Karen Loewy

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Karen L. Loewy is Senior Counsel and the Seniors Strategist for Lambda Legal, the oldest and largest national legal organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV. As Senior Counsel, Loewy handles groundbreaking litigation and supervises attorneys in all areas of Lambda Legal’s work, including fighting for recognition of same-sex relationships; battling anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and health care; and securing the rights of LGBT parents. As Lambda Legal’s Seniors Strategist, Ms. Loewy is a leading voice nationally on the legal issues affecting LGBT seniors and people aging with HIV.

Since joining Lambda Legal in 2013, Ms. Loewy has developed and expanded Lambda Legal’s work addressing the legal needs of LGBT and HIV-affected older adults. She works collaboratively with local and national aging organizations to advance policies that protect the rights of the LGBT and HIV-positive aging community. She also routinely speaks publicly on LGBT and HIV aging issues in areas that include life planning, access to health care, and housing. 

As lead counsel in Wetzel v. Glen St. Andrew Living Community, a case on behalf of a lesbian senior alleging harassment and discrimination in her senior living community, Ms. Loewy obtained a groundbreaking decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, holding that a landlord may be held liable under the Fair Housing Act for failing to protect a tenant from known, discriminatory harassment at the hands of other tenants. Ms. Loewy also served as co-counsel in Smith v. Avanti, the first court decision in the country holding that the Fair Housing Act’s sex discrimination prohibition covers discrimination against LGBT people.

Ms. Loewy has played an integral role in ensuring safety net benefits for LGBT older adults. As a result of Ms. Loewy’s advocacy on behalf of Robina Asti, a 92-year-old transgender woman who was denied survivor’s benefits by the Social Security Administration (SSA) after her husband’s death, the Social Security Administration updated its policies and procedures regarding the ability of transgender individuals to receive benefits through their spouses. Ms. Loewy was also part of the team that successfully sued the SSA in Murphy v. Colvin and Williams v. Colvin, challenging the SSA’s unconstitutional use of discriminatory state marriage bans to deny the spousal status and eligibility for Social Security benefits of spouses, widows, and widowers who validly married partners of the same-sex. At present, Ms. Loewy is part of Lambda Legal’s team challenging the SSA’s denial of Social Security survivor’s benefits as unconstitutional when same-sex couples were barred by discriminatory marriage laws from meeting the statutory requirements for survivor’s benefits in Ely v. Berryhill (District of Arizona), Thornton v. Berryhill (Western District of Washington), Gonzales v. Berryhill (District of New Mexico), and Colosimo v. Berryhill (Western District of North Carolina).

Ms. Loewy is also one of the key players behind Lambda Legal’s efforts to secure the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, along with all of its attendant protections and responsibilities. Aside from her marriage recognition work pertaining to Social Security benefits, Ms. Loewy served as counsel in the successful challenges to the discriminatory marriage bans in Louisiana in Robicheaux v. Caldwell, North Dakota in Jorgensen v. Montplaisir, West Virginia inMcGee v. Cole, and Puerto Rico in Conde Vidal v. García Padilla. She also served as lead counsel in Birchfield v. Armstrong, successfully suing on behalf of a class of Florida widows and widowers seeking accurate death certificates for their deceased spouses that acknowledged they were married and recognized them as the surviving spouses.

Ms. Loewy has worked extensively on litigation and legislative efforts to win protections for LGBT parents and their children. As party counsel and as friend of the court, she has successfully advocated across the country for legal recognition of parent-child relationships of children brought into families formed by same-sex couples, and has worked to ensure that a parent’s LGBT identity plays no role in custody determinations.

Ms. Loewy has dedicated her entire professional life to advancing the rights of LGBT people and those living with HIV. Prior to joining Lambda Legal, Ms. Loewy was a Senior Staff Attorney with GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), where she engaged in a wide range of LGBT impact litigation and policy work throughout New England for nearly 12 years. She served as lead counsel in Hunter v. Rose, a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court case establishing the joint legal parentage of children born into same-sex spousal relationships, and O’Donnabhain v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, ensuring equal tax treatment for gender confirming health care.  Loewy was also a member of the legal teams that successfully litigated Goodridge v. Department of Public Health and Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health, GLAD’s marriage equality cases in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and played a central strategic role in the marriage equality effort in Rhode Island over many years.

Ms. Loewy is a graduate of Fordham University School of Law, where she was a Stein Scholar for Public Interest Law and Ethics, and Brandeis University, where she obtained a B.A. in Music and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. In 2006, the Fordham University School of Law’s Stein Scholars Program recognized Ms. Loewy with its Distinguished Graduate Award.

Ms. Loewy is a member of the state bars of Massachusetts and New York.