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social sciences

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National Center for Lesbian Rights  
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During his years at NCLR, Minter has been involved in several high profile cases. In 2001, for example, Minter represented Sharon Smith in her successful attempt to win the right to file a wrongful death suit after her partner, Diane Whipple, was mauled to death by a neighbor's dogs in San Francisco. He gained national recognition in 2008 when he argued the "Marriage Case" before the California Supreme Court. In 2009, he appeared before the Court in the effort to nullify Proposition 8, the initiative that overturned marriage equality in the Golden State.

Among Minter's numerous honors include receiving a $100,000 "Leadership for a Changing World" award from the Ford Foundation in 2005 for his work on behalf of glbtq rights and being named California Lawyer of the Year in 2009 by California Lawyer. He was also selected one of six Lawyers of the Year in 2008 by the national legal publication Lawyers USA.

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Among other NCLR staff members are Helen J. Carroll, an acclaimed former basketball coach who directs the organization's Sports Project; Noemi Calonje, director of the Immigration Project; Jody Marksamer, staff attorney and director of NCLR's Youth Project; Joyce Pierson, consultant to the Elder Law Project; Melanie Rowen, a staff attorney who works on the full range of the organization's casework; Cathy Sakimura, a staff attorney who directs NCLR's Family Protection Project; Liz Seaton, Managing Attorney and Director of Projects; Christopher Stoll, senior pro bono attorney; and Amy Todd-Gehr, senior staff attorney.

In addition to litigation, NCLR also advocates on behalf of equal rights and educates the public about the needs of glbtq citizens. In California, it has worked closely with Equality California to inform legislators and the public generally as to the effects of proposed legislation on glbtq constituencies.


When NCLR was founded, most of its cases were related to ensuring that glbtq parents could retain custody of their children after they came out, and the organization continues to be active in family law and parenting issues. In 1986, NCLR introduced second-parent adoption as a legal strategy for protecting same-sex families with children, a strategy that has since been embraced successfully in several states. In 1988, NCLR won one of the country's first custody battles for a parent with AIDS on behalf of Artie Wallace, a gay father, whose son was kidnapped by his ex-wife in 1987.

In 1993, NCLR became the first glbtq legal organization to launch an advocacy program for youth. The Youth Project furthers the rights of glbtq youth through education, public policy advocacy, and precedent setting casework. The Youth Project attempts to protect glbtq students from discrimination and to promote gay-straight alliances in schools. In addition, it helps to prevent the abuse of glbtq youth in foster homes and juvenile justice facilities and to safeguard the rights of transgender youth wishing to transition while they are in state custody.

Under Kendall's leadership, NCLR has dramatically expanded its advocacy on behalf of several glbtq constituencies, including senior citizens, immigrants, and the transgendered.

In 1998, the NCLR became the first national legal organization to establish an Immigration Project. The Project is concerned with the discrimination faced by bi-national couples, by glbtq immigrants, and by those living with HIV or AIDS. It has been particularly active on behalf of glbtq immigrants seeking asylum because of the persecution they face in their countries of origin.

In 1999, NCLR became the first glbtq legal organization to launch a permanent Elder Law Project. The Project is concerned with a wide range of challenges faced by glbtq senior citizens, from discrimination in nursing homes to financial planning, partnership protection, and end-of-life issues.

In 2001, NCLR became the first glbtq legal organization to launch a Transgender Law Project, which subsequently evolved into the Transgender Law Center. NCLR and the Transgender Law Center are recognized as national leaders in helping shape transgender law.

Also in 2001, the NCLR established a Sports Project, which aims to combat and in sports. Among NCLR's best known cases is one it filed on behalf of former Penn State basketball player Jennifer Harris, which alleged that she suffered racial and sexual orientation discrimination at the hands of women's basketball coach Rene Portland. While the case was settled out of court and the settlement is confidential, Coach Portland resigned soon after the settlement was announced.

California Marriage Cases

NCLR is perhaps best known for its work on behalf of marriage equality in California, but it has been involved in seeking recognition of glbtq relationships for a long time. It advocated strongly for the domestic partnership law in California and has sued to ensure its enforcement and to clarify its breadth. It has also filed amici curiae briefs in the marriage equality suits in numerous other states, including those that resulted in victory in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Iowa.

In California, NCLR was the lead counsel representing same-sex couples, Equality California, and Our Family Coalition in the marriage case that ultimately resulted in the California Supreme Court's historic ruling in favor of marriage equality.

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