Raising the Bar

Texas LGBT Law Section celebrates 20th anniversary at Houston meeting.

By Ryan M. Leach

In 1996, a group of LGBTQ lawyers approached the State Bar of Texas and asked to create a group called the Gay and Lesbian Law Section.

The bar’s board of directors voted 19 to 17 against the proposal, marking the first time it had rejected a new section, according to the February 1997 issue of The BAHR (Bar Association for Human Rights) Reporter.

Houston lawyer and activist Mitchell Katine had obtained more than 50 signatures from attorneys indicating their desire to join the section. But the board said a majority of State Bar of Texas members would “not feel comfortable with a section addressing gay and lesbian issues.”

At the time, U.S. district judge Norman Black, who served as liaison to the State Bar of Texas for the federal judiciary, told the board, “I’ve always learned a lot about my fellow members from these meetings. Today’s the first time I wasn’t real proud.”

The board’s decision did not deter those behind the proposed LGBTQ section, however. Numerous attorneys wrote to the board to protest the vote, with one letter garnering 240 signatures from State Bar of Texas members. In 1998, the board finally agreed to create a Sexual Orientation and Gender Identification Issues Section, now called the LGBT Law Section of the State Bar of Texas.

In June, the LGBT Law Section will celebrate its 20th anniversary during the State Bar of Texas’ annual meeting at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Houston. The section has grown from a small to medium size among other bar groups dedicated to minorities such as African-American lawyers, or to areas of practice such as Oil, Gas and Energy Resources.

“This law section gives LGBTQ people a seat at the table as it relates to the practice of law in Texas,” says John Trevino, a gay attorney and former chair of the section. “The LGBT Law Section was created to promote legal education and advocacy about LGBT issues, HIV-related law, and to promote LGBT attorneys within the legal profession. In the last few years, this section has been able to contribute a great deal to the State Bar in regards to marriage equality, among other things.”

Indeed, LGBTQ legal issues go beyond marriage equality. For instance, when immigrants seek asylum in U.S. due to the violent persecution of LGBTQ people in their home countries, finding qualified attorneys is vital. Many people also seek out attorneys to represent them in discrimination cases. Neither state nor federal law explicitly prohibits anti-LGBTQ job bias.

On June 22, the section will host a full day of sessions on LGBTQ issues that will be open to all attorneys during the State Bar meeting.

What: LGBT Law Section Champagne Social Reception
When: 5:30 to 7 p.m.on June 1
Where: Norton Rose Fulbright, 48th Floor Rooftop Reception Terrace, 1301 McKinney
More info: LGBTLawTX.com

This article appears in the June 2018 edition of OutSmart magazine.  


Ryan Leach

Ryan Leach is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine. Follow him on Medium at www.medium.com/@ryan_leach.
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