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Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund  
 
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After a devastatingly disappointing adverse ruling by the U. S. Supreme Court in Bowers v. Hardwick (1986), Lambda Legal redoubled their efforts on the issue; targeting state constitutions rather than the United States constitution, it succeeded in striking down sodomy laws in Kentucky, Tennessee, Montana, and, perhaps most satisfyingly, even in Georgia, where Bowers v. Hardwick had originated.

In 1992, Kevin Cathcart, who had been Executive Director of Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, joined Lambda Legal as Executive Director. He quickly earned a reputation as leading strategist of the movement to achieve equal rights for glbtq people, as well as people with HIV.

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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 in 2012.

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.

Cooperating attorney Michael Adams called the legal victory in Lawrence "a ringing declaration in support of the civil rights of gay people" but emphasized the need to press on in the struggle to end discrimination in employment, parental rights, and marriage laws and to protect people from anti-glbtq violence.

Preventing violence against glbtq youth has been a particular concern for Lambda Legal, which has used both lawsuits and education programs to keep young people safe at school. By holding schools responsible for protecting students from harassment and violence, and by supporting gay-straight alliances, Lambda Legal has sought to foster a healthy environment for queer youth.

In 2001 Lambda Legal filed an amicus curiae brief in the Nebraska Supreme Court in support of JoAnn Brandon, the mother of Brandon Teena, a youth born female, who had been brutally raped and murdered in 1993. The court ruled in Brandon's favor, finding Richardson County Sheriff Charles Laux's "crude and dehumanizing" questioning of Teena after he reported the rape "beyond all possible bounds of decency" and further concluded that "the county did nothing to protect Brandon [Teena] from the threat posed by [John] Lotter and [Marvin] Nissen," who subsequently murdered him. Lambda Legal attorney David S. Buckel called the ruling "a strong message to law enforcement officers to treat victims of violence with respect and not let any personal biases show through."

Over the years Lambda Legal has addressed an ever-increasing array of issues--some broad in scope, such as fairness in employment and housing, and national immigration policy; others more specific, including anti-gay initiatives in various cities and states, concerns of older gay men and lesbians, and the rights of gay and lesbian partners of victims of the September 11 attacks. In addition to working through the courts, Lambda Legal conducts its educational mission through publications, media statements, and appearances by speakers at professional conferences, in schools, and at community forums.

Lambda Legal has also been involved in the quest for marriage equality (winning a groundbreaking victory in Iowa in 2009), fighting against the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" military policy, and challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.

From its distinctly modest beginnings, with a few dedicated volunteer lawyers working out of a spare room, Lambda Legal has grown to become the largest glbtq legal advocacy organization in the United States, and one of the most effective.

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