2016-17 Annual Report
2015-16 Annual Report
2014-15 Annual Report
2013-14 Annual Report
2012-13 Annual Report
2011-12 Annual Report
2010-11 Annual Report
2009-10 Annual Report
2008-09 Annual Report
2007-08 Annual Report
2006-07 Annual Report
Columbia Law School Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic
The Columbia Law School Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic is pleased to present this Annual Report to share the Clinic’s philosophy and educational goals and to highlight the Clinic’s wide range of local, national and global contributions during the past academic year.
During the Clinic’s eleventh year, students once again dedicated thousands of hours of top-level work on behalf of clients and project partners in the widest variety yet of sexuality and gender legal issues. As the Clinic has now done for over a decade, students filed high-level amicus briefs, worked on legislation, developed policy advocacy strategies, represented an individual asylum seeker, and much more. Through these experiences, Clinic students sharpen their skills as advocates, making the most of all available resources to challenge discrimination and violence targeted at women and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals and people with HIV/AIDS.
With more than a decade of experience, the Clinic’s reputation for excellence continues both in the U.S. and abroad. Requests come from around the country and the world for our students to work on projects and develop resources, and the students consistently impress our project partners and clients with the quality and quantity of that work. Although students are forewarned that the Clinic demands a significant commitment of time and effort, spots in the Clinic continue to be in demand, with more applicants than can be admitted for the eight slots that were offered this past year. Notably, too, Clinic students from the previous year remain active participants in our work and that continuing group both produced their own substantial work and acted as mentors for the new Clinic students. The Clinic also had the benefit of two lecturers to help guide our work this semester – Marie-Amelie George and Jenny Ma, who are both alumnae of Columbia Law School and served as Associates-in-Law at Columbia Law School for the 2016-17 academic year.
The Clinic’s mission:
The Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic is an intensive learning and working environment that offers students a unique opportunity to hone lawyering and advocacy skills while working directly on cutting edge sexuality and gender law issues. The Clinic provides vital assistance to lawyers and organizations throughout the country and the world that advocate for the equality and safety of women and lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender individuals.
The Clinic emphasizes multidimensional lawyering - a practice of being strategic, smart and creative in identifying and deploying resources to advocate for social change. Our projects encompass all forms of advocacy, including litigation, public policy development, legislative drafting, training, organizing, public education, and media outreach.
The Clinic’s emphasis on reflective, theoretical inquiry complements this practical strategic training. Students in the Clinic have the important experience of reflecting on the role of the social change lawyer and on specific issues in the area of sexuality and gender law at the same time as they are in the midst of actually participating in the process of lawyering for social change.
The Clinic’s projects during the 2016-17 academic year:
The Clinic has made tremendous contributions in the field of sexuality and gender law during its eleventh year at Columbia Law School. The sampling here helps illustrate the important role the Clinic plays as a resource for organizations around the country working to secure the rights of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals.
Transgender Rights Advocacy – Prisoners: The Clinic undertook an in-depth study of the Department of Corrections’ (DOC) announcement that it would close its Transgender Housing Unit (THU), a voluntary unit for transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex inmates. Based on extensive legal research and fact-finding, including interviews of THU residents, DOC personnel and community organizations, the Clinic prepared a major report for the New York City Commission on Human Rights on the legal implications of the proposed closure. The report covers both the federal legislative history of the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA) as well as the local history of the THU, including its implementation, the plants for its closure, and the DOC’s proposed replacement plan. Relying on this research and analysis, the report offers recommendations on how the DOC could best serve to protect the safety and dignity of the THU’s inmates while ensuring compliance with PREA.
Transgender Rights Advocacy: Restroom Access for High School Students. The Clinic filed a major amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of NAACP LDF and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund in G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board. The case involved a challenge to a Virginia school board’s decision to exclude a high school student from the boys’ bathroom because he is transgender. The case was brought by Gavin Grimm after the local school board adopted a policy that forbids transgender students from using bathroom facilities consistent with their gender identity and provides that “students with gender identity issues shall be provided an alternative appropriate private facility.”
The brief reviewed a disturbing American history of rules enacted by state and local governments that physically separated one group of people from others in bathrooms, swimming pools, recreation facilities and other settings based on unfounded fears and prejudices. are now understood to violate our most basic commitments to equal treatment under law. As the brief argued: “There is a lengthy and troubling history of state actors using public restrooms and similar shared spaces to sow division and instill subordination.” The Supreme Court ultimately returned the case to the 4th circuit without issuing a decision, and the Clinic refiled its brief there.
Immigration and Asylum: The Clinic prepared an extensive application for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture for a gay man who fled Guyana fearing persecution because of his sexual orientation. In addition to preparing the client’s declaration, several witness statements, an expert affidavit, and a report on the rampant state-sponsored discrimination and violence against gay men in Guyana, clinic students also published a report documenting the serious risks that all Guyanese LGBT individuals face. Other Guyanese LGBT asylum applicants will be able to use the report to document their well-founded fear of returning to their country of origin, thereby extending the reach of the Clinic’s work. The team worked on this case, which is still pending, in collaboration with Immigration Equality, the largest national LGBTQ immigrant rights organization that provides free legal services and policy advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ and HIV-positive immigrants. In previous years, the Clinic has won asylum cases for clients from Nigeria, Brazil, Honduras, Jamaica, the Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Mexico, Peru, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
Immigration/Family Law: In a major immigration/sex discrimination case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Sessions v. Morales-Santana, the clinic filed an amicus brief on behalf of a group of the nation’s leading population and family researchers and scholars. The brief challenged the sex stereotyping in a U.S. immigration law that made it harder for fathers than mothers to pass their U.S. citizenship along to their children born outside of the United States. Relying on national and international data, the brief argued that “the challenged law’s imposition of extra barriers on nonmarital fathers’ passage of U.S. citizenship to their children—barriers that it does not place on nonmarital mothers—appears to reflect flawed gender stereotypes about the likely involvement of unwed fathers in their children’s lives.” In striking down the law on sex discrimination grounds, the Supreme Court cited the Clinic’s brief.
Reproductive Rights Advocacy: The Clinic worked with the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) to examine how the concept of dignity might be used to develop new avenues of argumentation for reproductive rights litigation. As part of this project, the Clinic produced a memorandum analyzing how violations of dignity have been, or should be, understood as tangible harms outside of the reproductive rights context, including in cases voting rights, disability rights, affirmative action, dress codes, sexual orientation, right-to-die, and the Fourth Amendment. Through an extensive survey of the relevant case law, secondary materials, and briefs, the team explored and made recommendation about how arguments employing dignity may be used to challenge state laws that attempt to restrict access to women’s health care choices.
The Clinic’s Students:
The Clinic has had the benefit of eight outstanding 2L, 3L and LLM students enrolled during the spring term of this academic year, representing a diverse array of backgrounds and legal interests. All told, the students will have put in well over 2800 hours of Clinic work during the school year.
The Clinic’s Faculty:
Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg, the Herbert and Doris Clinical Professor of Law and co-Director of Columbia Law School’s Center for Gender & Sexuality Law, as well as Executive Vice President for University Life at Columbia, directs the Clinic. Prior to joining the Columbia faculty, where she also teaches civil procedure, Professor Goldberg was on the faculty of Rutgers School of Law-Newark. Through the 1990s, Professor Goldberg was a leading lawyer with Lambda Legal, a national LGBT/HIV civil rights organization. Professor Goldberg received the Columbia Law School Willis L.M. Reese Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2009 and the Columbia Law School Public Interest Faculty Member of the Year Award in 2008. Goldberg also received the Community Vision Award from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Law Association of Greater New York in 2011 and the M. Ashley Dickerson Diversity Award from the National Association of Women Lawyers in 2008. Her scholarship has also won several awards, including three Dukeminier Awards from the Williams Institute at the UCLA Law School and the Association of American Law Schools Outstanding Scholarly Paper Award. Professor Goldberg graduated with honors from Brown University and Harvard Law School, and clerked for Justice Marie Garibaldi of the New Jersey Supreme Court.
Marie-Amélie George worked as a lecturer in law for the Clinic this year after being a member of the inaugural class of Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic students. She is an Associate in Law at Columbia Law School and a Ph.D. candidate in History at Yale University. Her doctoral dissertation, Deviant Justice: The Transformation of Gay and Lesbian Rights in America, analyzes how American law evolved from the criminalization of gay life in the 1960s to the recognition of marriage equality in 2015. Prior to Yale, Marie-Amélie worked as a litigation associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison, LLP, where her pro bono work included the successful representation of an asylum applicant based on fear of female genital mutilation. She also served as an Assistant State Attorney in Miami, prosecuting domestic violence cases. Marie-Amélie received her J.D. from Columbia Law School and holds a Master’s degree in Women’s Studies from Oxford University.
Jenny Ma joined the Clinic’s faculty this year as a lecturer in law. She is an Associate in Law at Columbia Law School, and her scholarship focuses on immigration law, especially as it intersects with gender and sexuality law. Previously, Jenny worked as a litigation associate at Patterson, Belknap, Webb and Tyler LLP, where she represented interests of amicus curiae in Obergefell v. Hodges and domestic abuse clients petitioning for legal status under the Violence Against Women Act. She clerked for Judge John T. Noonan, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Judge Robert W. Sweet of the Southern District of New York. Jenny received her B.A. from Wesleyan University, her M.A. in American Studies from Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and her J.D. from Columbia Law School.