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  • 11 Mar 2017 10:05 AM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    Two scholarships/fellowships are currently available for Bay Area law students committed to providing services to the LGBT community.  BALIF is once again teaming up with APABA-SV to offer one joint scholarship of $3,000; the BALIF Foundation is very excited to offer an inaugural summer fellowship for $2,500. 

    BALIF/APABA Scholarship Applications are due 03/24 and the BALIF Foundation Fellowship Applications are due 03/31. Download the BALIF-APABA application and the BALIF Foundation application, and apply today!

  • 11 Mar 2017 9:11 AM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)


    February 21, 2017 - San Francisco, California BALIF strongly supports Senate Bill 239 (SB 239) and commends BALIF member Scott Wiener for introducing this very important legislation to repeal laws that criminalize and stigmatize those living with HIV. SB 239 seeks to eliminate criminal statutes that, in certain cases, allow people living with HIV to be prosecuted for having unprotected sex and sentenced to up to 8 years in prison. 

    According to a 2015 report by the Williams Institute, HIV criminalization disproportionately affects women and people of color. Forty-three percent of those criminalized under California's HIV-specific criminal laws are women, despite comprising only 13 percent of people living with HIV in the state. Blacks and Latinos made up two-thirds of the people who encountered the criminal justice system based on their HIV status, despite comprising only about half of people living with HIV in California. 

    These laws are an artifact of a different era. During the 1980's and 90's, California passed these discriminatory criminal laws and singled out people with HIV for harsher punishment than people with other communicable diseases. Not only are these laws discriminatory, they are not based in science and are extremely detrimental to HIV prevention goals.

    Today's HIV treatments are highly effective in preventing the transmission of HIV, essentially reducing the chances of transmission to virtually nil. For many years now, there has been growing evidence of the benefits of HIV treatment as a prevention method. In 2011 a landmark study showed early initiation of antiretroviral treatment in people living with HIV with a CD4 count between 350 and 550, reduced HIV transmission to HIV-negative partners by 96%. Quite a few follow-up studies since have also reported significant reductions in HIV transmission, resulting in new infections being averted. In 2014, a study called PARTNER did not find a single HIV transmission in 16,400 occasions of sex between gay men and 28,000 between heterosexuals where the HIV-positive partner had a viral load below 200 copies/ml. In 2015, a similar study exclusively of gay male couples, Opposites Attract, also found no transmissions from partners with an undetectable viral load. 

    This has led to the idea that treatment as prevention could be used as part of a 'test and treat' strategy - increasing testing and treatment coverage to decrease community viral load and reduce the rate of new HIV infections. However, current California law discourages people from getting tested because mere knowledge of a positive HIV status could subject a person to criminal liability for engaging in unprotected sex. Without the knowledge of one's status through testing, people do not seek treatment, thereby placing their and others' health at greater risk. 

    BALIF joins the organizational cosponsors of this bill (ACLU of California, APLA Health, Black AIDS Institute, Equality California, Lambda Legal and Positive Women's Network - USA) and the many other organizations including the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the Los Angeles HIV Law and Policy Project, Transgender Law Center, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), the Free Speech Coalition, Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) and Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education, and Research Project (ESPLERP), in our support of this bill. It is time to remove these discriminatory, stigmatizing and counterproductive laws from the books and focus on a 'test and treat' strategy to eradicate HIV. There have never been any benefits to these archaic laws, but given the current science, there is no justification for any law that discourages people from getting tested and treated. 

    Click here for the PDF document.

  • 07 Mar 2017 4:24 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    On March 2, 2017, Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF) and Impact Fund, joined by 45 additional organizations, filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court inGloucester County School Board v. G.G. The case, brought by 17-year old Gavin Grimm, challenges a school board’s resolution that facially discriminates against transgender students based on sex regarding the use of sex-segregated restrooms. The lawsuit argues the bathroom policy is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment and violates Title IX, a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination by schools.

    On Monday, March 6, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the Fourth Circuit in light of the Departments of Justice and Education rescinding Title IX guidance clarifying protections tor transgender students. As Shannon Minter of National Center for Lesbian Rights said, because this move is procedural to allow the Fourth Circuit to consider the Department of Education’s new position, the Supreme Court’s decision “should not be seen as sending a negative message in any way,” and “Title IX still fully protects transgender students.” The amicus brief from BALIF and Impact Fund makes clear that federal courts across the country have consistently concluded that discrimination against transgender people violates federal laws prohibiting sex discrimination. The Department of Education’s new, ill-informed position on this issue does not change that fact.

    BALIF is proud to be among the many organizations supporting Gavin’s case, including NAACP LDF’s brief on the history of segregation in restrooms and other public accommodations, the brief of school administrators from 31 states and DC, a brief from 101 transgender Americans, and many others.

  • 02 Mar 2017 2:43 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    On March 2, 2017, Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF) and Impact Fund filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in Gloucester County School Board v. G.G. The case, brought by 17-year old Gavin Grimm, challenges a school board’s resolution that facially discriminates against transgender students based on sex regarding the use of sex-segregated restrooms. The lawsuit argues the bathroom policy is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment and violates Title IX, a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination by schools.

    The amicus brief demonstrates that the board’s policy is sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX. The brief explores the current treatment of transgender people under federal laws prohibiting sex discrimination and shows that penalizing transgender people because of their transgender identity or their perceived non-conformity with gender stereotypes is prohibited discrimination.

    “Federal courts across the country have consistently concluded that discrimination against transgender people, which often takes the form of sex stereotyping, violates laws prohibiting sex discrimination,” said Julie Wilensky, Chair of BALIF’s Amicus Committee. “The policy at issue in Gavin’s case is no different.”

    Lindsay Nako, Jocelyn Larkin, and Lynnette Miner of Impact Fund are counsel for amici.

    In addition to BALIF and Impact Fund, a broad coalition of 45 bar associations and non-profit and legal advocacy organizations joined the brief: Advocates for Children of New York, Inc., Alameda Contra Costa Trial Lawyers Association, AIDS Legal Referral Panel, Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles, Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area, Bar Association of San Francisco, Bet Tzedek, BiLaw, California Employment Lawyers Association, California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc., Centro Legal de la Raza, Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center, Dallas LGBT Bar Association, East Bay La Raza Lawyers Association, Equality California, Equality Federation, Equality Florida Institute, Equality NC, Equality New Mexico, Equality Ohio, Equality Utah, Garden State Equality, Hawai`i LGBT Legal Association, Hispanic National Bar Association, Intersex & Genderqueer Recognition Project, Kansas City Lesbian, Gay and Allied Lawyers, Legal Aid at Work, Legal Aid Society, LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York, LGBT Bar Association of Los Angeles, LGBT Bar Association of Wisconsin, Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association, National Employment Law Project, National Employment Lawyers Association, National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, New Mexico Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association, North Carolina Advocates for Justice, OutFront Minnesota, QLaw, Queen’s Bench Bar Association of the San Francisco Bay Area, SacLEGAL, Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders, Stonewall Law Association of Greater Houston, Tom Homann LGBT Law Association, and Virginia Equality Bar Association.

  • 28 Feb 2017 9:59 AM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF)

    Statement Regarding the Trump Administration’s Attacks on Transgender Students

    February 23, 2017 – San Francisco, California

    We are heartbroken and outraged President Trump’s administration rescinded guidelines that directed schools to allow students to use restrooms and participate in activities that correspond with their gender identity, as well as the Department of Justice's recent withdrawal from a court challenge related to that guidance. These actions signal a complete lack of compassion for some of our most vulnerable members of society: our trans and gender variant youth. These decisions fail to contemplate the scientific facts that supported this guidance and the reasoning applied by our Courts in affirming Title IX protects transgender and gender variant students.

    The guidance issued by the Departments of Education and Justice last May was informed by the alarming statistics from multiple social science studies indicating transgender people feel ostracized for their identity and that their high rates of suicide reflect rejection, discrimination, violence, harassment, and the negative life circumstances that result from such treatment. The Obama Administration’s interpretation of Title IX was aligned with mounting case law, as well as our society’s growing understanding of gender and the devastating impact discrimination and oppression has on transgender and gender variant youth. Most importantly, it assured transgender and gender variant students that federal law does, and the federal government will protect them. The guidance signaled acceptance and provided access, factors social scientists have identified as significant in reducing suicide and other negative mental health outcomes among transgender and gender variant youth.

    The Trump administration cannot undo a federal statute. The protections of Title IX and the Constitution remain. The battle over these protections will continue in the Courts and BALIF has, and will continue to play an important role in this battle. We will continue to file amici briefs in critical cases related to transgender students, as we did recently in Carcaño v. McCrory, the case challenging H.B. 2, North Carolina’s discriminatory law, and as we will next week to the U.S. Supreme Court in Gloucester County School Board v. G.G. We will continue to support organizations serving LGBTQ youth as we have supported organizations such as LYRIC in the past. We will continue to endorse and support LGBTQ judges on the bench. And we will continue to stand strong, fight for and support all members of our community as we face an onslaught of targeted attacks on our diverse identities and our very existence by this administration.

    Click here to see a PDF of the document.

  • 27 Feb 2017 10:14 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    A great way to serve the LGBT legal community and become more involved in BALIF is to join BALIF's Board of Directors. BALIF's Directors are elected by the BALIF membership, and each Director holds office for two years. Any BALIF member is welcome to run for the Board or nominate another BALIF member. BALIF seeks a board that reflects the diversity of our LGBTQI legal community, and we specifically encourage people of color, women, transgender people, and non-binary/gender non-conforming people to run for the Board. All Directors must attend BALIF's Board Retreat the evening of Saturday, April 22 and during the day on Sunday, April 23.

    To run for the Board or nominate someone else, please send a candidate statement of up to 250 words to Julie Wilensky (secretary@balif.org) and BALIF's Administrator, Katie Carlson (balif@balif.org) by March 27, 2017 at 5:30 pm. BALIF's bylaws require gender parity on the Board, with a certain number of positions allocated to Directors who identify as male, female, or other genders (a broad category including but not limited to non-binary, genderqueer, gender variant, and gender non-conforming). So if you are seeking a position, please indicate the category under which you plan to run.

    Elections will be online starting on April 3, and there will be an opportunity to vote in person at BALIF's annual general membership meeting on Thursday, April 13, 2017 from 6 - 8:30 p.m. The results will be announced at the end of the meeting.

    Thinking about seeking a position? Know someone who would make a fabulous addition to the Board? Want to learn more about BALIF and what's involved in being on the Board? Please contact Julie Wilensky at secretary@balif.org.

  • 24 Feb 2017 10:02 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    On February 24, 2017, BALIF joined 11 other LGBT rights groups and advocacy organizations in submitting an amicus brief in federal district court in Doe v. Arrisi, a case challenging New Jersey’s requirement that people seeking to change the gender marker on their birth certificate must first submit proof that they have had sex reassignment/gender confirmation surgery. The plaintiff also raises disability discrimination claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

    The amicus brief, filed in support of the plaintiff's opposition to New Jersey’s motion to dismiss, addresses the importance of allowing people to bring claims under the ADA when they have experienced discrimination on the basis of gender dysphoria. It argues that the ADA’s explicit exclusion of “transsexualism” and “gender identity disorders,” as a matter of statutory interpretation, does not exclude people with gender dysphoria. The brief also argues in the alternative that the ADA’s exclusion is unconstitutional because it violates the guarantee of equal protection.

    Julie Wilensky, chair of BALIF’s Amicus Committee, said, “BALIF is thrilled to join this brief on an important topic at the intersection of transgender rights and disability rights – the ADA’s exclusion of gender identity disorders and the moral animus behind that exclusion.”

    Click here to read the brief.

    Amici are represented by Professor Kevin Barry and the Quinnipiac University School of Law Legal Clinic.

  • 26 Jan 2017 7:52 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    BALIF supports participation in the 10 Actions / 100 Days Women’s March Campaign (https://www.womensmarch.com).  A generous donor has donated funds to print 8,000 postcards in support of the First Action:  sending postcards to elected officials and other decision makers on the issues that matter most to you.  Please email chair@balif.org with your name, address, and the number of postcards you would like mailed to you (limit of 100).  Together we can apply pressure to keep elected officials and other decision makers accountable.


  • 24 Jan 2017 10:55 AM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    Our new president is the complete opposite of what we value in our friends.  Our friends are kind; he is mean.  Our friends are elevate women; he grabs and leaves them behind.  Our friends are inclusive; he scrubs diversity out. Our friends are eloquent; his communications are limited to 140 characters. Our friends are compassionate; he is a bigot.  Our friends are generous; he has a business to run.  We will keep that in mind, and value our friendships even more.  Our friends will be there when he is not.  Our friends will march with us and will hold our hands.  BALIF will march with you, and we will be your friends.

     



  • 30 Oct 2016 4:34 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    On October 25, 2016, Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF) filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Carcaño v. McCrory, a case challenging H.B. 2, North Carolina’s discriminatory law that targets transgender people for discrimination in public schools and facilities.

    The plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction enjoining enforcement of the portion of H.B. 2 that bars transgender people from using single-sex restrooms consistent with their gender identity. Although the district court granted a limited injunction barring enforcement of H.B. 2 by the University of North Carolina against three of the plaintiffs who are transgender, the court declined to bar broader enforcement of H.B. 2 under the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause, leaving transgender people who live in or visit North Carolina vulnerable to the harms imposed by H.B. 2. The plaintiffs appealed the denial of broader injunctive relief under the Equal Protection Clause to the Fourth Circuit.

    BALIF’s brief argues that H.B. 2 facially discriminates against transgender people based on sex, and that it is a classic example of unlawful sex stereotyping. Its restroom provisions are rooted in the stereotype that all people should act in a manner consistent with society’s expectations about the sex they were assigned at birth. The brief highlights the significant body of law confirming that targeting transgender people for their perceived gender non-conformity is sex stereotyping that violates constitutional and statutory prohibitions on sex discrimination.

    “In a variety of contexts and for many years, the federal courts have recognized that sex stereotyping of transgender people is a form of unlawful sex discrimination,” said Julie Wilensky, chair of BALIF’s Amicus Committee. “H.B. 2 is no different.”

    The Impact Fund and its attorneys Lindsay Nako and Lynnette Miner served as BALIF’s amicus counsel, and Impact Fund also joined the brief.

    In addition to BALIF and Impact Fund, a broad coalition of 35 additional bar associations and non-profit legal organizations joined the brief: AIDS Legal Referral Panel, Alameda Contra Costa Trial Lawyers Association, Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area, Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles, Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, Atlanta Women for Equality, Bar Association of San Francisco, Bet Tzedek Legal Services, BiLaw, California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc., Centro Legal de la Raza, Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center, Dallas LGBT Bar Association, East Bay La Raza Lawyers Association, Georgia Association for Women Lawyers, Hawai‘i LGBT Legal Association, Kansas City Lesbian, Gay, and Allied Lawyers, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Legal Aid Society - Employment Law Center, LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York, LGBT Bar Association of Wisconsin, Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association, National Employment Law Project, National Employment Lawyers Association, National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, New Mexico Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association, North Carolina Advocates for Justice, Queen’s Bench Bar Association, SacLEGAL, Santa Clara County Bar Association, Stonewall Law Association of Greater Houston, Tom Homann LGBT Law Association, Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., Vietnamese American Bar Association of Northern California, and Virginia Equality Bar Association.

    ######

    Click here to read the brief

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