Posts Tagged: GLAD

Pro Bono Spotlight: Ropes & Gray

A name means a lot.

Generally, a name is the first piece of information we give another person when we meet them. An untold number of records and documents are attached to our names, in addition to less tangible things like our identity and our sense of self.

So when a transgender person wishes to legally change their name, and the corresponding gender marker on all of their legal documents, getting it done means a lot. That’s why attorneys at Ropes & Gray have partnered with GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) to start a clinic to help transgender clients navigate the process of transitioning on paper.

Over 300 transgender individuals and parents of transgender children have been served by the clinic since its founding in November. Attorneys help these clients fill out the appropriate paperwork to change names and gender markers on documents like a driver’s license, passport, Social Security card, birth certificate, mortgage title, insurance records, voter registration and more.

This change is significant for many reasons, both symbolic and practical. Emily Oldshue, an associate in Ropes & Gray’s capital markets group, has been involved with the clinic since its inception, and was recently named one of the National LGBT Bar Association’s Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40. She said many clients, or parents on behalf of their children, are looking for a name and gender marker change on paper to facilitate other processes. An application to summer camp, a school, or a job could be held up pending the applicant’s documentation updates.

“The way I think of it is, ‘What it would be like to go out and have to present an ID that’s totally out of step with who you are, fundamentally?” Oldshue said. “Being out of step with one’s identity affects your life in various ways. Every day, you open up your mailbox, and it’s like getting mail for a totally different person. That creates a lot of dissonance for people.”

Oldshue said Ropes & Gray attorneys have worked with many minors and their parents, and many students who are transitioning during college. But the overall group who has come to the clinic is extremely socioeconomically diverse.

“My clients have ranged from 60-year-old veterans, to children, to artists, to programmers, and to people born in many different states and different countries. It has been eye-opening to see how people from such disparate backgrounds still face many of the same problems in their experience as transgender people, and it has been rewarding to be of service to them,” Gabriel Gillmeyer, a corporate associate at Ropes, said.

Oldshue said the firm was “inundated” with referrals from GLAD when the program started up in the fall, but now the attorneys who work at the clinic have developed a good workflow and are looking at ways to expand the initiative beyond New England.

“The great thing about it from a staffing perspective is that it’s just walking people through a process, which is very quick, especially compared to a lot of the other things that attorneys are doing. It’s something you can help a lot of people within four to six hours on average,” she said.

But even in that sort of time, the difference an attorney can make lasts a lifetime. Kristi Jobson, a  business & securities litigation associate, shared the following story:

“A minor client born in Oklahoma and adopted at birth by a New England couple sought to change her birth certificate. Oklahoma does not have a set process for amending the gender marker on an individual’s birth certificate. Initially, the client’s mother and I were each told that Oklahoma would not change a birth certificate gender marker for a minor (and typically declined applications from adults seeking amended birth certificates). After many, many calls to the Division of Vital Records, the client’s mom finally got a sympathetic administrator on the phone. We secured a court order recognizing a change in gender, and directing the Oklahoma Division of Vital Records from the child’s state of residence. We presented that court order and the child’s change of name order to the Division and received an amended birth certificate. The Division informed us that the client is the first minor to receive an amended Oklahoma birth certificate of this type.”

Oldshue said attorneys across various offices at the firm have set up a network for sharing resources pertaining to best practices in handling these types of cases. She said she and other volunteers who have been with the program from the beginning are grateful for the institutional support they have received from every corner of Ropes & Gray.

“I spend a lot of time on (the Transgender ID Project), but there’s no way I can respond to the 200 emails a day that we get. The organic leadership from the associates and the response and support we’ve gotten from the firm as a whole has been really incredible to see. It’s a neat moment to be at Ropes,” Oldshue said.

Public Service Year in Photos

In January 2012, the John & Abigail Adams Benefit raised over $600,000. That amount helped to fund grants to 24 Massachusetts community organizations providing legal services in areas such as immigration, domestic violence and homelessness.

Volunteer lawyers and law students help unrepresented tenants and landlords with a range of services, from information, and advice for full representation in eviction proceedings.  Since May 1999, an estimated 12,000 volunteers have assisted more than 14,700 individuals. Joanna Allison Staff Attorney at the Volunteer Lawyers Project and Chris Saccardi, Law Office of Christopher T. Saccardi at the Boston Housing Court.

At the BBA Lawyer for a Day in the Boston Housing Court, volunteer lawyers and law students helped unrepresented tenants and landlords with a range of services — from information and advice to full representation in eviction proceedings. Since May 1999, an estimated 12,000 volunteers have assisted more than 14,700 individuals. Joanna Allison Staff Attorney at the Volunteer Lawyers Project and Chris Saccardi, Law Office of Christopher T. Saccardi at the Boston Housing Court.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley spoke to East Boston High School students as part of the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program, a joint program of the Boston Bar Association and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley spoke to East Boston High School students as part of the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program, a joint program of the Boston Bar Association and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Emily Hodge, Choate, Hall & Stewart, teaches students about the importance of due process and access to justice at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School. In May 2012, 28 volunteers taught 580 students at 5 different schools about the field of law.

Emily Hodge, Choate, Hall & Stewart LLP, as part of Law Day in the Schools taught students about the importance of due process and access to justice at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School. In May 2012, 28 volunteers taught 580 students at 5 different schools about the field of law.

The Lawyer Referral Service (LRS), is the BBA’s largest public service program, with a specific commitment to reaching historically underserved populations. The LRS Program connects callers in need of legal assistance with qualified help from private attorneys, legal services agencies, government offices and community programs.

The Lawyer Referral Service (LRS), is the BBA’s largest public service program, with a specific commitment to reaching historically underserved populations. The LRS Program connects callers in need of legal assistance with qualified help from private attorneys, legal services agencies, government offices and community programs.

In its ninth year of producing young public interest leaders, the Public Interest Leadership Program selected an outstanding class of 14 up-and-coming leaders from the largest-ever applicant pool. The 2012-2013 class of the BBA's Public Interest Leadership Program. L-R: Omar F. Gonzalez-Pagan, Staci Rubin, Benton B. Bodamer, Christopher T. Saccardi, Eric A. Haskell, Julia E. Devanthéry, Jacqueline Silva Anchondo, Emily F. Hodge, Meghan D. H. Walsh Raquel Webster and Daniel M. Routh

In its ninth year of producing young public interest leaders, the Public Interest Leadership Program selected an outstanding class of 14 up-and-coming leaders from the largest-ever applicant pool. The 2012-2013 class of the BBA’s Public Interest Leadership Program. L-R: Omar F. Gonzalez-Pagan, Staci Rubin, Benton B. Bodamer, Christopher T. Saccardi, Eric A. Haskell, Julia E. Devanthéry, Jacqueline Silva Anchondo, Emily F. Hodge, Meghan D. H. Walsh Raquel Webster and Daniel M. Routh.

The Mayor’s Youth Council, a partnership between the BBA, Mayor’s Office and Northeastern University, gives young people the opportunity to reach out to other Boston teens. The BBA provides the Mayor’s Youth Council lawyer-mentors. Lisa Goodheart, Past President of the BBA with Mayor Thomas M. Menino at the 2012 Mayor’s Youth Council Reception at Northeastern University.

The Mayor’s Youth Council, a partnership between the BBA, the Mayor’s Office and Northeastern University, gives young people the opportunity to reach out to other Boston teens. The BBA provides the Mayor’s Youth Council lawyer-mentors. Lisa Goodheart, Past President of the BBA with Mayor Thomas M. Menino at the 2012 Mayor’s Youth Council Reception at Northeastern University.

Larry DiCara, a partner at Nixon Peabody and former member and president of the Boston City Council conducts a mock City Council hearing with the 2012 Summer Jobs students. L-R: Tatenda Mundeke, Aubrey Griffin, Raymond Cen, Ashley Dixon, and Samantha Argon.

Larry DiCara, a partner at Nixon Peabody and former President of the Boston City Council conducted a mock City Council hearing with the 2012 Summer Jobs students. L-R: Tatenda Mundeke, Aubrey Griffin, Raymond Cen, Ashley Dixon, and Samantha Argon.

At the 4th Annual Pro Bono Fair for Attorneys and Law Students sponsored by BBA and the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service, Sarah Sherman-Stokes of the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project, a Boston Bar Foundation Grantee, explains the pro bono opportunities available in Greater Boston.

At the 4th Annual Pro Bono Fair for Attorneys and Law Students sponsored by BBA and the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service, Sarah Sherman-Stokes of the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project, a Boston Bar Foundation Grantee, explained the pro bono opportunities available in Greater Boston.

BBA President James D. Smeallie talks to 8th and 9th graders at Quincy Upper School during the Principal for A Day program on Tuesday, November 13th. The program allowed public and private sector leaders to better understand the improvements and remaining challenges in the Boston public school system.

BBA President James D. Smeallie talked with 8th and 9th graders at Quincy Upper School during the Principal for A Day program on Tuesday, November 13th. The program allowed public and private sector leaders to better understand improvements and remaining challenges in the Boston public school system.

Steve Stein, Executive Director of Boston Debate League conducts a training for BBA volunteers to be judges at debate tournaments. The BBA entered a partnership with Boston Debate League earlier this year.

Steve Stein, Executive Director of Boston Debate League trained BBA volunteers to be judges at debate tournaments. The BBA entered into a partnership with Boston Debate League earlier this year.

BBA Past President Renee Landers (Suffolk Law School) presented GLAD Civil Rights Project Director Mary Bonauto and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley with the Beacon Award honoring Diversity & Inclusion for their work as lawyers in advancing same sex marriage. The Boston Bar Association’s third annual Beacon Award for Diversity & Inclusion took place on November 13 at the Liberty Hotel in Boston.

BBA Past President Renee Landers (Suffolk Law School) presented GLAD Civil Rights Project Director Mary Bonauto and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley with the Beacon Award honoring Diversity & Inclusion for their work as lawyers in advancing same sex marriage. The Boston Bar Association’s third annual Beacon Award for Diversity & Inclusion took place on November 13 at the Liberty Hotel in Boston.

The Fight Starts Somewhere

On November 13, the Boston Bar Association will have the honor of presenting its third annual Beacon Award for Diversity and Inclusion to Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)  and the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General (AG). They will be honored for their work in advancing marriage equality, a civil rights battle thathas its origins well before DOMA. But more on that in a moment.

The combined efforts of both GLAD and the AG’s Office have brought together an impressive network of lawyers to advance one of the most significant civil rights issues in recent history.  What’s particularly meaningful for us is that the two honorees engaged the legal community as an advocate for greater Diversity and Inclusion both in Massachusetts and the nation.

This fight for civil rights for gay and lesbian couples in Massachusetts could be seen in a fundamental way as starting with a single pro bono case from the mid ‘80’s,  Babets v. Johnston. It began with The Boston Globe breaking a story about two brothers in the foster care system placed with a gay couple, Babets and Jean. The very same day the story broke, the Dukakis administration removed the children from their home.

The couple’s sexual orientation was the sole reason the boys were removed from their home. No issues of neglect, abuse, or any sort of mistreatment were ever raised. After the children were removed, the administration approved a new DSS policy that essentially banned gays and lesbians from being foster parents.

From GLAD Website: Don Babets and David Jean (back) with
GLAD attorney and Executive Director Kevin Cathcart (r) and co-counsel Tony Doniger
Photo by Ellen Shub

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders started the legal fight to overturn this blatantly discriminatory policy and return the boys to their home. Today, there would be lawyers lining up around the block to help fight for this family, but in 1986, GLAD found it nearly impossible to find any support in the legal community. Attorney Anthony M. Doniger, a partner at Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, P.C. – later to become President of the Boston Bar Association –stepped up to the challenge and represented the plaintiffs in the case pro bono all the way up to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The court rejected the claim of executive privilege asserted by the Dukakis administration in order to withhold documents related to the DSS policy banning gay and lesbians from being foster parents. This ruling allowed the plaintiffs to move forward on their suit to reverse the policy. The policy was ultimately reversed back to the “best interests of the child” standard and the initial suit was settled out of court.

The Beacon Award is celebrating the great work GLAD and the AG’s office have done to promote marriage equality not only in the Commonwealth, but across the nation. Every civil rights effort begins with small steps that, like pebbles dropped in a pond, send out ripples that ultimately can have profound impact.  The Babets v. Johnston case is just one of those “pebbles” dropped just over 25 years ago.

Please join us on November 13 at 6:00 at the Liberty Hotel for the Beacon Award.  The event is free but we do ask that you RSVP.