Member Spotlight

Meet the BALIF movers & shakers who are redefining what it means to be in the legal profession as out-and-proud LGBT people. We “spotlight” different attorneys, in-house counsel, judges, legal professionals, and students periodically.

For more BALIF Member Spotlights, please visit our "It Gets Better" Videos Page.
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  • 20 Apr 2015 10:30 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    Julie Wilensky is an attorney at the Oakland law firm Lewis, Feinberg, Lee & Jackson who has been involved in cases involving survivor benefits and other employee benefits for same-sex spouses.

    Q) You recently won a case against the federal government and obtained survivor benefits for a widower of a federal employee after his husband died.  Why were the benefits denied?

    A) The statute governing the retirement system for federal employees requires that a couple be married for at least nine months for a spouse to receive spousal survivor benefits. My client and his husband became registered domestic partners in California in 2005. They married in 2013, less than two weeks after the Supreme Court’s decision permitting same-sex marriages in California. My client’s husband died suddenly six months later. The government denied the survivor benefits because the couple hadn’t been married for nine months, although the couple had been spouses under California law for many years. An Administrative Judge reversed the denial of benefits and concluded that the period when the couple were registered domestic partners before they married counted toward the nine-month requirement. 

    Q) Will this ruling help other same-sex couples who could not legally marry until recently?

    A) The government did not appeal the Administrative Judge’s decision, so it is not precedential, but the reasoning will be useful for same-sex couples, especially for couples who were in civil unions or domestic partnerships and later married each other (or whose civil unions automatically “converted” into marriages, as is the case in some states).

    Q) You also recently filed suit against FedEx for refusing to pay a widow spousal pension benefits after her wife died.  Why is FedEx denying the claim?

    A) FedEx denied the claim solely because both spouses were women. It refused to provide the benefits because its pension plan incorporates the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), even though DOMA was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013. As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, federally regulated retirement plans must recognize the legal marriages of same-sex couples for purposes of survivor benefits.

    Q) Do you think employers denying spousal and other benefits to employees in same-sex marriages will continue to be a source of litigation even as marriage laws change?

    A) Absolutely. An area of increasing litigation is sex discrimination based on the denial of health benefits to same-sex spouses. While federal employee benefits law does not require that employer health plans provide benefits to any spouses, opposite- or same-sex, advocates have successfully argued that an employer with a health plan that provides benefits only to opposite-sex spouses discriminates based on sex.


  • 27 Jan 2014 9:17 AM | Anonymous

    This month’s Spotlight is on Chelsea HaleyNelson. Chelsea is a former Co-Chair of the BALIF Board of Directors, an immigration attorney with her own firm (HaleyNelson and Heilbrun, LLP), a wife and the proud parent of a two-year-old (with another baby on the way!). This past November, Chelsea was honored with the Minority Bar Coalition Unity Award. Recently, BALIF asked Chelsea to tell us a little about her passion for her career and how she is able to successfully balance her work and family life.

    On Chelsea’s Career:

    Chelsea didn’t go to law school thinking she would become an immigration attorney. Initially, she had worked with victims of domestic violence, but experienced frustration as it was difficult to measure the impact of her work. During law school she was drawn to international human rights and LGBT human rights. However, the possibilities and practicality of building a successful and long career in those areas of practice were difficult for her to grasp until she began doing pro bono work with NCLR’s Immigration Project and the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Asylum Program. “I loved it!” As Chelsea got involved in LGBT asylum claims, she saw a real practical application of international human rights and LGBT civil rights. “Immigration law seemed like a great way to integrate my two passions along with a practical way to find a job and do the work I wanted to do.”

    Chelsea continued to take advantage of opportunities to volunteer in areas focused on LGBT and immigration rights while still in law school. She volunteered her time at La Raza Central Legal and International Institute of the East Bay. This allowed her to tie together her legal skills with advocacy aimed to unionize and organize people so they could advocate on their own behalf.

    Chelsea explained how her work has become even more exciting and rewarding since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor holding that DOMA Section 3 was unconstitutional. “People did not realize the impact the repeal of DOMA had on bi-national couples, LGBT immigrants, and their families. In particular, there is tremendous relief for bi-national couples and their children. LGBT immigrants now have a means to defend their status in the U.S. that they never had prior to the repeal of DOMA. There is now a way to keep their families together, to sponsor their loved ones for benefits, and to remove the uncertainty that has been hanging over their lives and their relationships for so long. As advocates, we now have an opportunity to provide more options for safety, family unity, permanence and resolution for LGBT immigrants. It has been a very rewarding experience to be able to finally tell many of my LGBT clients that they are now protected and have choices.” 

    On finding balance:

    “It’s insane. I don’t think I could balance my family life and practicing law if I did not have my own firm. It allows me to find creative ways to fit in work. I can go in at 10am so I can take my daughter to appointments or work late hours after my daughter goes to sleep.” Chelsea feels she needs to temper her involvement with other organizations and Board work because splitting her attention away from her family and practice ultimately leads to imbalance. This affects her relationship with her family and her ability to advocate effectively for her clients. “When my family life becomes strained, I am able to recognize I have taken on too much.”

    Most days, Chelsea really enjoys her work and the career she has created. She believes she has accomplished her goal of being successful at her work. For the most part, she is able to find a way to balance her passion for her career and her family. “I couldn’t do any of this without my amazing, supportive, flexible, forgiving and patient wife.”

  • 02 Dec 2013 7:15 PM | Anonymous

    By the time a client sees me for an initial appointment, in most cases they’ve been unhappy and living with the prospect of divorce for a long time. They’re often in a state of emotional upheaval; they’re worried about their children and their finances and in some cases, they are in real danger.

    I’ve been practicing family law for more than 27 years, and I continue to be horrified by the amount of misinformation that prospective clients find on the internet. So many of my clients come to me unprepared with either no information about what’s involved in the divorce process or bad information.

    I decided to write Divorce in California to serve as a preliminary reference point for people considering a divorce. My goal was simple—a relatively inexpensive book, written in an accessible Q&A format that would educate those who were contemplating divorce. Divorce in California is a very pragmatic discussion of everything from divorce documents, division of property and child support to coping with the stress of the divorce process.

    I accomplished what I set out to do and hope that Divorce in California can educate prospective clients so that they can begin this daunting and confusing process with a basic level of understanding. The feedback I have gotten from readers of Divorce in California has been very gratifying. The book is neither a how-to manual nor a substitute for having a good family law attorney; rather, it helps people understand what is involved in the divorce process before they make the decision to begin looking for an attorney.

  • 03 Jul 2012 9:15 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    BALIF Membership Committee Chair
    Robert Half Legal

    You have a voice, use it! Yes I have been with Robert Half for over 16 years; thankfully, in 11 different roles. That didn't just happen by sitting around and waiting for things to happen. I used my voice 3 weeks after my first day at RHI and told the Executive Director of the legal division that I wanted her job. I have learned over the years to refine and on occasion filter the message, but I will always speak up and speak out not only for myself but also for what is right.

    Be open and flexible about how your path may take a different direction. Your path may not necessarily be the one you originally sought. My "game plan" and first path was law school then to become an FBI Agent. That changed after 2 years as a litigation paralegal running document reviews for Mayer Brown in DC. I loved the legal field and had an opportunity to apply my time as a paralegal into something different: staffing and recruiting. This was something I never considered but was open to something unique and exciting. I developed a passion for helping others find jobs and improve their career possibilities.

    People may surprise you. My grandmother is probably the wittiest, most real person on this earth. She just turned 90 and you never know what will come out of her mouth. When I came out to her in 2005, she wouldn't let me finish my sentence: "I know what you are going to say Laurie and it is fine. It isn't my thing but it is okay it is yours and I love you." I like to live by 2 of her infamous quotes: "Tomorrow I will follow the rules" and "That's the way it goes."

    My daughter's laugh is one of my favorite sounds. The birth of my daughter changed my path in a direction I couldn't even imagine. I am blessed with a charismatic, caring, empathetic 6 year-old who lights up my world. No job or career could ever take the place of the time we share together. If you have an opportunity to spend time with children, do it; experience the world through their eyes with an innocence and acceptance that is refreshing.

    Where there is a will there is a way. Determination will and desire all help. I never thought I would get on my bicycle (named "Stellaluna by my daughter) and ride 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles . I never thought I would stand up in front of a room of 150 executives and come out, a move that educated my company to take action and include domestic partnership benefits (which they did immediately). I never thought I would launch a healthcare division and grow it to 30 offices and $60 million in revenue over the course of 4 years. If you set your mind to something you can and will accomplish it.

    Life is short; embrace your family and friends. My mother, Linda started a career as a teacher's assistant when she was 52. At 59 she was diagnosed with lymphoma. Her mind was set to conquer and overcome her diagnosis. After 2 months of chemo she had no trace of cancer in her body, shocking her doctors. Determined to return to a job she loved, her 3 jewels (her granddaughters) and her family, she did just that. Unfortunately shortly after her 60th birthday it came back, but she held her head up high, inspired her doctors, nurses, her family and friends and never gave up, even when her body couldn't go any longer. During that year, despite the gravity of her condition, her laughter and positive attitude never ceased. We laughed until we cried; she wouldn't have had it any other way. I will treasure those moments a lifetime.

    Laughing until you cry feels good. You can choose your attitude. My mother will always be a source of inspiration. Never give up, face challenges head on, be positive and laugh until you cry.

  • 28 Jun 2012 12:20 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    BALIF Director and Development and Executive Committee Member,
    and Gala Committee Co-Chair

    Founding Partner, Futterman Dupree Dodd Croley Maier LLP

    Generosity. I believe being fair and generous repays you in kind time and time again—sometimes when you least expect it—where stinginess usually begets more stinginess. So I highly recommend having a generous spirit. Give your time, share your wisdom, and be generous with your other resources. Assist others for the joy in doing so. Donate to the causes you believe in. It will enrich your life. I have learned much from other's generosity. I once had a client who was negotiating a settlement. Before the negotiation, we were told the other side's bottom line, but that we needed to "negotiate" to it and the negotiation would be done by the principals, not lawyers. My client ended up agreeing to pay more than the other side was willing to take by a few thousand dollars. I initially didn't understand and asked my client why he paid more than what we'd been told was the deal he could reach. His response, "I was happy at the higher number, and the other guy was thrilled to get more than he expected. So why get every last cent when he ends up feeling better about it and I'm happy too?" Wise indeed. And good karma.

    Nobody Is Paying as Much Attention to You as You Are. I had had my own firm for a number of years when I decided to try to get pregnant. My joy at the anticipation of our son's arrival was tempered at my fear that I would never have a client again because I would be out of the office for a few months. And then a funny thing happened. When I came back from my leave, I realized many folks had not even noticed I was gone! And everyone else made do just fine without me and happily welcomed me back. Within a few months of my return, my plate was full again with a fabulous mix of interesting cases. So while I was focused on being gone for a few months, no one else was. The reality is no one is paying as much attention to you as you are. What seems huge in your life may not be noticed by others. So when you make a mistake and dwell on it, be assured that no one else is. In the same way, if something good happens, be sure to share it since others may not notice on their own.

    Bad News/Good News. When you get bad news, deliver it to your clients promptly. You can't avoid it and delaying its delivery usually makes it feel worse than it is. Plus, once you deliver the bad news you can move on to taking the next step to address it. When you get good news, savor it. And when appropriate, celebrate it. Big or small, it's important to take a moment to enjoy successes. Those memories will hold you through the more monotonous or stressful times. A senior lawyer once recommended that I keep a "kudos" folder where I could store reminders of those sweet moments, such as client thank you notes. I started one about 15 years ago. From time to time, I flip through and remember some of the grateful clients and great rulings. It sure reminds me why I look forward to work everyday.

    The Decades. Being a teenager was all about dreaming of the future and working to make it happen. The twenties were all about partying, being with friends, and embarking on this wonderful career. The thirties were all about establishing myself as a lawyer and as a partner/wife. The forties, well, they are all about lust. Lust for sleep, that is. At age forty-seven with a 6 year old, 3½ year old, a wife, and an active law practice, I think about sleep (or the lack thereof) more than I ever imagined possible. But it's all worth it! I can't wait to see what the fifties and decades beyond bring. Hopefully, more margaritas. And maybe a little more sleep.

  • 12 Jun 2012 9:00 AM | Anonymous

    BALIF Communications & Public Relations Chair
    Beahm Law

    Greetings from your Communications and Public Relations Chair! I'm excited to be starting my second year as a BALIF Board Member, and to be returning to lead this committee. Last year we overhauled our communication style and frequency. We revamped our website. And we moved hearts and minds by blasting dozens of "It Gets Better" videos into cyberspace. This year, we're thinking bigger. And bolder. As the oldest and largest LGBT bar association in the world, we want BALIF to take center stage nationally. And my Committee is all about spreading the news. I'm excited to serve as BALIF's mouthpiece and biggest cheerleader. You'll be hearing more from me in the coming weeks. For now, here's a peek into how and why communication has become such an integral part of my life.

    When I was about 12 years old I stumbled upon a cable access television show that taught German to adults. I can't really explain why, but I began to watch it every day and marveled at how the teacher was able to change her voice to the appropriate accent to accommodate the foreign words that made no sense to me. Students watching at home were invited to call in to answer the various exercises she covered in the lesson, and many did, turning this one-person TV show into a virtual classroom.

    At the end of the course, the teacher announced she would be moving on to French, and interested students could register by calling in and requesting a lesson packet. I immediately made the phone call and began to wait anxiously for my French lessons to arrive. A few days later I got the packet in the mail. I excitedly flipped through those stapled pages and fantasied about the day when it would all make sense.

    The class began much like any foreign language class with an introduction to the alphabet and a rough guide to pronunciation. The teacher would read, and ask us to repeat, and repeat I did. I followed along with the exercises, filling in the blanks on my worksheets before she gave the answer just to test myself. After a few weeks of watching I began to get comfortable with some of the basic sentence structure and tried with all my might to muster up a French accent when necessary. One day I decided it was time the teacher met her eager Southern pupil, so I called in and told the operator I wanted to answer one of the questions. She instructed me to turn down my television, much to my dismay, as I was looking forward to hearing my voice on the radio. Suddenly, I heard a new voice, a familiar voice, and it was talking to me:

    Her: "Bonsoir, comment t'appelles tu?"
    Me: ...[crickets]
    Her: "Allo? Comment t'appelles?"
    Me: "Uh...allo! Je m'appelle Ted."

    The conversation went on from there, and after telling her how I was doing, I answered a question from the exercise and bid her adieu. It wasn't until I was off the phone that I realized what I had just done: I just had my first real conversation in a foreign language. I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment, and I knew that I wanted to learn more.

    I finished the French program, and when the teacher announced her next language would be Spanish, I signed right up. After Spanish came Japanese, and I completed that one too. Obviously the fluency with which I could speak was low, but she had given me the basics, the fundamentals of learning a language, and those have stayed with me. I went on to formally study French and Spanish in high school and college. When I started I found myself heads above the rest of the class thanks to my TV teacher.

    So why, you must be asking yourself, when asked to write about "What I've Learned," am I writing about my foreign language studies? "I took Spanish," you're telling yourself. What's the big deal?

    The big deal, really, is that aside from the actual language, what I really learned, and what I cherish, is the ability to communicate with people in a way I simply cannot in English. Learning languages encouraged me to start traveling to places where I could practice my skills. When I'm in, for example, a Spanish-speaking country, I feel much closer to the people because I can communicate in their language. Even when I go somewhere and I don't know the language, I've learned that simply trying to learn a little as you go can make a big difference. It shows a sign of respect for their language and culture, and it usually brings a smile to their face.

    My humble advice is simple: strive to look at the world from an international perspective. If that means learning a language, go for it. I don't think you're ever too old to learn. If travel does it for you, plan an exotic vacation, or just go somewhere you've never gone. Or, combine both like I did. You could read an international newspaper, or watch a foreign film. The point is to step out of your comfort zone and see the world through someone else's eyes. I believe the more you can see of the rest of the world, the better you will be at understanding your own world.


  • 29 May 2012 9:00 AM | Anonymous

    BALIF Amicus Committee Co-Chair
    Kirkland & Ellis, LLP

    I was not happy when BALIF asked me to write an essay titled "Nick Kacprowski: What I have learned." It brought back memories of elementary school, and questions a schoolmarm would ask following punishment, such as "Nickolas, what have you learned? Have you learned anything?" Invariably this question would leave me speechless. Years later, it still intimidates.

    Then I was lucky enough to stumble upon a subject for this piece. First, a little context: A couple weeks ago, my fellow Boardmembers saw it fit to appoint me the chair of the Amicus Committee. Chairing the Amicus Committee is not exactly like obtaining a commission to sit on the 9th Circuit on the spectrum of desirable appointments. In past years, I've heard, the Amicus Committee chairpersonship typically goes to the person that doesn't show up at the board meeting where the committee appointments are made. But I actually lobbied hard for this position. It's not like I saw myself as a Mr. Legal Eagle, middle-of-the-first-row-in-law-school, gunner type of guy. For reasons I could not quite articulate at the time, I simply had a feeling that this was the right spot for me. Imagine the relief of the Board when they had a volunteer for the position.

    I was later able to put my finger on why I wanted to lead BALIF's amicus efforts. Doubly lucky is that I can use the story here to both fire up the membership base and to put in a plug for members to volunteer to join or help the Amicus Committee.

    I had been reviewing the amicus briefs BALIF had filed over the years, beginning with our most recent brief in 2011, and working backwards. It was like studying a history of the LGBT civil rights movement in reverse. After plodding through briefs and briefs and briefs, a case that I had never heard of before struck me. The case is Bottoms v. Bottoms (a name that, in the context of gay civil rights, is regrettably inviting of wisecracks). The jurisdiction is the Supreme Court of Virginia. The elder Mrs. Bottoms was suing to gain custody of her grandson, because her daughter was a lesbian and living with another woman. Apparently for no other reason than because the younger Mrs. Bottoms was a lesbian, the trial court ordered her biological son, who she had raised for several years since his birth, be handed over to the full custody of the grandmother. The appellate court reversed the trial court. Mrs. Bottoms the Elder appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court, where BALIF joined in an amici brief in support of the daughter. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court reversed the intermediate appellate court, and the grandmother won custody. In doing so, the distinguished Court that also gave us the lower court decision in Loving v. Virginia, offered this reasoning:

    "[W]e shall not overlook the mother's relationship with Wade, and the environment in which the child would be raised if custody is awarded the mother. We have previously said that living daily under conditions stemming from active lesbianism practiced in the home may impose a burden upon a child by reason of the social condemnation attached to such an arrangement, which will inevitably afflict the child's relationships with its peers and with the community at large. We do not retreat from that statement; such a result is likely..." (internal citations and quotations omitted)

    Among the most shocking things among this case, more shocking even that then the concept of "active lesbianism practiced in the home," is that the case was decided in 1995. As in 1995, a year even the youngest BALIF member should be old enough to well-remember, when Clinton was President, and Seinfeld was on TV.

    What did I learn from this opinion? The case reinforces how much the law affects our most basic needs and wants. Because of a bad court decision, the Government took Mrs. Bottoms's son away from her. I allowed myself to forget that even today, the law is not totally on our side, and as recently as 1995, it was generally against us. And this, really, is why I wanted to coordinate BALIF's amicus activity. BALIF is an organization that does a number of wonderful things. One of them is trying to make a difference--trying to sway courts--when cases are before them that will determine whether people lose their children or not; whether people can marry their partners or not; and so on. Anyone who has ever clerked will tell you that courts do consider amicus briefs, and they can make a difference in a case's outcome. In the case of Mrs. Bottoms, we did not quite succeed, but at least we were close. To the State ofVirginia's credit, three justices joined in vigorous dissent. Maybe next time a brief that BALIF files can help turn a 4-3 loss into a 4-3 win, and someone like Mrs. Bottoms will not have to lose a child.

  • 20 May 2012 11:17 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    BALIF Programs Committee Co-Chair
    Wald & Thorndal P.C.

    I am what I am and for that I am most grateful. Yes, I could have swallowed my desire or, worse, been forced not to wear extremely boyish apparel as a child. I could have chosen to conform. To what end? A boyfriend? No thank you. Luckily, I was not forced to project a gender at odds with my identity. Thank you Mom and Dad. I was and am comfortable in my skin even when it instigates whispers and double-takes. Personal comfort is embracing my own great self.

    Don't be late. Tardiness is one of my biggest peeves. If I can get my act together and arrive on time, why can't you? It's a respect thing.

    Being gay is a good thing. If I weren't gay, I would not have had to endure taunts and bullying as a teen. These made me stronger. If I weren't gay, I would not have had a dream to move to San Francisco where my kind of folks comprise a good part of the population. If I weren't gay, I would not have had beautiful (albeit mostly crazy) women lovers. If I weren't gay, I would not have joined BALIF and become part of this amazingly close-knit legal community in this eclectic city.

    My mom is awesome. Period. No, that's not fair. My dad's cool too.

    Chocolate holds the only genuine key to my heart. Everything else ebbs and flows. My love for good, rich, dark chocolate is unwavering.

    "True mobility isn't about being better than anyone else; it's about being better than you used to be." Thank you Wayne Dyer. My older brother and sister set the achievement bar high. I determined early on that I would not be holding myself to their standards. Frankly, I preferred soccer and baseball with the boys in lieu of studying. In college I partied too much. But I never lost sight of my goal to become an attorney. As I look back over the years I can definitely say I am better than I used to be.

    In the state of Kentucky it's against the law to marry the same man more 4 times. Divorce lawyers in Kentucky must make a killing.

    The best therapy is a pair of sneakers. Strap them on, walk out the door, and run. The miles I have logged have provided the answers to many of my life's biggest, most trying quandaries. I've found myself strapping on the Nikes at 4am when I lie awake flummoxed. It provides both physical and emotional mobility.

    "Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well." I agree Mr. Jack London. The poker face is a great skill as well as being able to make do with what you have in that moment. Life has not been entirely easy. I was laid off from the job that allowed me to move to San Francisco... after only 6 weeks. The best time in my life? No. But I am a lot happier where I am now than where I was when I lost my job. Besides, all the good restaurants are a helluva lot less crowded when everyone is at work. Being unemployed wasn't all that bad.

    Smile when you walk by someone. Don't look away. Friendly streets make us all feel good.

    Julia Child taught me more than just how to make an amazing soufflé. It was her that said Drama is very important in life. I agree. Come out with a bang and leave nothing but a pleasant after taste. You never want to go out with a whimper. Everything can have drama if it's done right. Even a pancake.

  • 16 May 2012 7:52 AM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    BALIF Board Outreach/Current Events Committee Co-Chair
    Manning & Kass, Ellrod, Ramirez, Trester LLP

    Marriage: the Beginning. My parents were divorced when I was ten years old. The marriages I was exposed to growing up seemed tumultuous and unhappy -- at least from my perspective. Through early schooling through high school, college, then law school, marriage just seemed like an unhappy place that people ended-up in when they ran out of imagination and drive. Dysfunction, despair, disillusion. Cheating. Fighting. Crying. Everyone watching the couple; they knew better. As I grew and aged, I could not understand for the life of me, why the LGBT movement strived to be part of this unfortunate, antiquated pairing system. Aren’t we seeking something different? Something better? Isn’t that why we’re here?

    Marriage: the Evolution. As anyone with strongly held beliefs that have changed over time will tell you, the evolution is where the learning happens. The first time I noticed the evolution in my thinking was at a best friend’s wedding. He and his partner had to get married in Canada because it was not yet allowed in their home state. At the wedding, another one of my best friends read a passage from the Massachusetts Supreme Court opinion that opened up gay marriage to same-sex couples. According to the 2004 Massachusetts Supreme Court, decision of Goodridge v. Dept. of Pub. Health.

    Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations…Without question, civil marriage enhances the "welfare of the community." The reading of this passage began the evolution for me. Enhancing the “welfare of the community.” Maybe there is something there. The next step came for me in the February 2012, Perry v. Schwarzenegger opinion of Judge Walker, which stated, "The right to marry has been historically and remains the right to choose a spouse and, with mutual consent, join together and form a household…Race and gender restrictions shaped marriage during eras of race and gender inequality, but such restrictions were never part of the historical core of the institution of marriage. What other institution in our society has literally cut perpendicular lines through gender and race so abruptly and so unequivocally? And what was left? Love. Maybe there is something here. Recently, President Obama came out in personal favor of gay marriage. Earlier in my evolution, I would have argued that his “personal” opinions have no real effect, but my evolution with marriage has changed me. As Obama stated, "I've been going through an evolution on this issue." Sounds familiar. Our “evolutions” have taken different paths but have ended in the same place.

    Marriage: the Conclusion.I started off asking why anyone would want to get married. But I think I was asking the wrong question. The real question is when two people are in love and want to get married, why should a third party’s opinion matter? What I have learned is that another’s opinion of a couple’s love doesn’t matter. Whether they come at it from a racist, misogynist, homophobic, or merely disapproving viewpoint, it doesn’t matter what other people think. What I have learned is that all that matters is what couple thinks. And that, matters.

  • 07 Feb 2012 1:46 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    "Now is a time when we all have to step forward and give to those who don't have," states the 2012 President of Board of Directors of the Alameda County Bar Association (ACBA), Sally Elkington. "There's a great need in all communities for legal work. I advocate taking donating a few billable hours to provide legal work to those that can least afford it. In the LGBT community, we're used to leading by example."

    And Sally does lead by example. She serves as a volunteer attorney for the Lawyer Referral Service Corporation of the Alameda County Bar Association and has served as a mentor for young attorneys who are new to the practice of bankruptcy law.

    A longtime BALIF member, Sally has been a sole practitioner for her entire legal career. She has been practicing law since 1989 and specifically consumer bankruptcy law for the last eighteen years, representing debtors exclusively. Prior to practicing bankruptcy law, Sally represented tenants in habitability lawsuits. Her main office is located in Oakland, with a satellite office in El Sobrante. Sally graduated from the former New College School of Law. She currently lives in Oakland, but travels frequently to NYC to spend time with her partner, who currently lives there.

    In fact, Sally actually first met her partner when they worked for the same company and were both in their mid-20s. They went their separate ways, but in a true Hollywood-styled soulmate romance, the pair reconnected some forty years later in NYC, where her partner currently lives and began dating again. When in NYC, which is frequent, Sally loves to eat California cuisine at a small bistro called the Blue Ribbon Bakery. She's also a fan of Broadway musicals, and cites "Book of Mormon" as her favorite.

    To law school students, Sally imparts these words of wisdom on the job search: "Don't wait to become a lawyer to start your networking process. This is really the time to start looking for a job. Join as many bar associations as you can; attend events and MCLE functions. Also, don't limit yourself to what type of lawyer you want to be, keep your options open. Do volunteer work to find mentors. These investments will turn into valuable experience for you."

    Sally has served as both chair and board liaison to the Bankruptcy and Consumer Law Section Executive Committee of the ACBA. She was selected and currently serves as a member of the Northern District of California Bench-Bar Bankruptcy Committee. Sally also served on the Credit Abuse Resistance Education (CARE) Program development committee of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Northern District. Previously Sally has served on the board of directors for the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and was board president for a number of years. She also served on the Lyon-Martin board of directors, and on the board of the Women's Cancer Resource Center located in Oakland. Sally has been a frequent speaker on numerous panels and symposiums throughout the country in the area of Bankruptcy Law.

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