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25 Years of LGBTQ+ Civil Rights in the South

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September 13, 2022
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Pride in Atlanta, GA

For the last 25 years, our Southern Regional Office has been fighting for justice and winning cases that make a difference not just in the South but nationwide, impacting the lives of LGBTQ+ folks and everyone living with HIV. When we opened our doors in Atlanta in 1997, Lambda Legal was the first national LGBTQ+ organization to set up shop and start litigating in the South. Since then, our lawyers have fought for marriage equality, full parental rights, recognition of transgender folks, and many more essential rights. 

Here are 10 cases the Southern Regional Office has won and are currently fighting that get us closer to our goal of achieving full rights for the LGBTQ+ community and those living with HIV. 

B.P.J. v. West Virginia State Board of Education  

Filed: 2021 

Status: Ongoing 

We brought this lawsuit on behalf of 11-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson. She was looking forward to trying out for the girls’ cross-country team when Gov. Jim Justice signed HB 3293 into law, which prevents transgender student athletes from playing sports with the team that matches their gender identity. In July 2021, Becky was granted a preliminary injection by a district court judge, allowing her to try out for the girls’ cross-country team. The full hearing is still forthcoming. 

Campos v. Cohen 

Filed: 2021 

Status: Victory 

This lawsuit challenged North Carolina’s discriminatory policy requiring transgender people to have undergone “sex reassignment surgery” for them to obtain an accurate birth certificate reflecting their gender identity. In June 2022, a federal court issued a consent judgement, allowing transgender folks to correct the gender marker on their birth certificate without undergoing surgery as a result of the lawsuit Lambda Legal filed.  

Carcaño v. Cooper 

Filed: 2016 

Status: Victory 

When North Carolina passed HB 2, also known as the “bathroom bill,” Lambda Legal argued that it was unconstitutional because it violated the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, discriminating based on sex and sexual orientation, in addition to being an invasion of privacy for transgender people. The law also violated Title IX by discriminating against students and school employees on the basis of sex After a battle in court, the judge approved a consent decree that said trans people in North Carolina have the right to use the correct public restrooms for their gender. 

Cousins et al. v. The School Board of Orange County et al. 

Filed: 2022 

Status: Ongoing 

We filed a federal lawsuit challenging the enacted Florida House Bill 1557, commonly referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” law. The lawsuit argues that the law, which bans discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3 and restricts such discussions for students through grade 12 based on undefined standards of appropriateness, effectively silences and erases LGBTQ+ students and families. The law demands that school districts implement its terms and empowers any parent who believes a school is violating the law to sue the school district. 

East v. BlueCross BlueShield of Louisiana  

Filed: 2014 

Status: Victory 

Lambda Legal filed a federal class action discrimination lawsuit against BlueCross BlueShield of Louisiana after the insurer, Louisiana’s largest, announced it would no longer accept federally funded premium subsidies that enable low-income Louisianans living with HIV to purchase health insurance. In March 2014, the U.S. District Court hearing came to a favorable ending when BlueCross BlueShield of Louisiana and two other Louisiana insurers agreed to continue to accept federally funded third party premium payments on behalf of lower-income Louisianans living with HIV. 

Easter v. HHS 

Filed: 2021 

Status: Victory 

We declared victory on behalf of Kelly Easter, an East Nashville, Tenn., woman in June 2022. For more than two years, she had been denied the opportunity to foster refugee children through a federally funded program solely because she is a lesbian. After she filed a federal lawsuit, the taxpayer-funded agency involved told the federal government it no longer has a religious objection to working with a single lesbian foster parent, allowing Kelly to finally open her home to foster children. 

Glenn v. Brumby 

Filed: 2008 

Status: Victory 

Vandy Beth Glenn worked for two years in the General Assembly’s Office of Legislative Counsel as an editor and proofreader of bill language. In 2007, Glenn informed her immediate supervisor that she planned to proceed with her transition from male to female. When that information was passed on to the General Assembly’s Legislative Counsel, Sewell Brumby, he fired Glenn on the spot. In December 2011, the Eleventh Circuit upheld a lower court ruling that the Georgia General Assembly discriminated against Glenn. 

L.E. v. Lee 

Filed: 2021 

Status: Ongoing 

Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit on behalf of 14-year-old Luc Esquivel who is banned from participating on the boys’ golf team at his high school in Knoxville, Tennessee because he is transgender. Luc is prevented from trying out for the boys’ golf team because Tennessee passed a discriminatory law in 2021 (SB 228), which prohibits transgender boys from playing on boys’ teams and prohibits transgender girls from playing on girls’ teams.  

McGee v. Cole 

Filed: 2013 

Status: Victory 

We filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia on behalf of three same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry, and the child of one of the couples. Plaintiffs argued that West Virginia’s marriage ban unfairly discriminated against same-sex couples and their children and sends a purposeful message that lesbians, gay men, and their children are second-class citizens who were undeserving of the legal sanction, respect, protections, and support that different-sex couples and their families enjoy through marriage. 

Strickland v. Day 

Filed: 2017 

Status: Victory 

When Chris Strickland and her ex-wife got divorced, the court determined that the anonymous sperm donor for their children had rights that displaced Chris’s. Lambda Legal filed an appeal, arguing that the trial court discriminated against a child based on the circumstances of his birth and contrary to his best interests and violated the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution by ignoring the familial relationship between Chris and her sons. In April 2018, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that married same-sex couples should have the same parenting rights as different sex couples.