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  • 28 Jul 2015 9:38 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    It's that time of the year again! BALIF's Connections mentorship program is seeking mentors and mentees for 2015-2016. For more information, see the program guidelines and description on the BALIF website. If you are a law student, recent law school graduate, or newer attorney seeking a mentor, or if you are an experienced attorney interested in serving as a mentor, please contact the Young Lawyers and Students Programs Committee, Mentor/mentee pairs will be assigned on a rolling basis from July-September.

  • 21 Jul 2015 9:34 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    The Lavender Law Conference is just around the corner! This year, the annual conference hosted by the National LGBT Bar Association is in Chicago from August 4-7. We hope some of you have booked your trip!

    BALIF has raised a limited amount of funds for BALIF Student Members who are attending the Lavender Law Conference this year. We apologize for the late notice, but late is better than never! If you are attending the conference and would like to apply for a limited amount of reimbursement for your travels, please notify us by Friday, August 14 and include the following documents:

    • Your registration receipt for the Lavender Law Conference
    • Receipts for flights to and/or lodging in Chicago
    • A copy of your BALIF membership card

    To be eligible for reimbursement, you must be a current Northern California law student and a current BALIF member. The amount available for reimbursement depends on how many applicants send us their information. No late applications will be accepted.

    Please send all the required documents in .doc or .pdf format by Friday, August 14 to If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email us with any questions.

    See you in Chicago!

    2015-16 BALIF Student Board Members

    Alex Lemberg

    Sam Potts

    Joe Deignan


  • 14 Jun 2015 2:44 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)


    June 12, 2015 – San Francisco – Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF) filed an amicus curiae brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Norsworthy v. Beard. Ms. Norsworthy is a transgender woman held in a California men’s prison. The district court concluded that the denial of necessary medical care to Ms. Norsworthy violated the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It issued a preliminary injunction requiring the CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to provide Ms. Norsworthy with adequate medical care, including sex reassignment surgery. CDCR appealed the preliminary injunction to the Ninth Circuit.

    BALIF’s brief in support of Ms. Norsworthy argues that when sex-reassignment surgery – or any medical treatment required for a serious medical need – has been identified as medically necessary for a prisoner, CDCR must provide it. There is no authority for a blanket denial of a particular procedure due to anticipated security and administrative issues. The brief explains that state and local detention systems throughout the country, including CDCR, have developed policies and procedures that ensure the health and safety of transgender prisoners while effectively balancing security and administrative issues. CDCR’s asserted security issues ignore important aspects of California’s prison system and are entirely manageable with respect to Ms. Norsworthy. Constitutional and other federal law require that CDCR take steps to ensure both the health and safety of a transgender prisoner like Ms. Norsworthy, as the district court correctly held. 

    “CDCR cannot hide behind its asserted security and administrative concerns to avoid its constitutional duty to provide medically necessary care to all prisoners, including Ms. Norsworthy,” said Julie Wilensky, chair of BALIF’s Amicus Committee.

    BALIF’s brief was filed by pro bono amicus counsel Rosen,  Bien,  Galvan & Grunfeld LLP, whose team includes attorneys Aaron J. Fischer and Sanford Rosen, summer associate Abbye Klamann, and paralegal clerk Charlotte Landes. 


    BALIF is the nation’s oldest and largest bar association of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in the field of law. Founded in 1980, BALIF represents its members’ interests in the wider San Francisco Bay Area. BALIF members and supporters include San Francisco Bay Area judges, lawyers, law students, and legal workers. 

    Click here to read the brief.

  • 20 Apr 2015 11:11 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    Please join me in

    congratulating the newly elected members of the 2015-2016 BALIF Board of Directors:

    Jessica Bogo

    Mario Choi

    Joseph Deignan

    Jamie Dupree

    Daniel Faessler

    Alex Lemberg

    Shauna Madison

    Jennifer Orthwein

    Sam Potts 

    Linsey Rosellini

    David Sims

    John Unruh

    Julie Wilensky

    Thank you to all candidates this year.  It was a very competitive race!  Thanks to all the members that voted online or at our meeting.

  • 07 Mar 2015 1:09 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    MARCH 6 – San Francisco – Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF) filed an amicus curiae brief yesterday in the United States Supreme Court in the consolidated cases Obergefell v. Hodges , Tanco v. Haslam, DeBoer v. Snyder, and Bourke v. Beshear, in support of the Petitioners’ positions that the Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a same-sex marriage lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state. BALIF’s brief argues that it is the duty of the courts to decide the equal protection challenge, that the marriage bans are unconstitutional applying even the most deferential rational basis review, and that the bans inflict profound legal, economic, and emotional harm on same-sex couples and their children.

    “Contrary to the Sixth Circuit’s holding, it is the role of the judiciary to evaluate the constitutionality of state provisions and not to defer the question to the state voters and legislators who enacted them,” said Leah Nutting, BALIF’s Amicus Committee chair. “Fundamental rights such as the right to marry cannot be denied by majority vote. The institution of marriage is too special and the harms caused by the bans are too costly to just ‘wait and see’ for the democratic process to recognize that right.”

    Thirty bar associations and legal organizations from around the nation joined BALIF in signing the brief. The coalition of amici includes state, metropolitan, local, and minority bar associations and local non-profit organizations. The brief was filed with pro bono support from Jerome C. Roth and Amelia L. B. Sargent of the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson.


    BALIF is the nation’s oldest and largest bar association of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in the field of law. Founded in 1980, BALIF represents its members’ interests in the wider San Francisco Bay Area. BALIF members and supporters include San Francisco Bay Area judges, lawyers, law students and legal workers.

    Click here to read the amicus curiae brief.

    Click here to view the press release.

  • 03 Feb 2015 4:43 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF) and the Bay Area Latino Lawyers Fund is proud to partner together to offer a $5,000 Public Interest Law Fellowship. The fellowship is designed to provide financial assistance to law students working with Bay Area community-based legal service providers to improve legal access for the LGBT population, especially in the Latino community.
    We encourage all law students who are in good academic standing and meet the fellowship guidelines to apply. The original February 16, 2015 deadline has been extended to March 2, 2015.

    Download the application here.

    Candidate interviews will take place the week of March 9, 2015 and the awardee will be recognized at the San Francisco La Raza Lawyers Association’s Annual Noche de Gala at the InterContinental Hotel in San Francisco on March 19, 2015.

  • 16 Sep 2014 9:18 AM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    This past weekend, BALIF sent a delegation to the Conference of California Bar Associations’ (CCBA) annual conference of delegates in San Diego.  One of the core missions of the CCBA is to help the resolutions approved by the Conference become law.  Resolutions proposed by bar associations are voted on at the conference, and if approved, are eligible for inclusion in the CCBA legislative agenda.  CCBA has become a respected body in Sacramento, with numerous CCBA-sponsored bills enacted each year.  In recent years, BALIF has been the only LGBT bar association to propose resolutions and participate at CCBA.

    This year, BALIF proposed a resolution that would require state, local and private correctional facilities to create a safe environment free from sexual abuse for inmates or detainees by adopting policies implementing the U.S. Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).  These standards, widely seen as groundbreaking by corrections professionals, advocates, and survivors of sexual abuse in detention, lay out a comprehensive framework for ending abuse in adult jails and prisons, lockups, community confinement facilities, and juvenile facilities.  LGBT prisoners are significantly more likely to experience assaults, including sexual assaults, than non-LGBT prisoners. This problem is particularly severe for transgender people. Also, as a means to procure safety, some facilities have designated involuntary LGBT specific units, which limit programming in some circumstances to those housed in these units, as well as designates their placement solely based on their LGBT status.  Furthermore, these units, in some circumstances, have become a cesspool for discrimination and harassment by guards and other inmates.  If enacted, the resolution would ensure federal guidelines to protect prisoners from attacks from guards and other prisoners are followed.  It would also establish protections so that prisoners subject to violence will not be subject to punitive measures such as segregation.

    The BALIF-sponsored resolution was approved by CCBA, making it eligible for inclusion on CCBA’s legislative agenda!  More work is still to be done, however, and we can use your help in Sacramento to lobby for this proposal in February.  If you are interested in joining the CCBA Committee to help lobby or to propose resolutions for next year’s Conference, please email

  • 16 Sep 2014 9:16 AM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    For immediate release:

    Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom Statement on Judge Ashley Tabaddor

    Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF) joins the growing chorus of fellow minority bar associations who are outraged and deeply concerned by the facts underlying a lawsuit recently filed by the Honorable Ashley Tabaddor, an Iranian American Immigration judge, against the Department of Justice (DOJ).  The DOJ issued an order disqualifying Judge Tabaddor from cases involving Iranian nationals given her activities within the Iranian-American community.  Judge Tabaddor alleges that the disqualification order violates Title VII and her First Amendment rights.  Notably, other immigration judges active in their ethnic and religious communities have not been subject to similar, blanket recusal orders. 

    Just as we stood against the calls for the recusal of the Honorable Judge Vaughan Walker in the Prop 8 case based on his sexual orientation, BALIF strongly objects to any efforts to recuse judges based on their immutable characteristics, such as their race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.  BALIF is particularly concerned that the DOJ, which is charged with enforcing civil rights laws in this country, issued the recusal order.  A copy of the lawsuit, Tabaddor v. Holder et al., which is filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, can be accessed here


    BALIF is the nation’s oldest and largest bar association of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in the field of law. Founded in 1980, BALIF represents its members’ interests in the wider San Francisco Bay Area. BALIF members and supporters include San Francisco Bay Area judges, lawyers, law students and legal workers.

  • 09 Sep 2014 5:29 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    Hi BALIF Members and Friends- 

    It was great to share drinks and tater tots with so many BALIF members last week at the kickoff happy hour for BALIF's mentorship program. This year, more than sixty BALIF members are participating in the mentorship program. We are grateful to this year's mentors - including judges, partners at large and small firms, senior public interest and government attorneys, corporate in-house counsel, and solo practitioners - who have committed to sharing their experience with and providing guidance to BALIF's law students and more recently admitted attorneys.


    The last week has brought more developments on the marriage equality front. On September 3, a federal judge in Louisiana upheld Louisiana's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, the first time a federal court has ruled in favor of marriage discrimination post-Windsor. But on September 4, in cases in which BALIF filed an amicus brief, the Seventh Circuit unanimously affirmed district court rulings striking down same-sex marriage bans in Wisconsin and Indiana. Commentators have already called Judge Posner's opinion, which has some zingy sound bytes about drunk heterosexuals and elderly first-cousin marriages, a potential roadmap for the Supreme court. Closer to home, on September 8 in San Francisco, the Ninth Circuit heard arguments about same-sex marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada in  Latta v. Otter, in which BALIF filed an amicus brief, and Sevcik v. Sandoval.


    In other LGBT news, the California Senate recently passed AB 2501, which would ban people from using "trans panic" or "gay panic" defenses in court. Such defenses seek to excuse crimes such as murder or assault on the grounds that the victim's gender identity or sexual orientation is to blame for the defendant's violent reaction. The bill, which was passed by the Assembly this year, is headed to the Governor's office. BALIF sent a letter of support for AB 2501 to the Governor last week and we are very hopeful he will sign the bill. If Governor Brown signs the bill, California will be the first state to enact such a law.



    Have a great week everyone!



    Julie Wilensky

    BALIF Young Lawyers & Law Students Chair

  • 02 Sep 2014 6:25 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    Hello BALIF Members and Friends, 

    This past month, I had the privilege of attending the 2014 Lavender Law Conference in New York City. To be honest, it had been years since I formally attended the Conference. Initially, I was reluctant to attend. Taking off time from work, traveling, and being away from home were my main concerns. Within 5 minutes of the first session, I realized I had made the right decision.


    During the Conference, I learned about the fundamental legal issues that arise with surrogacy (and how it works); the current status of LGBT protection under the Equal Protection Clause (still rational basis?); the ongoing difficulties facing smaller LGBT Bar Associations in less progressive states; the path to the judiciary of 6 outstanding, brave, amazing LGBT Judges (including 2 BALIF members); and so much more.


    At different times during the Conference I was upset and angry, excited and driven. But, I left the Conference with one feeling. Pride. I am so proud of all of our LGBT brother and sister attorneys and law students across the country. That includes each and every BALIF member. I give a special shout out to those BALIF members that attended (from memory: Dave, Jennifer, Nick, Lilah, Ken, Laura, Ethan, Sasha, Robb, Mike, John, Craig, Judges Flanagan, Kolakowski, and Bowen).

    Courtesy of National LGBT Bar Association Lavender Law Conference

    I look forward to seeing you at BALIF Connections Mentorship Program - Kickoff Happy Hour on Thursday at 6pm at the Holding Company (all BALIF members are welcome).



    Peter Catalanotti

    BALIF Board Secretary

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