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Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)  
 
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New England's leading public-interest legal organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV status, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) provides litigation, advocacy, and educational work in all areas of glbtq civil rights. Along with New York-based Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, GLAD is considered one of the two most successful glbtq legal advocacy groups in the United States.

With headquarters in Boston, GLAD concentrates particularly on defending glbtq rights in the six New England states. As GLAD's Executive Director Lee Swislow recently observed, "New England has been fertile territory for the recognition of lgbt equality, yielding successes in every area of importance to our communities."

Sponsor Message.

The organization has been in the forefront of securing marriage equality in Massachusetts and civil unions in Vermont, Connecticut, and New Hampshire and second-parent adoptions and guardianships across the region, as well as in invalidating laws and winning important rulings on discrimination against the and people with HIV.

Although GLAD identifies as a regional organization, it also accepts cases that reach far beyond the borders of New England and frequently works with other organizations pursuing similar goals, such as Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), and the American Civil Liberties Union's LGBT Project. It routinely files amicus curiae--or "friend of the court"--briefs in cases that could potentially affect glbtq rights in jurisdictions across the country.

Origins and Growth

GLAD was founded in Boston in 1978 in the midst of anti-gay hysteria precipitated by the entrapment of gay men in public libraries and other venues and the creation by Suffolk County District Attorney Garret Byrne of a hotline to receive anonymous tips about "homosexuals involved with young men."

In this dangerous climate, attorney John Ward, one of only two openly gay lawyers in Boston at that time, brought together a group of community leaders to defend the men arrested, stop the hotline, end the harassment, and launch legal attacks on the archaic laws that were used to intimidate gay men and lesbians.

From an all-volunteer group with an unpaid Executive Director, GLAD has grown into a highly professional organization, its growth spurred in large part by Kevin Cathcart, who served as GLAD's Executive Director from 1984 until 1992, when he left to become Executive Director of Lambda Legal.

With several full-time litigators, development officers, public education specialists, administrative associates, and interns, GLAD is now a significant presence in the legal front of the equal rights struggle in New England. Moreover, it has the ability to call upon an impressive network of cooperating attorneys, many of whom are willing to do pro bono work for the cause.

As the organization has grown, its scope has also expanded, moving from criminal defense and challenging unjust laws that target same-sex sexual activity to AIDS discrimination, family law, and the rights of the transgendered.

Current Focus and Past Accomplishments

The organization currently focuses on a number of issues, including discrimination in employment, housing, and benefits; transgender issues, including insurance coverage for hormone treatments and a challenge of IRS regulations that deny the tax deductibility of expenses for sex reassignment surgery; glbtq families and relationships, including marriage and parental rights and responsibilities; hate crimes and violence, including domestic violence in glbtq relationships; students and schools, including the right of students to form glbtq student organizations and to be free of harassment; HIV/AIDS discrimination and education, including access to health care, HIV-prevention programs, and privacy and testing concerns; and, to a lesser extent, immigration, prison, and military issues.

Dedicated to practicing "impact litigation" to achieve the widest possible results from its cases, GLAD has been involved in a number of high profile suits, ranging from winning the right of Rhode Island teenager Aaron Fricke to attend his high school prom with a male date in 1980, attaining domestic partnership benefits for employees of the University of Maine in 1996, successfully challenging a Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Law that targeted gay men who had pled guilty to misdemeanors in 1997, to winning a United States Supreme Court ruling that people with HIV are protected from discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1998.

Same-Sex Marriage

But perhaps the most famous cases litigated by GLAD are Baker et al. v. State of Vermont (1999) and Goodridge et al. v. Department of Public Health (2003), the cases that resulted in civil union in Vermont and same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.

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