouns: they, them, their” right below my phone number. If someone uses an incorrect pronoun for you, just give a mild, matter of fact correction as you would if someone used an incorrect pronoun for your pet. “I use they.” If the person looks confused, follow up with “not she” or “not he” as the case may be.


What if you say the wrong pronoun by accident? Don’t freak out. Correct yourself, or accept the correction, in a mild, matter-of-fact tone, and move on. For example, “…she—I mean they—…” The key is to be respectful.


To make your pronouns known, the convention is to list them in the following order: subject, object, possessive, possessive pronoun, reflexive. “I’m Ari—they, them, their, theirs, themself.” You don’t have to list all five all the time, but do include any nonstandard parts. “I’m Ari—they, them” is sufficient, but “I’m Ari—phe, phe, phes” (pronunciation: fē, fē, fēz). I would stop there because the listener will probably assume the last two correctly (phes, pheself).


An easy way to be an ally is to include pronouns in your introduction and signature block even if you’re cisgender. This will help everyone feel more comfortable asserting their pronouns, and you’ll be less likely to use an incorrect pronoun if everyone includes them in their introductions and signature blocks. Win-win.

 

Ari Hornick, who wrote this for San Diego Lawyers Club’s LGBTQ Committee, is an ethics attorney in downtown San Diego.

 

Tags:  binary gender  cisgender  gender  introductions  LGBTQ  pronouns  signature blocks  trans 

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Advancing the Rights of the LGBTQ Community: Expansion of Gender-Neutral Restrooms

Posted By Brenda Lopez, Tuesday, September 25, 2018

On March 1, 2017, California required single-occupancy restrooms in businesses, government buildings, and places of public accommodation. These single-occupancy restrooms can include up to one flush toilet and one urinal and must be identified by gender-neutral signage. I am a firm supporter of gender-neutral restrooms and the ideals supporting this equitable advancement. No longer will transgender and gender nonconforming individuals feel the anxiety that comes with choosing a restroom of a specific gender in a public place and being questioned, or worse, being told they are entering the “wrong” restroom.

This change in California’s laws regarding public restrooms reminds me of the dismantling of Jim Crow-era laws, when I think of the impact it has likely had on those advocating for the change. Yet, the first time I entered a gender-neutral restroom, I complained about having to endure a smelly urinal when I do not need a urinal to use the restroom. I was grossed out by the smelly urinal plastered against the wall. I felt very uncomfortable with this unfamiliar look and smell. I remember trying to hold my breath and running in and out of the restroom as fast as I possibly could. As a heterosexual woman, it was the first time I had seen a urinal in person.

I recognized my selfishness immediately and wondered how many others had similar experiences and thoughts. Having been in many gender-neutral restrooms since then, I have grown accustomed to it and embraced it as a new norm. If my temporary discomfort plays a small part in LGBTQ community advancement towards equality and minimizes fear and anxiety for that community, it is happily endured.

Brenda Lopez is a Certified Family Law Specialist working at Antonyan Miranda, LLP, the current Family Law Chair for the SDCBA, and wrote this for San Diego Lawyers Club’s LGBTQ Committee.



Tags:  discomfort  equality  gender-neutral  gender-neutral restrooms  Jim Crow  LGBTQ  urinal 

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The Journey of Gender Identity

Posted By Jodi Cleesattle, Friday, July 6, 2018

The Journey of Gender Identity


Since 1999, I have been the mother of daughters. Well, in 1999, I was the mother of a daughter. The second one came along in 2002.

 

When I divorced in 2007, it was just us girls in the house. Even our dogs and cats were all girls, except for Sparky, who retreated to his man cave behind the couch when he needed to get away from all the estrogen.

 

Then in 2016, my older child began identifying as genderqueer, or nonbinary. They adopted “they/them/their” pronouns and shortened their first name to a more androgynous nickname to reflect their identity as neither male nor female. Although they flirted with gender fluidity – some days presenting more female, some days more male – they settled on nonbinary status, for a time. In the last year, though, they began leaning more toward a male identity. Now, they are considering transitioning to male.

 

I am used to being the mother of girls, and I admit that I had a “but, boys are icky” moment.

 

But I realized that my child will always be a feminist, whether male, female, or nonbinary. They will always be a champion of women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. They will always be an activist for those who are disadvantaged. They will always be the same spirited, creative, curious, wonderful human being they have always been.

 

Fully realizing their gender identity, and the separate-but-related issue of their sexual orientation, has been a journey.

 

It is a journey that has felt slow to them, but often feels fast to me. Sometimes I get dizzy and confused by the twists and turns of the journey. Sometimes they don’t tell me the path until after they have thoroughly explored it, and I have to race to catch up to where they are. I don’t mean to be slow, but I’m not as nimble and young as they are.

 

I have learned so much while journeying with my child. As a cisgendered (for the unfamiliar, that means identifying with the gender assigned at birth) woman, I never thought much about gender identity. As a bisexual woman, I never thought much about sexual orientation beyond LGBTQ. Through my child, I have learned that gender and orientation are so much more nuanced.

 

Most importantly, I have realized that everybody’s journey is different. Some trans kids feel at a young age that they’re trapped in the wrong gender. Some take longer to pinpoint what doesn’t feel quite right to them.

 

It has not always been easy, but it has been a privilege being on this journey with my child.

 

I love them for who they are, whoever they are. No matter their name, no matter what they look like, no matter their identity, they will always be my child.

 

Editor’s Note: Happy Pride Month, San Diego! Join Lawyers Club for two events: She Fest on July 7, and the San Diego Pride Parade on July 14: She Fest: The Time is Now: Saturday, July 7, 2018, 11-6, North Park Community Park, 4044 Idaho St., 92104

Join the Lawyers Club’s marching contingent at the San Diego Pride Parade on Saturday July 14, 2018 – for details, contact Allison Troini (Allison@lawyersclubsandiego.com).

Jodi Cleesattle is a Deputy Attorney General with the California Department of Justice, a past Lawyers Club board member, the current Lawyers Club press liaison, and she wrote this as a member of Lawyers Club’s LGBTQ Committee.

Tags:  cisgender  LGBTQ  nonbinary  parenting  Pride  transgender 

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Guest Blog: LGBTQ Rights Up For Interpretation?

Posted By Kimberly Ahrens, Wednesday, March 14, 2018
 

LGBTQ Rights Up For Interpretation?

 

This past June, I fell in love with Tennessee after visiting a friend who moved there a couple years back. We spent an entire day floating down the Harpeth River—enjoying the slow pace and dense lush forest that hugs the riverbank. After our canoeing adventure, we gathered around a fire pit in her backyard, watched a blanket of fireflies illuminate the earth around us, and discussed how different life is in Tennessee compared to Southern California.

 

The conversation turned to the question of whether my wife and I would ever consider moving to Tennessee. As a lesbian couple, it is impossible for us to not consider the level of LGBTQ acceptance when we consider moving to, or even visiting, another state or country. And, Tennessee is a prime example of a state that does not have any explicit law prohibiting discrimination against me based on my sexual orientation.  

 

Without explicit federal protection from workplace discrimination, LGBTQ families like mine are left at the mercy of state non-discrimination laws and shifting interpretations of federal law. A simple decision to move to a state void of any statewide anti-discrimination laws, coupled with recent federal government position reversals, could easily result in an inability to find a job merely because of the gender of my spouse.

 

Over the years, LGBTQ people have been forced to rely on a hodgepodge of regulations, state laws, federal guidance opinions, and local ordinances to create a patchwork of protection against discrimination. Unfortunately, this path can be unpredictable and unreliable because many states do not have any anti-discrimination laws and federal agencies have complete discretion to rescind, revise, or rollback their guidance opinions.

 

I look forward to learning more about recent changes to the interpretation of LGBTQ protections under federal civil rights laws and pending legislation at an upcoming MCLE panel discussion coordinated by Lawyers Club's LGBTQ Committee and Tom Homann LGBT Law Association (Friday, March 16, 2018 at 6:00 p.m. – register here to join us).  

 

The panel will include esteemed speakers, Amanda Goad, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU Foundation of Southern California, and Alexander Chen, Equal Justice Works Fellow, National Center for Lesbian Rights. They will provide an in-depth review of recent federal government position reversals on sexual discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, religion as a license to discriminate, transgender military service, and more.

 

After the panel discussion, guests are welcome to attend a reception where we can mingle and continue talking about these important topics.

 

Kimberly Ahrens is the founder of The Ahrens Law Office and is the current chair of Lawyers Club’s LGBTQ Committee.

 

Tags:  discrimination  equality  guest blogger  LCB  LGBTQ 

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Guest Blog: Living Your Authentic Self in Business

Posted By Marci Bair, Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Living Your Authentic Self in Business

 

We have just kicked off the LGBTQ Task Force of Lawyers Club of San Diego. Our primary purpose is to work to identify, acknowledge, and address the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ women in the legal community. In our introductory meeting, we shared standard networking meeting information—our names, businesses, and areas of specialty. What was unique to this meeting was an additional question, “Why are you interested in joining the Lawyers Club LGBTQ Task Force?” Answers ranged from straight allies who had an LGBTQ family member they wanted to support, to members that identified as LGBTQ, to others that were just supportive of the LGBTQ community and wanted to lend their help. Some attorneys shared stories of being LGBTQ but not “out” at work at all, or not being out with clients. They shared their concern that being “out” may hurt their business or work promotion opportunities.

 

After leaving the meeting, I got to thinking about how much more productive and happy a person can be when they are able to bring their whole self to work and live an authentic life.

 

I have tried to live my life authentically inside and outside of the business world, and have always been open and transparent with my clients that I am gay. I don’t waive a rainbow flag as soon as they enter my office, but I proudly display pictures of my wife and kids around my office. I also state on the front page of my website that I work with LGBTQ couples and have an image of an LGBTQ family. Some people in business feel that if their clients find out they are LGBTQ, they may lose business or feel that it is none of the clients’ business. Both of these are very valid points and if you are a private person, you may be more comfortable not talking about your family whether you are LGBTQ or straight.

 

However, living more openly in the business world has allowed me to carve out a niche and a devoted clientele that is also either LGBTQ or progressive. This allows me to build stronger bonds and more trust than I might have otherwise. I am pleased to say that I am celebrating 25 years with my business and the majority of my clients are LGBTQ or referred from the LGBTQ community—showing that you can have a thriving business and be openly LGBTQ.

 

In San Diego, we are lucky to have so many LGBTQ-oriented professional organizations, such as the Tom Homann Law Association, Diversity Supplier Alliance, and Greater San Diego Business Association, in addition to open and inclusive organizations like Lawyers Club where LGBTQ or progressive business owners are welcomed and can thrive.

 

If you want to attract and retain LGBTQ clients, there are simple things you can do, like state on your website that you work with LGBTQ families, or use images of LGBTQ couples to let a prospective client know that your office is a safe place for them to come and feel comfortable. In addition, you can make sure that your intake forms or fact finders are LGBTQ-friendly by not just stating a place for husband and wife, but instead using the term spouse/partner. Also, when a client is single or does not come in with their spouse or partner, don’t assume that they are straight.

We all work with clients at sensitive points in their lives. The more we can make them feel comfortable, the better the relationship will be with them and the more enjoyable the experience.

 

The more you are able to live your authentic life in business, the happier you will be and the more business you will attract because you will be working with your whole self.

 

Marci Bair wrote this for the Lawyers Club LGBTQ Task Force, and as the President of Bair Financial Planning, she has provided financial planning and impact investing for sustainable wealth for the past 25 years.

Tags:  authentic life  business  LCB  LGBTQ  LGBTQ Task Force  out  same-sex couples  straight  Tom Homan 

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Passing the Torch

Posted By Holly Hanover, Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Passing the Torch

Edith (Edie) Windsor and LGBTQ activism were born in the 1920s. Both remained closeted for decades, but in the 1960s, a seismic event in New York City inspired Ms. Windsor and countless others to say “Enough.” 

Edie Windsor was born shortly before the stock market crash of 1929 and five years after the first U.S. Gay Rights Association. Edie met Thea Spyer at a dance in Greenwich Village in 1963. They danced the night away, and danced often in the years after. By 1967, when marriage – and even a relationship between two women – was illegal in the United States, Thea got down on one knee and proposed to Edie. Rather than risking exposure with an engagement ring, Thea gave Edie a circular diamond pin.

In 1969, the couple returned from a holiday on June 28th to their usually boisterous neighborhood. Edie went out for groceries and saw the aftermath of the Stonewall Riots. “There were a lot of cops . . . a very strange kind of feeling,” she observed. The night before, police had raided the Stonewall Inn to harass the gay men inside. Police often conducted raids there, citing the patrons for “offensive” behaviors and beating them during arrests. This time, the gay people fought back.

Before that day, Edie lied to others constantly to hide who she was. She feared being associated with the gay community. That event altered her. “From that day on, I had this incredible gratitude . . . . They changed my life forever.”  

Afterwards, Edie and Thea lived openly as lesbians, and together as an engaged couple for over 40 years. Edie cared for Thea after she contracted multiple sclerosis, leaving her a quadriplegic. They married in 2007 in Canada, because marriage had recently been legalized there. In 2009, Thea died in their home, with Edie by her side.

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“Marriage is a magic word. And it is magic throughout the world.

It has to do with our dignity as human beings, to be who we are openly.”

- Edith Windsor

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When processing Thea’s estate, Edie learned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prevented her from being recognized as a legal spouse. She had to pay $363,053 in taxes, which a heterosexual wife would never have been required to pay. Facing this fundamental injustice, Edie chose to fight back and stand up for herself.

After a 4-year court battle, the Supreme Court ruled in her favor. In 2013, her case, U.S. v. Windsor, became one of three seminal rulings that changed the lives of LGBTQ people in the United States:

  1. Lawrence v. Texas (2003) – Texas law criminalizing "homosexual conduct" is unconstitutional.
  2.  U.S. v. Windsor (2013) – DOMA section 3 is unconstitutional; federal government cannot discriminate against married LGBTQ couples when determining federal benefits/protections.
  3.  Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) – Same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional. Expanded the Windsor decision, creating protection for same-sex marriage under Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, and forcing recognition of marriages performed out-of-state.

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 “Sometimes there are days like this when that slow, steady effort is

rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.”

- Barack Obama

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The recent progress of the LGBTQ community has suffered numerous setbacks since January. Responsibility now falls to a new generation to continue the persistent fight to allow everyone in the U.S. the same rights and opportunities. On September 12, 2017, Edie Windsor passed away in Manhattan. It is time to pick up her torch and carry it forward. 

 

Holly Hanover wrote this for the Lawyers Club LGBTQ Task Force and runs a Federal Criminal Defense practice at The Law Offices of Holly S. Hanover, representing indigent clients for more than 22 years.

Tags:  activism  Edith Windsor  LCB  LGBTQ  LGBTQ Task Force  same sex marriage  Supreme Court 

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