There were times I could only imagine what it would be like to wake up and look over at my wife. Not my partner. Not my significant other. My wife. In 2015, our marriage became legal in 50 states after the Supreme Court delivered its historic ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. Knowing that our promise to take care of one another and our precious children is enshrined in the law has given my wife and me a sense of security and freedom.
Today, that safety our family and millions of other LGBT families across the nation rely on is under attack.
Anti-LGBT legal groups, such as Alliance Defending Freedom and Liberty Counsel, are doing everything in their power to take away not only marriage protections but all legal safeguards that shield LGBT people from discrimination. As a lesbian mom and the executive director of the National LGBT Bar Association, I am imploring fair-minded attorneys at law firms big and small to denounce legal groups that work to devastate LGBT people and their families. I am also asking any lawyer who values equality under the law to pledge zero pro bono assistance to these anti-LGBT legal groups.
Groups like Alliance Defending Freedom and Liberty Counsel have spent decades building their multimillion-dollar budgets and armies of litigators. Their cases run the gamut from ripping children away from their parents in same-sex custody disputes, to denying transgender youth safe school environments. They are also behind cases you’ve heard much more about of late, such as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission and Arlene’s Flowers Inc. v. Washington. While the ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop was narrow and not ultimately decisive on the question of whether business owners may use their proclaimed religious beliefs to deny service to LGBT people in the public sphere, similar pending cases across the country continue to threaten to unravel anti-discrimination laws. Groups like Alliance Defending Freedom and Liberty Counsel are on the attack in numerous states across the country, and we expect the U.S. Supreme Court will see a similar case in the near future.
We are sounding the alarm to lawyers who care about diversity in the legal profession and equality under the law. The retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy and the potential U.S. Senate approval of Judge Brett Kavanaugh as his replacement, as well as the increasing number of questionable federal judicial appointees who continue to stack the courts, demonstrate the urgency of action. When you donate your pro bono efforts to anti-LGBT legal groups — even on matters not relating to LGBT issues — you put LGBT people in harm’s way. Despite all our past victories, we’ll be going back to our darkest days if these anti-LGBT legal groups are successful.
Attorneys need look no further than the American Bar Association’s Resolution 113, “Promoting Diversity in the Legal Profession,” which, among other guidance, “urges all providers of legal services, particularly law firms, to expand and create opportunities at all levels of responsibility for diverse attorneys.” Working with anti-LGBT legal groups is a direct violation of these principles.
Tomorrow, I look forward to waking up and being delighted to see my wife and kids. Tomorrow, we and millions like us will still have federal marriage protections. Tomorrow, hard-won LGBT rights will still be in place. I can’t help but ask, how long will that remain true? Join us in committing to inclusion and in refusing to offer pro bono services to anti-LGBT legal groups. With your help, we can keep LGBT people and their families safe, secure, and equal under the law.
D’Arcy Kemnitz is executive director of the National LGBT Bar Association, a national association of lawyers, judges and other legal professionals that works to promote justice in and through the legal profession for the LGBT community.