Daily Inspo Meet the trans lawyer behind the biggest LGBTQ+ win in history
Last week marked one of the most important legal moments in LGBTQ+ history, surpassing even that of marriage equality: A conservative-majority Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQ+ people are protected in the workplace and public spaces by federal anti-discrimination laws. The court’s ruling was on two separate cases—one concerning sexual orientation brought by two gay men, and one brought by a transgender woman named Aimee Stephens. Stephens passed away in May, but became a hero for bringing a case to the Supreme Court that would eventually enshrine civil rights protections for transgender people throughout all 50 states.
One of her lawyers was the ACLU’s deputy director for trans justice, Chase Strangio, a trans man who called this case his “baby.” Strangio has long been at the forefront of fighting for legal justice for trans people, and now he has one of the most significant moments in the LGBTQ+ movement under his belt. GQ caught up with Strangio just days after the decision was handed down to talk about the victory, what’s coming next, and why Pride forever needs to change.
GQ: I want to formally say congratulations on winning this case. I'm wondering if you can take me back, because you were live-tweeting the SCOTUS decision and you appeared to be confused as the ruling came down. What was going through your mind?
CS: The fact that all of that is immortalized is perfect because it's also just my completely frenetic, chaotic personality. As some context, this case was argued in October. We knew it was a big case, and often the Supreme Court holds big cases until June. At the same time, it was a packed term and it was, from my perspective, a straightforward case, so we started checking on the Supreme Court on opinion days back in January [when rulings on a term’s hearings begin to be handed down]. That means we've been going through the process of being anxious and sitting there, refreshing, to see if any opinions came down for the last six months. This case was my baby—something I have been working on and devoting every ounce of my being to.
Unlike in typical years, the justices aren't at the court [due to COVID-19], so we have this new process where they are uploading opinions at 10:00 AM in 10 minute intervals. So we're sitting there, getting anxious, and all of a sudden someone yells, "It's Bostock!” My heart is racing because all we know is that it's our decision. We don't know who's written the opinion because it hasn't shown up. And then, the first thing we know is that Gorsuch writes it, which, that's hopeful for us because we wanted Gorsuch. But the opinion won't load. Nobody can load it.
Finally, I'm the first one to actually start to download the opinion itself, but it will only download one page at a time. And right on the first page, you can see that we've won, and that we've won 6 to 3. The best possible outcome we thought is that we would win 5 to 4, with Gorsuch siding with the liberals. To win 6 to 3 with the Chief already felt epic.
So finally, we're all trying to save the document and the website is crashing. There's all this speculation that the reason is because Justice Alito has this 100-page raging dissent with pictures of dictionary definitions over the last 60 years. Everyone was like, "It's a win, it's a win, but what does it say?”
Finally, we see that it's just the most beautiful win we could possibly get out of this court. It's everything that we wanted. It's a per se rule, it protects everyone, it has really good language that we can use in other contexts, and it's just completely unequivocal in ways that will help across federal law.
Read the interview on GQ
Say it Louder I’m a Black lawyer and I make less than my white colleagues
Lynette S. Hoag is a wife, mother, freelance writer, and lawyer. She lives, loves, and laughs in the eclectic, diverse community of Oak Park, Illinois.
My grandmother, Susie Miller, was born in 1900 in St. Louis, Missouri. She cleaned the houses of white people in the Jim Crow South.
Susie Miller had lots of stories about her employers. But one haunted me: After my grandmother cleaned the house of this particular white woman, the woman would go over every inch of my grandmother's work with a white glove, inspecting for dust or dirt. Then she would decide whether my grandmother got paid and, of course, the amount.
My grandmother's entire financial well-being was tied to the whims of people like this woman. Ninety-three years after my grandmother's birth, I discovered that little had changed.
In the fall of 1989, I applied to nine of the top 10 law schools in the country, as well as No. 20, my safety school. I was accepted into nine of these schools and waitlisted at Harvard. I chose the University of Michigan Law School, as I was already an undergraduate on the campus. It was ranked third.
Like every student, I spent the spring and fall of each year interviewing for jobs with the firms that came to campus and sending out "print-merged" cover letters and résumés to ones that didn't.
It was widely known — and proudly proclaimed — that many large firms were exclusively white. These "silk stocking" firms had hundreds of lawyers, starting salaries of about $80,000, and summer internships that paid $6,000 a month. Little was done to hide the fact that they did not hire Black students as summer interns or attorneys, or that they hired Black students at a rate so low it approached zero. The firms made a point of mentioning this to me when I interviewed.
The interviewer would smile when he saw me and shake my hand. After a few pleasantries, he would ask about my GPA. Then he would repeat the "one Black attorney" statistic and shrug, as if it were out of his hands. He would give me a look that said, You understand, of course, then send me on my way. I had this precise interaction countless times.
Read the story on Business Insider
More of This The role of Black lawyers in defending Black lives
Kisha A. Brown is a lawyer and the former director of the Baltimore Office of Civil Rights and the founder of Justis Connection. She strives everyday to uplift Black people while connecting with good people who look to do the same and eating a quality cupcake along the way.
So much is happening in our country right now. We’ve witnessed the back-to-back killings of unarmed Black people by the police and white vigilantes. We sorrowfully mourn the new names Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and most recently Rayshard Brooks.
As a Black woman it is heavy to witness new videos surface every day of police brutality, unnecessary arrests, and excessive force. However, these atrocities are not new, and have been occurring long before video captured and CNN broadcasted. As such, we have the right to protest systemic racism and government-sanctioned violence. We have the right to be angry at the inequality, discrimination and injustice. We have the right to mobilize and strategize to effectuate real change for ourselves and the Black community as a whole.
As thousands pour into the streets all across the country and even around the world, the call to action is the same: No Justice, No Peace.
As a lawyer, I think about the limited access to justice Black people experience in the American legal system, and how we are acutely underserved and most susceptible to systemic manipulation. Although most people tend to be intimidated by the legal system, Black people are even more hesitant to proactively engage the courts. On top of everything, the current lawyer search process can be overwhelming at best and inconclusive at worst. Now more than ever, the role of Black lawyers is critical to the advancement of defending Black lives when others fail to hear the call to duty.
This pervasive gap between those seeking legal counsel and Black lawyers leaves Black communities vulnerable and perpetually underserved in the law. The gap also exists with the business community, where leaders often claim they are not able to find any Black attorneys to hire. Yet at barely 5% of the legal industry and only 1.97% of law firm partners, Black lawyers struggle to advance. They often work twice as hard to experience half the monetary success as their white counterparts.
When we talk about supporting Black businesses, most publicity goes to restaurants and retail. There is a dearth of attention given to Black lawyers, who play a critical role in effectuating change in our society.
Read the story on Technical.ly
Finally More and more judges are admitting they too are part of the problem
If after reading the 10th (or 50th) pledge of corporate solidarity with the anti-police brutality protests your eyes are hurting from rolling so much, you’re not alone. Nike? Check. Netflix? Check. Peloton? Check. The revolution has been focus-grouped.
“Together we stand,” Amazon says, in stark white letters against a somber black background, “against systemic racism and injustice.” Great to hear.
So it has been striking to read the growing stream of anguished public statements in recent days coming from another, unexpected source: chief justices at the highest state courts across the country, often joined unanimously by their colleagues.
Judges are notoriously averse to saying anything in public beyond the words of their rulings. In normal times, that’s prudent; courts cannot appear to be taking sides on contested issues of public policy, especially ones they may be called to decide in the future.
But these are not normal times. And the justices’ highly unusual statements exist in their own space, far from the tweet-size virtue signaling of multinational corporations. They are not trite expressions of sympathy or solidarity, nor rote reiterations of the judiciary’s commitment to equal justice under law. Some are several pages long; most grapple directly with the American legal system’s central role in perpetuating racial inequality and injustice.
“We are part of the problem they protest,” Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson of the Louisiana Supreme Court wrote on June 8. “I firmly believe in the rule of law. But its legitimacy is in peril when African-American citizens see evidence every day of a criminal legal system that appears to value Black lives less than it values White lives.” She continued, “Is it any wonder why many people have little faith that our legal system is designed to serve them or protect them from harm? Is it any wonder why they have taken to the streets to demand that it does?”
Read the story on NY Times
Less of This How a police union smeared a civil rights lawyer
Debo Adegbile seemed like he’d make it through the Senate just fine. On Nov. 14, 2013, President Barack Obama nominated the 47-year-old lawyer to lead the civil rights division at the Department of Justice. No one questioned his qualifications: senior positions with the Senate Judiciary Committee and NAACP Legal Defense Fund, private practice, an expert in voting rights who twice defended the Voting Rights Act before the Supreme Court. And he had a reputation as a thoughtful lawyer, willing to listen to both sides.
Adegbile also had something else going for him. Democrats controlled the Senate, and they had just changed the rules so that presidential nominees needed only a majority of votes to be confirmed. In other words, it would be a lot easier for Obama’s picks to get through.
He should have been all set.
But in January 2014, the Fraternal Order of Police stepped in. The national law enforcement group made it its mission to take down Adegbile.
While at the LDF, Adegbile worked on an appeal for Mumia Abu-Jamal, one of the nation’s most famous death-row inmates, a former member of the Black Panthers who was convicted in the 1981 killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.
Adegbile and the team of lawyers did not argue that Abu-Jamal was innocent. It was a constitutional case, the basis of which was that Abu-Jamal should receive a new sentencing hearing because the judge’s instructions to the jury had been flawed. In 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit agreed. The Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, declined to review the circuit court’s decision and let the opinion stand.
Adegbile, who declined to provide a comment for this piece, never issued anti-police or anti-FOP statements. All he did was argue that Abu-Jamal deserved his constitutional right to a fair trial. But that didn’t stop FOP and Philadelphia law enforcement officials from portraying him as a radical who defended an “unrepentant cop killer.”
The message was clear: If you ever go against police unions, you will pay the price.
Read the story on Huffington Post
Less of This Too There are 93 US Attorneys. 2 are Black.
When Audrey Strauss became the acting US attorney in Manhattan after the dramatic showdown between her boss Geoffrey Berman and Attorney General Bill Barr last weekend, she became the seventh woman to hold one of the 93 US attorney posts nationwide.
Strauss had been Berman’s top deputy, but she wasn’t the Trump administration’s first, or even second, choice to replace him. According to Barr’s public statements, Trump planned to nominate Jay Clayton, the head of the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Barr also announced that Craig Carpenito, the US attorney for New Jersey, would temporarily replace Berman, but scuttled that plan after Berman refused to voluntarily step down.
The fight over Berman’s seat underscores the Trump administration’s practice of overwhelmingly placing white men in charge of federal prosecutor offices. Berman, Clayton, and Carpenito are white. Based on publicly available photographs and biographical information, BuzzFeed News identified 7 of 93 US attorneys are BIPOC, including two Black US attorneys: Louis Franklin Sr. in Alabama and Kenji Price in Hawaii, who is also Asian American.
US attorneys generally don’t make day-to-day decisions about who to prosecute, but set priorities and policies for their offices. They can play a hands-on role in high-profile investigations — the US attorney in Minnesota, Erica MacDonald, is involved in the Justice Department’s federal civil rights probe into the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed when a white police officer in Minneapolis used a knee chokehold on him.
Read the story on Buzzfeed