By Tiela Chalmers*
On a freezing morning in early January, more than one thousand attorneys gathered in Bill Graham Auditorium for the How to be a Good Ally: A Strategic Engagement Conference to learn more about the legal challenges we could be facing in the next four years under the Trump Administration, and how those interested could get involved. This event inspired the following series of blog posts on immigration, hate crimes, and LGBT rights.
California Rural Legal Assistance, Transgender Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights spoke about LGBT rights under the Trump Administration. The audience was immediately reassured that the right to same-sex marriage, which came ultimately from the Supreme Court, was unlikely to be threatened (at least immediately). More at risk are the rights ensured by President Obama’s executive orders, including Title VII and IX rights.
On Monday, January 30th, the White House announced plans to leave in place President Obama’s Executive Order that created new workplace protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. While this is a start, the President could at any time issue an executive order that could roll back protections in other areas. His Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch doesn’t have a paper trail on LGBT issues, but he does have a history of siding with the religious right, notably siding with Hobby Lobby in their famous contraception case. We have lived through difficult times before, and we will make it through to the other side.
We are really just at the beginning of a transgender rights revolution, and there may now be a retrenchment. 90% of transgender people experience employment discrimination, and 70% are harassed in schools. They are incarcerated at six times the rate of cisgender (non transgender) people, and are frequently the targets of sexual assault (while 1 in 500,000 immigrants in detention is transgender, 1 in 5 are sexually assaulted). Kris Hayashi, Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center said, “More of us will die in the coming years. We are clear about this. We must do everything we can to keep people alive.”
Please join me in remaining vigilant. If there are actions that can be taken we will reach out and respond as a community.
Tiela Chalmers is the CEO and General Counsel of the Alameda County Bar Association the Volunteer Legal Services Corporation. Tiela has been a consultant in the fields of legal services and pro bono, handling projects including coordinating the Shriver Housing Project in Los Angeles, the largest of the “civil Gideon” pilot projects in California, and working with the ABA and a national working group on updating the Pro Bono Standards. Previously the Executive Director of Volunteer Legal Services Program in San Francisco, Tiela worked at VLSP for many years with Tanya Neiman until her death. Prior to VLSP, Tiela was an attorney at Farella, Braun + Martel in San Francisco.
*Please note that the views expressed in this blog are those of the author, and do not represent the views of the Alameda County Bar Association, or the Volunteer Legal Services Corporation.