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  • 26 Mar 2019 5:31 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    A great way to serve the LGBTQI 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. 

    This election, we will be seeking candidates for the following positions:

    • 4 Gender Non-Conforming Candidates
    • 4 Female Candidates
    • 4 Male Candidates 
    • 3 Law Students (1 GNC, 1 Female, 1 Male)

    To run for the Board or nominate someone else, please send a candidate statement of up to 250 words to our secretary (secretary@balif.organd BALIF's Administrator, Katie Carlson ( by April 1, 2019 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.

    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 Katie at

  • 22 Mar 2019 11:32 AM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    The BALIF Board:

    • provides this statement as soon as was possible pursuant to notice requirements for special meetings set forth in BALIF's Bylaws; 
    • unanimously elected Jeff Kosbie as Co-Chair and Sam Potts as Secretary for the remainder of this term at a special meeting held on March 21, 2019;  
    • voted to post BALIF's Bylaws and Form 990 to BALIF's website, which can be accessed by logging in as a Member on the BALIF website;  
    • confirms its commitment to its Membership, to BALIF's mission, to transparency, to continuing BALIF's regular programming, and to the expansion of BALIF's programming to be more inclusive of transgender and queer people of color who have historically been excluded from and underrepresented in BALIF; 
    • acknowledges the concerns raised by Members after Board Directors chose to leave the BALIF board following difficult conversations for all Board Directors-both former and current-and commits to pursuing remediation efforts and critical conversations with former and current Board Directors as well as Members as soon as possible and a special announcement will be forthcoming with details on this meeting; 
    • acknowledges specific concerns, including whether BALIF is a welcoming space for QTPOC Members; BALIF's failure to make statements or take action on issues of importance to QTPOC legal professionals and BALIF's lack of support for other community organizations; BALIF's gala sponsorship policies; and current and former Board Directors-on both sides of the issue-feeling like discussions on the Board reflected personal animus rather than professionalism;
    • takes the concerns raised by former Board Directors and BALIF Members seriously, including the concerns raised by transgender and QTPOC Directors and Members who have felt excluded, as well as the concerns raised by those who resigned;
    • thanks the Board Directors who left the Board for their service to BALIF; and 
    • will likely extend the deadline to run for elections, and encourages Members to run for the Board to continue BALIF's important work, and reiterates the statement in BALIF's newsletter for the past several weeks that "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."

  • 22 Jan 2019 8:28 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    BALIF is outraged by the Supreme Court’s decision today to allow the Trump administration’s ban on transgender service members to go into effect temporarily while the cases against it proceed in the lower courts.  In a separate order, the Supreme Court today denied the Trump administration’s request that it hear legal challenges to the ban this term. 

    The Supreme Court is acting as an enabler of the Trump administration, supporting the President’s cruel and outrageous preoccupation with clearing the military of brave, honorable, patriotic and hard-working service members simply because of their gender identity.  By refusing to treat members and forcing transgender service members to hide when they suffer from gender dysphoria, this administration and the Supreme Court are putting transgender service members at serious risk for an array of serious medical symptoms. The consequences of not providing medically necessary treatment to some transgender service members who need it will no doubt have grave consequences.

    Plaintiffs challenging the ban are transgender men and women serving in all branches of the military, service academy and ROTC members, as well as individuals seeking to enlist.  Some of the Plaintiffs include individuals who have completed multiple deployments overseas. 

    Before Trump ordered the ban, transgender people served openly under a policy that has now been in place for more than two and a half years.  President Trump attempted to put an end to that starting with a Tweet in July 2017, without consultation with military leadership. 

    BALIF supports our transgender members of the armed forces.  It is BALIF’s hope that the ban will not survive judicial scrutiny as it progresses in the courts below and eventually to the Supreme Court.

  • 24 Oct 2018 1:38 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    BALIF is outraged to learn the Department of Health and Human Services is lobbying to establish a new legal definition of sex that intentionally excludes non-cisgender people.  The effort, if successful, would limit the definition of gender to a male/female binary that is "based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth."  It would further require persons seeking to amend their birth certificate to provide "reliable genetic evidence" of their gender.

    This proposal contradicts established medical and individual understanding of gender and gender identity, and judicial decisions around the country. It is one of the latest attempts by the Administration to limit civil rights protections for millions of Americans and marks a new low in its efforts to dismantle LGBTQI rights. Such an effort will not pass without a fight.  BALIF stands with our transgender, queer, and intersex family in solidarity against this attack and will not be silent. We understand that this is an attempt to erase the visibility of our community and we will not be erased! 

    If you or someone you know is impacted and needs support during this difficult time, please contact Trans Lifeline. They provide direct service, material support, advocacy, and education to our community. For those interested in providing financial support, we encourage you to listen to those impacted and donate to trans, queer and intersex-led organizations/projects leading this fight. Here are just a few that could use your support: Transgender, Gender Variant, Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP),  National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE)Trans LifelineTrans:ThriveTrans Justice Funding Project,  Freedom for All Americans (FFAA)Casa Ruby,  Trans Pride initiative (TPI)Sylvia Rivera Law ProjectInterActIntersex & Genderqueer Recognition Project.

    Also, please consider coming to BALIF's Halloween Party fundraiser this Thursday evening at The Lookout to meet representatives from, and support the Black LGBTQIA+Migrant Project (BLMP) housed at Transgender Law Center. Let's harness our resilience and collective power to build a safe and healthy tomorrow for everyone.  

  • 03 Jul 2018 10:32 AM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    The case, Rhines v. South Dakota, centered around the conviction and subsequent imposition of a death sentence of an openly gay man for first degree murder.  Make no mistake that the underlying facts of the case are disturbing.  But what BALIF finds truly disturbing is that the case exposes the vile biases facing LGBT defendants in the justice system, and that there is seemingly no Constitutional checks and balances afforded to LGBT defendants when these injustices are exposed.

    The Rhines case exposed a clear anti-LGBT bias on two fronts.  First, the prosecution unnecessarily placed the defendant’s sexuality on display to apparently prejudice jurors.  Largely through calling witnesses to testify that they had either engaged in sexual acts with the defendant or had witnessed Mr. Rhines engage in displays of affection with persons of the same-sex.  In fact, the introduction of these witness statements was especially egregious given the fact that one juror was heard ponitificating that homosexuality was a sin during voir dire.  Second, and which was the main issue on appeal, the jury exhibited a pervasive anti-gay bias throughout deliberations.  Explosively, the jury went so far as to send the trial judge a note containing questions exposing the jury’s concern that the defendant would enjoy prison if sent.  Specifically, asking if Mr. Rhines would be able to “marry or have conjugal visits?  Or if he would “mix with the general population?”  After the jury’s decision to impose the death penalty was entered, several jurors issued sworn statements that the jury’s rationale behind its sentence was that the defendant “shouldn’t be able to spend his life with men in prison.”  And that there was frankly “a lot of disgust” over his orientation.  

    Mr. Rhines cited to these statements in his appeal arguing a clear violation of the Sixth & Fourteenth Amendment’s right to an impartial trial.  However, there was just one caveat affecting the defendant’s claim.  South Dakota has a “no impeachment” rule which prohibits defendants from impeaching jury verdicts with evidence of statements made during deliberations.  So, Mr. Rhines could not use the evidence to challenge his sentence.  But his chances appeared to improve slightly when the Supreme Court announced its landmark decision in Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado last year.  The Pena decision held that states’ “no impeachment” rules are inapplicable in situations where jurors have made clear and explicit statements indicating racial animus and if racial bias was a significant factor in the decision to convict.  Naturally, Mr. Rhines challenged South Dakota’s “no impeachment” law on Constitutional grounds arguing that the Pena decision logically extends to LGBT persons.  Unfortunately, with the Supreme Court’s decision to not hear the case, the holding in Pena remains confined to racial bias.  It seems that LGBT defendants will have to live with the status quo for now.  Or not.

  • 04 Jun 2018 7:56 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    In the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision today, the Supreme Court rejected the arguments of those who had hoped to chip away at the civil rights of LGTBQI individuals under the guise of religious freedom.  The Court was unequivocal: "gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth."  While the Supreme Court concluded, for factual reasons specific to this case, that the bakers at Masterpiece Cakeshop must be given another hearing before the Colorado Human Rights Commission, it also made clear that "the laws and the Constitution can, and in some instances must, protect [gay persons and gay couples] in the exercise of their civil rights."  

    Although BALIF is disappointed the Supreme Court declined to definitively resolve future cases involving disputes between LGBTQI people and businesses who seek to discriminate against us purportedly on the basis of religious beliefs, we are encouraged this decision reaffirms the central principle that there is no special carveout from civil rights laws, including protections for LGBTQI people, for discrimination motivated by religious beliefs.  The Supreme Court also made clear that courts considering similar disputes in the future must do so "without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market."  We are therefore confident that the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision will prove to be a hollow victory for those who seek to discriminate against the LGBTQI community.  BALIF's fight to ensure full legal protections for members of the LGBTQI community continues undaunted. If you would like to join our fight through BALIF's Amicus Committee, please email us at

  • 03 Apr 2018 1:50 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    In late 2017, BALIF’s CCBA Committee debated a resolution at the CA Conference of Bar Associations (CCBA) Conference of Delegates that provides for equal access to rehabilitative and other programming opportunities to LGBTQI and other prisoners at high risk for sexual assault placed in solitary confinement for their own protection. The resolution overwhelmingly passed.  That portion of the resolution has now been included in current legislation being considered by the CA legislature: SB 990. SB 990 will help ensure that the dignity of transgender people is honored in incarceration settings and that LGBTQI people and others at high risk of sexual assault and harassment have an equal opportunity to access rehabilitative, educational and work programs. SB 990 will also require that people entering jails and prison be given an opportunity to specify their preferred first name, gender identity, gender pronoun, and honorific (e.g., Mr., Ms, Mx.) and will require all facility staff to use the designated name, pronoun and honorific when addressing the person. SB 990 will further require that people housed outside of the general population for their own safety be provided equal access to rehabilitative, religious and educational programs.

    We are very proud to support SB 990 and submitted our Letter of Support to Senator Wiener on April 2, 2018. You can view that letter here. We are also proud to have ensured the support of CCBA’s lobbying staff as this bill moves through the legislature.

  • 24 Jul 2017 8:09 AM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    We are rooting for all of the BALIF student members taking the 2017 California Bar Exam, July 25 and July 26, 2017.  We look forward to celebrating with you, and mentoring you to future success! 

  • 17 Apr 2017 11:27 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    Please join us in welcoming our new 2017-2018 Board of Directors! We Welcome our newest board members and look forward to another busy and wonderful year with BALIF!

    2017-2018 BALIF Board 


    Peter Catalanotti

    Mario Choi

    Nick Clements

    Sarah Nicole Davis

    Jamie Dupree

    Stephan Ferris

    Jaclyn Gross

    Kevin Jones

    Felicia Medina

    Nyla Moujaes

    Jennifer Orthwein

    Ashley Pellouchoud

    Annick Persinger

    Lauren Pietsch

    Lindsey Rosellini

    Stan Sarkisov

    Alex Touma

    George Tran

    Meaghan Zore

  • 04 Apr 2017 10:05 AM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    The BALIF Foundation is thrilled to announce its inaugural summer fellowship of $2,500 for a law student working in the field of LGBT rights.  The application can be downloaded from the BALIF Foundation's website at or by clicking here, and has been extended to April 14, 2017, with the recipient selected by April 30, 2017.  Please spread the word to law students planning to do summer work in the LGBT community.  Questions?  Contact Jamie Dupree at  

    The BALIF-APABA joint scholarship deadline has also been extended to April 07, 2017.  Click here for the application. The one joint $3,000 scholarship will be awarded to a law student committed to LGBT services.

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