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Omar Gonzalez-Pagan

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Omar Gonzalez-Pagan is a Senior Attorney and the Health Care Strategist at Lambda Legal, the oldest and largest national legal organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of LGBTQ people and people living with HIV. He has played a critical role in advancing the rights of LGBTQ people under the U.S. Constitution and federal civil rights laws in virtually every aspect of our lives, including education, employment, health care, and housing.

Gonzalez-Pagan was instrumental in achieving two of the latest victories for LGBTQ people before the U.S. Supreme Court—Obergefell v. Hodges and Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. As a member of the legal team in Obergefell, he helped secure marriage equality nationwide. He was also lead counsel in Conde-Vidal v. Rius-Armendariz and counsel in Robicheaux v. Caldwell, where he successfully challenged Puerto Rico’s and Louisiana’s marriage bans. Gonzalez-Pagan also co-authored Lambda Legal’s amicus briefs to the Supreme Court in Bostock and EEOC and Aimee Stephens v. R.G. G.R Harris Funeral Homes, in which the Supreme Court held that discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender status are forms of unlawful sex discrimination under the federal Civil Rights Act, as well as organized the brief by 206 businesses urging the Supreme Court to do so. Before that, he helped pave the way for the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock by securing two landmark decisions:  Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College and Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc., the first and second appellate decisions holding sexual orientation discrimination was unlawful under Title VII. As lead counsel in Smith v. Avanti, Gonzalez-Pagan also obtained the first court decision in the country holding that the Federal Housing Act’s sex discrimination prohibition covers discrimination against LGBTQ people.

Gonzalez-Pagan has also obtained key legal victories for the rights of transgender students. He was lead counsel in Evancho v. Pine-Richland School District and counsel in Adams v. The School Board of St. Johns County, the first case of its kind to go to trial, holding that the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee and Title IX protect transgender students from discrimination in schools (including bathrooms).

As Health Care Strategist, Gonzalez-Pagan has been a leading advocate for the Affordable Care Act, particularly as it applies to LGBTQ people. Gonzalez-Pagan serves as lead counsel in Whitman-Walker Clinic v. HHS, in which he represents a coalition of LGBTQ health care providers and organizations challenging the Trump administration’s attempts to roll back health care protections for LGBTQ people. He has been counsel in challenges to discriminatory exclusions of coverage for transgender employees’ gender-affirming health care, such as in Simonson v. Oswego County and Kadel v. Folwell; authored amicus briefs urging courts to adopt the most protective standards possible under the ACA, as he did in Ballenger v. Providence Hospital; and co-authored amicus briefs highlighting the importance of the ACA for people living with HIV and LGBTQ people, as he did in California v. Texas.

A fierce advocate in the fight against the misuse of religion to justify discrimination against LGBTQ people in health care, Gonzalez-Pagan serves as lead counsel in Conforti v. St. Joseph’s Healthcare, where he represents a transgender man denied a hysterectomy by a Catholic hospital; is part of the legal team in County of Santa Clara v. HHS, where he represents a coalition of LGBTQ health care providers and organizations against the Trump’s administrations denial-of-care rule; and has co-authored amicus briefs seeking to protect people’s access to reproductive health care, in Zubik v. Burwell and Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania.

Gonzalez-Pagan is also a key architect of Lambda Legal’s efforts to secure the ability of transgender people to obtain accurate identity documents, including birth certificates. He has served as lead counsel in Arroyo González v. Rosselló Nevares, Foster v. Andersen, and MHW v. Cuomo, where he secured the right of transgender people born in Puerto Rico, Kansas, and New York to obtain accurate birth certificates consistent with their gender identity, as well as Gore v. Lee, challenging Tennessee’s discriminatory birth certificate policies.

A former prosecutor, Gonzalez-Pagan successfully represented Thomas Hamm against the City of New York and correctional officers following a brutal attack on Mr. Hamm while he visited his long-time partner, who was incarcerated at Rikers Island. Gonzalez-Pagan also co-authored an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit supporting the constitutionality of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in United States v. Hill.

Recognized as an emerging leader and passionate advocate for the rights of LGBTQ people, Gonzalez-Pagan has spoken at many of America’s leading law schools, including Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Harvard, NYU, Penn, and Stanford, and bar associations. He has been recognized with the Gay City News Impact Award (2019), as a Top Lawyer Under 40 by the Hispanic National Bar Association (2018), one of the Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40 by the National LGBT Bar Association (2016), a Public Interest Leader by the Boston Bar Association (2012), and with the Young Alumni Award by the University of Pennsylvania Law School (2016). He is regularly quoted by news outlets regarding the civil rights of LGBTQ people and their families, and has made numerous media appearances, including MSNBC and CBS News

Prior to joining Lambda Legal, Gonzalez-Pagan worked for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as an Assistant Attorney General, a Special Assistant District Attorney, and an Associate General Counsel to the Massachusetts Inspector General.

Gonzalez-Pagan received his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he was an editor of the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law. He also possesses a Master’s in Environmental Studies from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Cornell University. Gonzalez-Pagan was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He is fluent in Spanish.