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Congratulations to Kevin Cathcart
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 06/03/12
Last updated on: 06/03/12
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Kevin Cathcart in 2008.

Congratulations to Kevin Cathcart on his twenty years of service as Executive Director of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. A leading strategist of the movement to achieve equal rights for glbtq people, as well as people with HIV, Cathcart has made Lambda Legal a powerful force through aggressive litigation and public education.

Cathcart graduated from Richard Stockton State College in New Jersey in 1976 and from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1978. He received his J.D. from Northeastern School of Law in 1982.

He served as executive director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) from 1984 to 1992.

At Lambda Legal, Cathcart has presided over a period of great growth, both in the size of the organization and in the scope of its work. He oversaw the opening of several regional offices (Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas). From them and the New York headquarters and the Western Regional Office in Los Angeles, Lambda Legal responds to requests for help and information from thousands of individuals facing discrimination each year.

In the past twenty years, Lambda Legal's staff has more than quadrupled and the organization's budget has grown to just over $10 million. As impressive as the annual budget sounds, it remains inadequate to the amount of work that needs to be done.

Lambda Legal was the lead counsel in two of the most significant cases in the history of the gay rights movement: Romer v. Evans (1996) and Lawrence v. Texas (2003).

In Romer, the Supreme Court invalidated a constitutional amendment passed by referendum in Colorado which impermissibly classified "homosexuals not to further a proper legislative end but to make them unequal to everyone else." In Lawrence, Lambda Legal represented two men who were arrested in Houston while having consensual sex at home. The case culminated in the Supreme Court of the United States not only striking down all remaining sodomy laws as unconstitutional, but also recognizing the dignity "as free persons" of homosexual citizens.

Lambda Legal also won a historic victory for marriage equality in Iowa in 2009, and has just recently filed other lawsuits seeking marriage equality in other states as well.

In a recent conversation with Chris Geidner, Cathcart told MetroWeekly he marvels at the progress the movement has made. "I think people that are newer to the legal profession today can't even imagine" how the legal landscape has changed in the past 20 years.

"I tell stories and I sound like I'm 5,000 years old, because the climate inside of law firms is so different today. . . . partners weren't out 10 or 20 years ago . . . firms wouldn't co-counsel cases with a group like Lambda," he explains.

"When I went to New York in 1992 to Lambda Legal, you could still count the number of openly gay partners at major law firms in New York City on your fingers," he says.

"When I went to Lambda Legal in 1992, you could still keep track of every case that was going on," he reminisced. "Even two or three years ago, who would have predicted how many DOMA challenges there are now? Who actually knows how many DOMA challenges there are?

Despite all the progress that has been made, Cathcart knows that there is much more to be done. Limited resources limit the work not only of Lambda Legal but of other gay rights organizations.

Still, he remains optimistic: "The amazing thing right now is how much opportunity there is . . . to make changes."

In the video below, Cathcart talks about the work done by Lambda Legal over the past twenty years.

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