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  • 12 Aug 2014 1:27 AM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    I hope you are enjoying your summer. It was great seeing such a big turnout at last week's happy hour!

    BALIF's Amicus Committee and our pro bono counsel, Munger, Tolles & Olson have been busy this summer working on the marriage equality front. BALIF has recently filed amicus briefs for cases in the 6th, 7th, and 9th Circuits, and will submit a brief in the 5th Circuit next month, challenging state statutory and constitutional gay marriage bans in Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Wisconsin, Idaho, and Texas.

    The amicus briefs argue that the marriage bans inflict tangible legal and economic harm on same-sex couples and their children without any legitimate governmental purpose. We are pleased that the decisions coming out of the 4th and 10th Circuits (where BALIF also submitted amicus briefs) have struck down as unconstitutional the marriage bans in Virginia, Utah, and Oklahoma, though it is still a waiting game pending the disposition of the petitions for writ of certiorari that were recently filed with the U.S. Supreme Court for each of the cases.

    BALIF is proud to have coordinated with numerous other bar associations, LGBT organizations, and civil rights groups from around the country in submitting these briefs. If you would like to join BALIF's Amicus Committee, or wish to recommend a case for the submission of an amicus brief, please contact us at

    Leah Nutting
    BALIF Board Amicus Chair

  • 06 Aug 2014 1:14 AM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    BALIF filed an amicus curiae brief yesterday in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in the consolidated cases Baskin v. Bogan, Fujii v. Commissioner of the Indiana State Dept. of Revenue, Lee v. Abbott, and Walker v. Wolf, supporting the right of same-sex couples in Indiana and Wisconsin to marry and to have out-of-state marriages recognized. The press release can be viewed here.

    The brief argues that the marriage bans of Indiana and Wisconsin are unconstitutional and that the tangible legal and economic harm inflicted by the bans, including the denial of substantial benefits and the perpetuation of stigma and discrimination, cannot be remedied by the availability of domestic partnerships or civil unions.

    "We applaud the decisions out of the 4th and 10th Circuits striking down similar bans," said Leah Nutting, BALIF's Amicus Committee chair, noting recent cases where BALIF has also submitted amicus briefs. "And we are heartened by the 7th Circuit's emergency order requiring Indiana to recognize the out-of-state marriage of a set of plaintiffs in this case, where one spouse is suffering from a terminal illness. The case illustrates the very real and irreparable harm suffered by same-sex couples while waiting for the marriage bans to work their way through the courts."

    Fourteen other civil rights groups joined BALIF on the brief. The brief was filed with pro bono support from Jerome C. Roth and Nicole S. Phillis of the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olsen.

    Click here to read the amicus brief.

  • 06 Aug 2014 1:09 AM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    Happy August everybody! I want to give huge congratulations to all the people who recently took the bar exam. You should be extremely proud of yourselves for not only finishing law school but for also surviving three days with one of the hardest exams in the country.

    I want to invite everyone to come out to our August Happy Hour this Thursday, August 7 at the Lookout starting at 6:00pm. Mix and mingle with fellow BALIF members and other LGBT professionals in the Bay Area.

    I leave you all with a quote from Bill Cosby: "In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure."

    Brandon Lawrence
    BALIF Social Chair

  • 29 Jul 2014 1:05 AM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    BALIF filed an amicus curiae brief on Friday, July 25, with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Latta v. Otter supporting the right of same-sex couples in Idaho to marry and same-sex couples who have been married out-of-state to have their marriages recognized in Idaho. The court will hear in Idaho. The Court will hear Latta, on appeal from the District of Idaho, in September. Sevcik v. Sandoval, the Nevada marriage equality case on appeal from the District of Nevada, for which BALIF filed an amicus brief last October, is also scheduled to be heard by the court in September.
    The brief argues that excluding same-sex couples from the institution of marriage causes tangible legal and economic harm and denies substantial benefits, including the federal benefits extended to same-sex marriages following the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Windsor.

    "Some critical federal benefits are linked to the place of domicile, so even same-sex couples married legally in other states are prevented from enjoying these benefits if they currently reside in states, such as Idaho, that do not recognize same-sex marriage," said Leah Nutting, chair of BALIF's Amicus Committee.

    More than thirty other civil rights groups joined BALIF on the brief. The brief was filed with pro bono support from the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olsen, with Jerome C. Roth and Amelia L. B. Sargent heading the effort.

  • 29 Jul 2014 1:03 AM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    Please join us Tuesday, August 26 from 5pm - 8pm for a BALIF Pro Bono event with the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights (LCCR) Second Chance Legal Clinic. Volunteers at the Second Chance Legal Clinic help clients overcome barriers to employment and housing by assisting with criminal record expungement, occupational licensing, criminal background reports, housing applications and denials, driver's license suspensions, and other employment concerns.

    Training for the Clinic will be Wednesday August 20 from 1pm - 2:30pm at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.

    The Nuts and Bolts:
    Training (lunch provided):
    8/20 1pm - 2:30pm at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP (Four Embarcadero Center, 22ndFloor SF, CA)

    Volunteer Day (happy hour to follow):
    8/26 5pm - 8pm at the West Bay Community Center (1290 Filmore Street SF, CA)

    More details on the Clinic:

    Please register in advance so we know how many people to expect!

    Jessica Bogo
    BALIF Social Action Chair

  • 28 Jul 2014 1:07 AM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    Do you want to help shape California's laws? Join BALIF's California Conference of Bar Associations (CCBA) Committee. Each year, BALIF sends a delegation to the California Conference of Bar Associations, a group of attorneys from local, specialty, and minority bar associations across the state that are focused on improving California's laws. BALIF's CCBA Committee reviews and determines BALIF's position on resolutions that are debated at the Conference. This year, the Conference will be in San Diego from September 12-14.

    BALIF's representation and participation at the Conference are crucial to ensure visibility of the LGBT legal community at the statewide level and to bring LGBT issues before the Conference. This year, BALIF is sponsoring a resolution to address sexual violence in correctional settings in California, a problem that disproportionately affects LGBT inmates.

    If you want to weigh in on this year's proposed resolutions and/or join BALIF's delegation to the Conference, please email Denise Bergin at by August 9.

  • 22 Jul 2014 12:53 AM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    It's been another great week for LGBT rights. Yesterday, President Obama signed an executive order banning federal contractors from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The order also makes clear that federal employees, who were already explicitly protected from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, are also protected from gender identity discrimination.

    And the good marriage equality decisions continue. On July 18, in a case in which BALIF filed an amicus brief, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision striking down Oklahoma's same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional, marking the second ruling by a federal appellate court in favor of marriage equality in the last year. On July 17, a judge in state court in Monroe County, Florida struck down Florida's ban on same-sex marriage.

    If you're thinking about how you can get more involved in the Bay Area's LGBT legal community, consider participating as a mentor or mentee in BALIF's Connections mentorship program. Mentor and mentee pairs are being assigned on a rolling basis, and there will be a happy hour to kickoff this year's program on September 4. Links to more information are below.

    Julie Wilensky
    BALIF Young Lawyers & Law Students Chair

  • 15 Jul 2014 4:39 PM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    I hope you all enjoyed the gorgeous weather the Bay Area was spoiled with this weekend. As we move into the dog-days of summer riddled with vacations and relaxation for some (hopefully you), I am pleased our progress toward full marriage equality is not enjoying a similar break.

    Over the weekend, Attorney General Eric Holder said that if the Supreme Court decides to hear a case on same-sex marriage, the Department of Justice will file a brief urging the courts to uphold the rights of gay couples to wed. With Utah's Federal Court of Appeals striking down the ban on gay marriage, the possibility of the high court hearing the issue is becoming more likely. It is comforting to know we have the Department of Justice behind the fight, not just in word, but in action as well.

    With Colorado's ban on same-sex marriage struck down last Wednesday we are up to 19 states where same-sex couples may legally wed. Are you thinking of marrying your loved one, or did you just marry? Come learn about the pros and cons of marriage and the rights and responsibilities that come with it this Wednesday, July 16th at "Marriage...The Fine Print: 5 Surprising Facts Everyone Needs to Known."

    It was great to see many of your shining summer faces at the July 10th happy hour last week. I hope to see many of you this Tuesday at the LGBTQ Partners and Associates Reception, sponsored by BASF and BALIF.

    Lilah Sutphen
    BALIF Board Judiciary Co-Chair

  • 08 Jul 2014 6:35 AM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    I hope you all had a fantastic Fourth of July weekend!

    As we continue to enjoy the right to marry in California, I'd like to recognize a couple in my home state of Indiana who are leading the charge for equal rights there. Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney have a civil union in Illinois and were married in Massachusetts in 2013. Five years ago, Ms. Quasney was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer. They need their marriage legally recognized in Indiana to receive the full protections that every other married family in Indiana receives.

    On June 25th, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana found Indiana's ban on gay marriage to be unconstitutional. However, on June 27th, at the Attorney General's request, the 7th Circuit issued an emergency order stopping gay marriages in the state. Based on the gravity of Ms. Sandler and Ms. Quasney's circumstances, Lambda Legal's request for the 7th Circuit to lift the stay as to only Ms. Sandler and Ms. Quasney's marriage was granted July 1st. I cannot imagine the emotional toll this back-and-forth takes on a family with two small children who are simultaneously dealing with stage four cancer.

    While I'm grateful that the limited stay will afford Ms. Sandler and Ms. Quasney some peace so they can continue to focus their energies on their family during this difficult time, I hope that no other Indiana families will have to struggle in the same manner to achieve the simple act of having one's death certificate accurately recognize the surviving partner as the deceased's spouse.

    Meaghan Zore
    BALIF Board Membership Chair

  • 03 Jul 2014 6:33 AM | BALIF Administrator (Administrator)

    BALIF applauds the milestone appointment of Therese (Terry) Stewart to a position on the California Courts of Appeal. Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Terry during San Francisco's LGBT Pride weekend. If confirmed, Terry, who is currently the Chief Deputy Attorney at the San Francisco City Attorney's Office, will be the first out lesbian appellate judge in the California state court system. BALIF endorsed Terry for the position last December after the unanimous recommendation of the BALIF Judiciary Committee based on Terry's decades of tireless and successful advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community, women, minorities, and other marginalized communities.

    "Therese Stewart is an ideal candidate for the California judiciary, and we were pleased and honored to deliver BALIF's endorsement," said Elizabeth Pritzker, partner at Pritzker Law in San Francisco and former BALIF Judiciary Committee Co-Chair. "Therese will bring to the Courts of Appeal a multitude of strengths: a brilliant legal mind, an exceptional aptitude for solving difficult legal questions, and a great judicial temperament. Her appointment to the appellate court is a significant legacy for the LGBT community."

    Terry has led a distinguished career as a top litigator, as one of the first female partners at Howard Rice Nemerovski Canady Falk & Rabkin (now Arnold & Porter LLP) in San Francisco, and since 2002, at the City Attorney's Office. As Chief Deputy Attorney, she was instrumental in securing the rights of same-sex couples to marry, from representing San Francisco when then-Mayor Gavin Newsom first attempted to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004, to winning marriage equality at the California Supreme Court in 2008, and finally successfully challenging Proposition 8 in Federal Court. Terry is a former member of the BALIF Board of Directors and the recipient of the 2013 American Bar Association's Margaret Brent Women's Lawyers of Achievement, the highest award for a female attorney in the United States.

    Check out Terry's It Gets Better video here:

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