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  • 11 Jul 2012 9:35 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    On Tuesday, July 10, BALIF will be filing our Amicus Brief in Golinski v. OPM, which is currently on appeal in the Ninth Circuit.  Our effort is led by BALIF Board Member Nick Kacprowski and Amicus Committee member Leah Nutting.  The brief, drafted by Kirkland & Ellis LLP, argues that Section 3 of DOMA - which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex couples' valid marriages - burdens legal professionals, their employers, and the legal profession as a whole.  Specifically, government employees are not able to access the same employment benefits as their straight counterparts because of DOMA.  These include health insurance, family and medical leave, and retirement benefits.  The financial burden placed on employers and employees by DOMA is estimated to cost between $2,000 and $2,500 per employee.  DOMA burdens the legal profession by limiting the ability of LGBT legal professionals to pursue the career of their choice, and limits the federal government's ability to compete with the private sector in recruiting and retaining qualified legal professionals. 


    Ms. Golinski, a staff attorney employed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in  San Francisco , was denied health insurance benefits for her same-sex spouse. In an Administrative Order, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski ruled that the denial of benefits violates the Ninth Circuit's employment policies prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, but the federal Office of Personal Management ignored the Order, citing the enforcement of DOMA. In February 2012, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White held DOMA unconstitutional.  In fact, the last four courts to consider the question have all found Section 3 of DOMA to be unconstitutional.


    Board Member Peter Catalanotti is leading the effort to invite our sister bar organizations to join BALIF's Amicus Brief.  To date, ten have signed-on.  A copy of BALIF's Amicus Brief will be available on our website shortly. If your bar association is interested in joining BALIF's Amicus Brief, please contact Pete immediately at  


    Late on the eve of Independence Day, we learned that the DOJ asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider Golinski.  This development demonstrates that everyone - including the government - desires to resolve this matter quickly.  DOMA's days are numbered, and we look forward to finally putting DOMA out of its (and our) misery.

    Click here to read the brief.

  • 30 Jun 2012 2:18 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    Happy Pride!  What an amazing week and weekend celebrating the diversity, strength, promise and love of our community.  Thank you to everyone who joined us, yesterday, at the 4th Annual Jones Day Pride Breakfast.  We were honored to have California Senate Majority Leader, Ellen Corbett, join us this year. Senator Corbett shared some inspiring words with us before marching in the Pride Parade.  Thank you again to Jones Day Partner, Bob Mittelstaedt, and the entire Jones Day Pride Breakfast planning committee for organizing such a fun and family friendly event.

  • 28 Jun 2012 12:27 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    Last year, firms and BALIF attorneys helped sponsor the registration and travel costs for 10 law students attending the Lavender Law Conference in Los Angeles . This year we would love to help even more students get the experience of a lifetime at Lavender Law 2012. This year's conference will take place in Washington DC , the epicenter of law in the United States . Scholarship recipients as well as sponsors will be acknowledged at a reception leading up to the annual conference, which takes place in September. There will be more details later this summer. In the meantime, if you are interested in donating as a sponsor please contact your BALIF Student Representatives at

  • 13 Jun 2012 9:00 AM | Anonymous
    Wednesday June 13, 2012 · 12:00 – 1:30 p.m.

    Sacramento County Superior Court
    720 9th Street

    Rally To Support Adequate Court Funding

    Drastic budget cuts will substantially impact equal access to Justice to the courts. Stand together with the legal community to protect the courts and access to justice for all Californians.

    Click here for details.
  • 05 Jun 2012 11:25 AM | Anonymous

    The Ninth Circuit issued a brief order today on the challenge to Prop. 8 that is being litigated in the case of Perry v. Brown. The court denied a petition for rehearing en banc, leaving in place the Ninth Circuit three-Judge Panel’s ruling from February that found Prop 8 to be unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Federal Constitution. Upon a vote of the non-recused active judges of the Ninth Circuit, the matter failed to receive a majority of votes in favor of rehearing.

    The order from the Ninth Circuit is stayed pending the filing of a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, and if the writ is granted, the stay will continue until the Supreme Court’s final decision. The Appellants have 90 days from today to file a writ. If the Supreme Court declines to take the case, then the Panel’s February decision will stand, and Prop 8 will be unenforceable.

    You can read the full decision here.

  • 31 May 2012 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    In a unanimous 3-0 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that Section 3 of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. The Court concluded in Massachusetts v. Department of Health and Human Services that Congress’ denial of federal benefits to lawfully married same-sex couples (and their surviving spouses) violates constitutional principles of equal protection and federalism. The ruling came in a case filed in 2009 by Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders on behalf of a group of married same-sex couples who were denied federal spousal benefits such as Social Security and government employee benefits, as well as a parallel case filed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Today’s opinion upheld a 2010 decision in which U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro ruled DOMA unconstitutional.

    The Court applied a heightened rational basis scrutiny to the challenged sections of DOMA, finding that in the past the Supreme Court has "intensified scrutiny of purported justifications where minorities are subject to discrepant treatment and have limited the permissible justifications." With regard to Federalism, the Court found that the "Supreme Court decisions in the last fifty years call for closer scrutiny of government action touching upon minority group interests and of federal action in areas of traditional state concern."

    Writing for a 3-judge panel, Judge Michael Boudin stated that there is no “connection between DOMA’s treatment of same-sex couples and its asserted goal of strengthening the bonds and benefits to society of heterosexual marriage,” and that “Congress’ denial of federal benefits to same-sex couples lawfully married in Massachusetts has not been adequately supported by any permissible federal interest.” The Court stayed its decision to permit the parties an opportunity to request review by the United States Supreme Court.

    BALIF applauds the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit on this momentous decision and on affirming equality for same-sex couples and LGBT Americans!

  • 23 May 2012 2:56 PM | Anonymous
    BALIF BOARD 2012-13

    BALIF is proud to unveil our 2012-13 Board…

    Meet the 18 revolutionary men and women who, over the next two years, will be leading BALIF to 1,000 members strong (BALIF 1K!). Membership retention will serve as the foundation of our efforts, and will be fervently supported by the three pillars of social activities, networking opportunities, and community service.

    We’re proud to be the oldest and largest LGBT bar organization in the world. BALIF 1K!


    Chelsea HaleyNelson
    HaleyNelson & Heilbrun, LLP

    BALIF Board Co-Chair

    Realizing that her initial plan to become a famous ballerina would require a little too much sacrifice (think Black Swan), and she didn't have enough space to start the World’s largest animal sanctuary, Chelsea settled on a legal career. Her 2012 goal is to have BALIF become the go-to legal organization on LGBT issues, not just for the Bay Area, but in California...and beyond!

    view full profile


    On Lu
    Mount, Spelman & Fingerman, PC

    BALIF Board Co-Chair

    oN’s first job out of college was acting in Hong Kong action movies; thank goodness he had a back-up. His 2-year goal is to build BALIF to 1K members strong—through a tri-pod blueprint of networking, social, and community outreach opportunities for our members.

    view full profile


    Cara Sherman
    Ongaro Burtt & Louderback

    Secretary; Pride Law Fund Committee Chair; and State Bar/Conference of Delegates Committee Chair

    Cara’s childhood chores involved collecting eggs from the henhouse and gathering firewood for the fire that warmed the house and made hot water for showers. She’s traded that country life for city livin’ and is BALIF’s new Secretary and will lead BALIF’s contingency to the California Conference of Bar Associations in Monterey—where she promises not to look for eggs. Actively.

    view full profile


    John Robert Unruh
    Swords to Plowshares

    Treasurer; Gala Committee Co-Chair

    As a teenager John acted, sang and tap danced in Anything Goes to rave reviews. No longer on stage, he is still an avid theater and opera goer. John will ensure BALIF runs another year with a balanced budget and plans to throw an awesome Gala! The party will be the LGBT event of the season! Stay tuned.

    view full profile


    Jamie Dupree
    Futterman Dupree Dodd Croley Maier LLP

    Development Committee Chair; Gala Committee Co-Chair

    Jamie loves men in uniform, especially her sports-loving sons, Jonah (6) and Zach (3), and the San Francisco Giants! Jamie's goal is to increase membership and participation in BALIF by women and more experienced lawyers. And, of course, to help John Unruh to throw a really great party!

    view full profile


    Laurie Bertolacci
    Robert Half Legal

    Membership Committee Chair

    Laurie was born in the Bronx, and during the summers as a kid, her sprinklers were fire hydrants.  Her primary goal is to retain existing members and increase membership beyond attorneys to other legal professionals in the Bay Area.

    view full profile


    David Nathan-Allen Sims
    Saveri & Saveri

    Social Committee Chair

    As a young man David was large, not in charge and rarely popular. Eventually he grew up into a Cheer magnet and now runs the show. Still large but working to be in charge he is dedicated to making BALIF a Social Cornucopia. If you seem him out you know this is the place to be for social, fun, networking, and community run in his blood.

    view full profile


    Ted Garey
    Beahm Law

    Communications & Public Relations Committee Chair

    An interesting albeit weird fact about Ted is that he once took a piece of gum from Kristen Chenoweth’s purse while she was performing on stage. Ted is returning to the Communications Committee for a second term. He has added “PR” to his agenda and aims to launch BALIF’s work and accomplishments to the press world!

    view full profile


    Susan Bluer
    Bluer & Bluer LLP

    Judiciary Committee Chair

    Susan is our returning Chair of the Judiciary Committee. She has been practicing law long enough to feel “wise” and is a founding partner of Bluer & Bluer, LLP. This year, our Judicial Plebiscites will go on-line and we will help 100 LGBT lawyers get on the bench (wouldn't that be nice...)

    view full profile


    Elizabeth Pritzker
    Girard Gibbs LLP

    Young Lawyers & Law Student Programs Committee Chair

    As a young adolescent growing up in suburbia, Elizabeth’s aspiration was to become a Soul Train dancer.  She still tries out her funky “moves” whenever she gets a chance. Elizabeth’s goal is to enhance BALIF’s connection to its legacy members, and build a strong and enduring mentor-mentee program for BALIF’s law student and young lawyer members.

    view full profile


    Nick Kacprowski
    Kirkland & Ellis LLP

    Amicus Committee Chair

    Nick has an indomitable chocolate lab named Scotch who has moved with him to three different states. But unlike the Romney family dog, Scotch was not strapped to the top of a car. Nick’s goal for the year is to increase the quantity and quality of BALIF’s participation as a friend of the court in cases affecting our community.

    view full profile


    Michael Wolchansky
    Law Office of Michael Wolchansky

    Outreach/Social Action Committee Co-Chair

    Michael’s first foray into drag was at age 11 during the Herzl Camp Talent Show where he performed a rousing and much loved edition of Saturday Night Live’s Linda Richmond’s Coffee Talk, complete with huge wig and glasses. This year he plans to blaze a new path for BALIF Community Outreach by implementing LGBT community involvement volunteer events.

    view full profile


    Peter Catalanotti
    Manning & Kass, Ellrod, Ramirez, Trester LLP

    Outreach/Current Events Committee Co-Chair

    Peter C. Catalanotti, Manning & Kass, Ellrod, Ramirez, Trester, LLP. Everyone's road to inner calmness looks different. For Pete, it involves punching, kicking, elbowing, and kneeing as hard as he can four times a week in Muay Thai kickboxing class. When he's not kickboxing or lawyering, he promises to keep BALIF’s membership informed on current events and to create alliances with other local and national LGBT groups all in an effort to push our community's legal rights to the next level.

    view full profile


    Lilah Sutphen
    Wald & Thorndal P.C.

    Programs Committee Co-Chair

    Lilah has an inner Martha Stewart dying to be cut loose. She is infamous for tempting Board members and friends with delectable dessert concoctions whipped up at home. Her goal this year as co-chair of the newly formed Programs Committee is to orchestrate CLE's that involve subjects BALIF members are attracted to and thus look forward to attending, as well as other dialogue-driven events that draw out BALIF members who aren't seen at the ubiquitous happy hour.

    view full profile


    Nick Clements
    Seyfarth Shaw LLP

    Programs Committee Co-Chair

    Nick has a thing for circus folk, having dated three over the past few years. His goals this year on the BALIF Board include establishing and building the Programming Committee with his amazing Co-Chair Lilah Sutphen and working to integrate and enhance communication between the other BALIF Committees to ensure smoother functionality so they are working towards achieving the same ends—primarily a superior BALIF membership experience.

    view full profile


    Nathan Bewley
    University of San Francisco School of Law

    Law Student Representative

    A month before starting law school, Nathan drove across the country from Boston, where he received his BS in Marketing Communications from Emerson College in 2007. One of his goals as this year’s Male Law Student Representative is to visit all eight BALIF law schools (Bolt, Davis, Golden Gate, Hastings, McGeorge, Santa Clara, Stanford, and USF) and encourage involvement in BALIF by putting a face to name.

    view full profile


    Aditi Fruitwala
    University of San Francisco School of Law

    Law Student Representative

    During a kindergarten career day, Aditi announced to the class that she wants to be a rainbow when she grows up so she can “come out after the rain and make everything okay.” Due to practical difficulties in achieving that dream, she now attends law school at the University of San Francisco. As a BALIF student rep, she hopes to serve as a strong voice for students in the bay area and increase student attendance at BALIF events.

    view full profile


    Milo Beitman
    Golden Gate University School of Law

    Law Student Representative

    Growing up, Milo aspired to be a Hollywood stuntman. Now faced with finding a job after law school, jumping from moving cars is again looking appealing. The law student representatives are hoping to increase student involvement through a series of events and continue to build a strong law student network.

    view full profile

  • 20 May 2012 11:25 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    Already a member of the ABA Section of Litigation?  If so, please consider joining the LGBT Litigator Committee!  It is free for ABA SOL members.  Join here:   You will also find recent articles written by BALIF members in our newsletter, and there are many opportunities to contribute to the newsletter or programming we hold annually.  If interested, please contact David Tsai:

  • 20 May 2012 11:19 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    Last year, firms and BALIF attorneys helped sponsor the registration and travel costs for 10 law students attending the Lavender Law Conference in Los Angeles. This year we would love to help even more students get the experience of a lifetime at Lavender Law 2012. This year's conference will take place in Washington DC, the epicenter of law in the United States. Scholarship recipients as well as sponsors will be acknowledged at a reception leading up to the annual conference, which takes place in September. There will be more details later this summer. In the meantime, if you are interested in donating as a sponsor please contact your BALIF Student Representatives at

  • 11 May 2012 2:30 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    In the wake of recent statewide legal setbacks for same-sex marriage, President Obama came out this week personally in support of same-sex couples' right to marry.  The President's comments this week, while carrying no legal effect, represent a significant gesture in support of equality and fairness for countless committed couples and families in our community. BALIF applauds President Obama for his historic, public support of equal marriage rights for all Americans.

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