In June 1969, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a bar frequented by lesbians and gays. Today, we honor the national movement for LGBT equality that began in the wake of that raid and show our support for LGBT individuals and their families in June. On May 31st of this year, President Obama called upon “the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.”
America Increasingly Supports Equality. The momentum for marriage equality is building across the country. This May, Minnesota became the 12th state to legalize same-sex marriage, ten years after the landmark Massachusetts case Goodridge v. Department of Public Health. Lawmakers both Democrat and Republican have also come out in support. Four GOP state senators in New York joined Democrats to pass marriage equality in New York and Republican State Rep. Maureen Walsh of Washington won fans when she expressed a wish to throw a wedding for her daughter, a lesbian. There is even a Republican PAC, Unite America, dedicated to “promoting and protecting inclusive Republicans” which supports same-sex marriage.
Recent Legal Developments Protect LGBT Americans. In March, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Windsor v. United States, a case that centered on the constitutionality of a section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In late June, the Court held that the section of DOMA excluding married same-sex couples from certain federal protections and benefits was unconstitutional. The U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development recently released a new rule that prohibits inquiries regarding sexual orientation and gender identity when deciding certain housing eligibility and clarifies the term “family” to include LGBT individuals and couples. Sixteen states, the District of Columbia, and over 150 cities and counties nationwide have adopted laws prohibiting discrimination against transgender persons. In the recent case of Macy v. Holder, the Federal EEOC issued a landmark decision, ruling that Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination includes discrimination against transgender employees.
Edwards Wildman Supports the LGBT Community. Edwards Wildman supports several organizations working on behalf of the LGBT community, including: Pride in our Workplace (Boston-area professional networking association); Equality Illinois (Illinois-area advocacy organization), Lawyers for Diversity; Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (New-England-based legal rights organization); the Human Rights Campaign (national advocacy organization); and GLAAD (national media organization). In addition, Edwards Wildman has received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index for five consecutive years. Equality Illinois recently selected Edwards Wildman as one of the top Illinois law firms in promoting workplace equality for LGBT attorneys and support staff. We are proud of our attorneys in the Boston office who devoted time on a pro bono basis to help achieve marriage equality in Massachusetts, and we thank those who recently contributed to the amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court challenging DOMA.
The Global LGBT Community. By threatening to withhold foreign aid and factoring in LGBT human rights records when considering aid in multi-billion dollar programs such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the UK and US have put the 78 countries that arrest, imprison, and abuse their LGBT citizens on notice.
The LGBT Community is Out and About. Out stars are no longer limited to Elton, Ellen, and Rosie. Neil Patrick Harris, Anderson Cooper, White Collar’s Matt Bomer, SNL’s Kate McKinnon, Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto, Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and NBA player Jason Collins are all out and continue to have success in their fields. Chaz Bono and Lana Wachowski (co-creator of The Matrix movies) recently transitioned and came out publicly as transgender. Thirty-five years after the assassination of Harvey Milk, more than 500 elected public officials nationwide have come out publicly, including Sen. Tammy Baldwin (WI), NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and Rep. Jared Polis (CO). And, in 2009, a senior partner in our Boston office – with the full support of the firm – transitioned quite openly as a transgender woman, a first among Am Law 100 firms.