Legalizing Gay: The Lawyers, Part 1- By Ari Ezra Waldman
To celebrate Pride 2012 and to honor the great civil rights and political successes we have earned recently, I would like to offer a series of columns on the lawyers, advocates, scholars, and individual leaders who have sacrificed so much, developed novel legal arguments, and won the legal victories upon which we stand today. It is impossible to include everyone; an entire life’s work would fail to honor all of our forefathers. But these few representatives symbolize the contributions of the greater whole: a group of men and women, young and old, who have sacrificed so that we can live a life of freedom today. In today’s and tomorrow’s columns, the public interest lawyers.
Public interest lawyers are often the unsung heroes of civil rights movements. They toil in virtual anonymity, earning much less than their colleagues in private practice and rarely getting the recognition and thanks they deserve. Even regular readers of this column, where I have endeavored to include the names of lawyers who represent our interests, likely are more familiar with John Lawrence (of Lawrence v. Texas) than John Ward, the founder of Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), and recognize the names of press-hungry activists sooner than they would recognize the contributions of the Honorable Donna Hitchens, founder of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). Along with the illustrious Ruth Harlow and Jon Davidson, the former and current legal director at Lambda Legal, respectively, these men and women (excepting Judge Hitchens) are all recipients of the LGBT Bar Association’s Dan Bradley Award, the group’s highest honor.