The National LGBT Bar Association has submitted and signed on to many Amici Briefs that have been used in cases concerning LGBT issues or issues of discrimination. We have provided these briefs for public viewing.
Berthiaume v. Smith et al
During jury selection in which Raymond Berthiaume, a gay man, was the plaintiff, two potential jurors were struck by the defense. The court refused to allow the plaintiff to present arguments evidencing that the potential jurors had been struck for their actual or perceived sexual orientation, creating additional road blocks to in the plaintiff’s right to a fair trial. The brief urges the court to hold, as the Ninth Circuit has, that sexual orientation is subject to heightened scrutiny and recognized as part of the Batson Challenge.
Lee v. United States
Mr. Lee, an individual lawfully living in the United States for more than 25 years, pleaded guilty to possession of ecstasy after his attorney incorrectly informed him a guilty please would not result in deportation. The petitioner’s case addresses the harsh penalty faced by some immigrant families as a result of interactions with the US criminal justice system. Currently, minor non-violent offenses may result in the deportation of non-citizens, even if those individuals are lawful permanent residents.
Lee v. Tam
Simon Tam, of the band The Slants, filed suit after the band name was rejected for trademark purposes. The defense argues that this rejection is not a violation of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment because potential marks that disparage a group or race of people do not further the provision of goods or services through commercial transaction.
Obergefell et al v. Himes
In 2014, four separate cases challenging same-sex marriage bans were consolidated into one case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The challenge claimed that the various bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.
Latta v. Otter
Four lesbian couples, two of whom were raising children, were represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights in filing a suit in late 2013 challenging Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage.
Bourke v. Beshear
Gregory Bourke and Michael DeLeon were legally married in Canada but found that their marriage was not recognized in the state of Kentucky. They filed suit challenging Kentucky’s law on behalf of themselves and DeLeon’s adopted children. They were later joined by three couples married in other states and continued to challenge Kentucky’s refusal to recognize valid marriages from other jurisdictions.
DeBoer v. Snyder
April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, a lesbian couple in Michigan, had three adopted children between the two of them. Michigan law restricted second-parent adoptions to married couples and, because Michigan did not recognize same-sex marriages, DeBoer and Rowse were not able to adopt each other’s children. After initially challenging the adoption law itself, their petition was eventually amended to reflect the underlying issue of Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage.
Tanco v. Haslam
In 2013, Tennessee had in place a law which prohibited the recognition of same-sex marriage. Three married couples, all who had married in other states and moved to Tennessee, filed a suit claiming that the law violated both their right to equal protection and to ravel between states.
United States v. Windsor
Edith Windsor was married to Thea Spyer in Canada in 2007 and their marriage was recognized in New York where they lived. The two had been together for 44 years when Spyer died in 2009. Due to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Windsor was unable to claim the estate tax marital deduction that same-sex couples routinely receive. This discriminatory law required Windsor to pay over $350,000 in federal estate taxes. Windsor requested a full refund from the government, but the IRS rejected that claim because of DOMA. The case passed through district court and the court of appeals in New York before being slated to come before the Supreme Court in March 2013.
Hollingsworth v. Perry
California’s Proposition 8 case considers the constitutionality of an amendment defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman. The case was first filed in May 2009 and asked for a preliminary order blocking Proposition 8. In August 2010, Judge Vaughn Walker struck down Proposition 8 on the grounds that it violated due process and equal protection clauses of the California Constitution. After a lengthy appeals process, in February 2012, the Ninth Circuit court upheld Judge Walker’s ruling declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional. The United States Supreme Court will hear the case in March 2013.
Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management
In 2008, Karen Golinski tried to enroll her spouse, Amy Conninghis in her employer-provided insurance plan. When she was denied, she filed a complain under the Ninth Circuit’s Employment Dispute Resolution Plan that the denial of coverage for her spouse constituted prohibited discrimination. In January 2009, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski ruled that the denial did violate the Ninth Circuit’s employment policies because heterosexual court employees were able to receive benefits for their spouses. The Office of Personnel Management then claimed that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prevented coverage for the spouses of lesbian and gay federal employees. Golinski is now suing the federal government for equal benefits for her wife.
Gill v. Office of Personnel Management
In 2009, the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) filed the lawsuit in the District Court of Massachusetts. The plantiffs, Nancy Gill and Marcelle Letourneau, challenged the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines the term marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” In July 2010, District Judge Joseph Louis Tauro ruled that section 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional. Later, Judge Tauro stayed the implementation of his verdict in order to allow an appeal from the Department of Justice (DOJ). In January 2011, the DOJ filed a brief in the First Circuit Court defending DOMA, but on February 25, the DOJ decided it would “cease to defend” the case. This challenge marks the first time that a case filed against DOMA has reached a federal appellate court.
Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (U.S. Supreme Court)
In 2010, the National LGBT Bar Association and its Law Student Division teamed up with 55 LGBT law student groups at our nation’s top law schools to file an amicus brief in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. In 2004, the Christian Legal Society’s chapter at the University of California-Hastings filed a lawsuit after the school denied a funding request because of the group’s anti-LGBT discrimination policy. The question before the Court was whether the “Constitution allows a state law school to deny recognition to a religious student organization because the group requires its officers and voting members to agree with its core religious viewpoints.” The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, affirmed the University of California-Hastings’ decision to deny funding to student groups that discriminate against its LGBT students.
In re Marriage Cases (California Supreme Court)
In 2007, the National LGBT Bar Association (then the “National Lesbian and Gay Law Association”) submitted an amicus brief supporting the freedom to marry for same-sex couples and played a critical role in arguing that lesbian and gay couples should receive equal treatment under the law.
Lawrence v. Texas (U.S. Supreme Court)
In 2003, the National LGBT Bar Association (then the “National Lesbian and Gay Law Association”) submitted an amicus brief supporting the plaintiff’s right to sexual privacy in the case which struck down the Texas sodomy law, holding that intimate consensual conduct was part of the liberty protected by due process under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Rumsfeld v. FAIR (Third Circuit Court of Appeals & U.S. Supreme Court)
In 2004, the National LGBT Bar Association (then the “National Lesbian and Gay Law Association”) submitted amicus briefs challenging the constitutionality of the Solomon Amendment, which permits the military to recruit on college campuses despite the conflict between the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” statute and the non-discrimination policies of many colleges that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In re Guardianship of Kowalski (Minnesota Court of Appeals)
In 1991, the National LGBT Bar Association (then the “National Lesbian and Gay Law Association”) submitted an amicus brief in support of the successful appointment of Karen Thompson as guardian for her lesbian partner, Sharon Kowalski, after she became incapacitated in a car accident. This case garnered national and international attention because Kowalski’s family contested the appointment of Ms. Thompson.
Partner with the National LGBT Bar Association
The National LGBT Bar Association is proud to offer our advocacy services as amicus curiae and our support for organizations in cases or initiatives that align with the LGBT Bar’s vision and mission.
The Association does so by partnering with like-minded, progressive organizations to take positions on issues such as LGBT equality, the right of all LGBT people to live free from discrimination and continuing commitment to diversity in the legal profession. The Public Policy Committee of the National LGBT Bar Association advocates on behalf of justice for the LGBT community in all of its diversity through, among other things, written legal advocacy.
The LGBT Bar seeks opportunities to work with other organizations in the future by drafting or signing on to amicus briefs and assisting with initiatives on civil rights issues important to our members. If you are currently working on a case or issue which you would like the National LGBT Bar Association to support, or if you would like further information, please contact our Executive Director, D’Arcy Kemnitz. Additionally, please keep the National LGBT Bar Association’s Public Policy Committee in mind when you are developing initiatives in the future.