Hiring an Attorney in the LGBTQ+ Community
By Lark Lewis, J.D. | Legally reviewed by Bridget Molitor, J.D. | Last reviewed August 24, 2022
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Are you a member of the LGBTQ+ community and struggling with a legal issue? Maybe you're going through a divorce, or you're part of a non-traditional family and have estate planning questions. Maybe you're wondering if you're being discriminated against at work due to your gender identity, sexual orientation, or sexual expression. If these or any other legal questions are on your mind, it might be time to seek out the skills of a qualified attorney.
This article will address the types of issues a lawyer can address, the benefits of hiring a lawyer in the LGBTQ+ community, and the best way to find an LGBTQ+-friendly attorney.
Legal Issues Unique to the LGBTQ+ Community
The list of reasons for seeking out the help of an attorney is endless, but some reasons are unique to the LGBTQ+ community. These reasons include:
- Family planning and child custody: For couples planning to use a surrogate to have a child, there are considerations such as surrogate compensation and rights of the surrogate after the baby is born. For transgender men planning to give birth, there are special considerations, too, like making sure the hospital lists the correct legal relationship between the birth parent and the child on the child's birth certificate.
- Relationship dissolution: LGBTQ+ couples may live in domestic partnerships or, since the U.S. Supreme Court recognized marriage equality under federal law in a same-sex marriage case, may choose to formally marry. Couples that choose to marry will be subject to the same family laws as straight couples, but their divorces might involve less-common issues, such as the surrogacy concerns mentioned above.
- Retirement and estate planning: A member of the LGBTQ+ community may want to put some extra thought into retirement community options or ensure that their partner or spouse is taken care of financially in the event of their death.
- Healthcare: It's especially important for those in the LGBTQ community to ensure that they have living wills, since many members of the community are estranged from their families of origin and wouldn't want family members in charge of making medical decisions for them. There's also the issue of discrimination in healthcare, particularly for trans-identified folks.
- Employment discrimination: The Supreme Court has held that LGBT employment discrimination violates discrimination laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Legal protections now exist under federal law. Many states have passed similar legal protections.
Illegal discrimination that violates employment law could involve an employer refusing to provide a trans-identified employee access to a restroom that matches the employee's gender or a gender-neutral restroom.
Trans-identified people also face discrimination in the broader employment context. For instance, more than one in four transgender people have lost a job due to discrimination, and more than three-fourths have experienced some form of workplace discrimination.
Benefits of Hiring a Lawyer in the LGBTQ+ Community
Working through a legal issue can be stressful. If you're in the LGBTQ+ community, choosing a lawyer who's in the same community may bring you a measure of comfort and sympathy that you might not otherwise feel.
Additionally, you might feel more comfortable sharing personal information with someone you believe has had a similar life experience to you and understands some of the unique challenges of being in the LGBTQ+ community.
How Do I Find an LGBTQ+-Friendly Lawyer?
If you can't find a qualified lawyer in the LGBTQ+ community, or if that status just doesn't matter to you, you can instead seek out an LGBTQ+-friendly lawyer. Often the best way to find an LGBTQ+-friendly lawyer is through word of mouth. Start by asking your friends in the LGBTQ+ community if they have an attorney they'd recommend! If that route leads to a dead-end, you can also do your own research.
The LGBTQ+ Bar Association is a legal organization that has affiliates in numerous states. They can help you find legal professionals in the LGBTQ+ community. For example, the LGBT Bar Association Foundation of Greater New York has an online form you can complete that can help connect you to a lawyer who can provide you with legal advice about your legal rights.
Law School Clinics
Some law schools, such as Harvard, have LGBTQ+ advocacy clinics. They focus in particular on representing underserved communities, including people of color in the LGBTQ+ community. Check with your local law schools to see if they have clinics that can help you.
You can do a web search to identity attorneys in your area. Including search terms like "LGBTQ," "gay," "lesbian," “transgender," or "trans" might help you locate an attorney who specializes in representing LGBTQ+ clients.
Questions To Ask a Lawyer
When seeking out an LGBTQ+-friendly attorney, consider asking questions like:
- Have you handled this legal issue before? If so, what was the outcome?
- What makes you the most qualified to handle this case?
- Why are you interested in this area of the law, and what steps do you take to ensure you're keeping up with changes in the law?
If you're not comfortable with the answers you receive to these questions, move on to another attorney.
Want More Information? Ready To Find a Lawyer?
If you are interested in learning more about legal issues facing the LGBTQ+ community, there are many organizations that provide further information. For example, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the ACLU are advocacy and public interest organizations that offer outreach and resources about LGBTQ+ rights and legislation.
Lambda Legal has a help desk that provides information and resources relating to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and HIV/AIDS status.
Finally, the National Center for Lesbian Rights was created to advance the civil rights of members of the LGBTQ+ community.
But if you have a pressing legal question you'd like to have answered, why not get started by reaching out to a local attorney at a law firm now?