Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic

Founded in 2006, the Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic was the first law school clinic in the United States to be directed by a full-time law school faculty member and dedicated to legal and public policy issues related to gender and sexuality.

 

The clinic emphasizes multidimensional lawyering, which is the practice of being strategic, smart, and creative in identifying and deploying resources to advocate for social change. Clinic students learn about civil and human rights advocacy by exploring a host of fundamental questions: 

  • What does it mean to advocate on behalf of a community? 
  • How do advocates determine issues and set priorities? 
  • What are the criteria for choosing strategies, including litigation, public education, grassroots advocacy, and legislative efforts? 
  • How can those strategic choices be successfully executed? 
  • How do advocates contend with a shifting political and legal terrain?

Students engage with these questions while participating directly in the evolution of sexuality and gender law. Classroom sessions focus on cultivating strong advocacy skills through active consideration of constitutional doctrine, procedural strategy, ethical canons, social science research, and constitutional and political theory. Some classroom sessions simulate meetings held by staff attorneys at sexuality and gender law organizations so that students can hone their presentation and persuasion skills. Simulations give students the chance to step into the role of a staff attorney at sexuality and gender law organizations so they can hone their presentation and persuasion skills.

Students: 

  • Draft amicus briefs and outreach to potential amici.
  • Prepare reports and advocacy materials for civil rights and social justice organizations.
  • Provide domestic organizations with analysis and drafting of testimony on proposed legislation at the local, state, and national levels.
  • Promote public education and media campaigns that may involve writing press releases, letters to the editor, and op-ed pieces.
  • Develop theories for cases under consideration or in progress by organizations focused on LGBTQ+ or women’s rights.
  • Representing LGBTQ+ and HIV+ clients in their asylum cases.

Fieldwork is often done in partnership with legal staff at organizations focused on sexuality and gender issues and with lawyers at firms handling sexuality- and gender-related cases. Partner organizations vary from semester to semester. They may include:

  • Lambda Legal 
  • ACLU LGBTQ Project
  • GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders
  • National Center for Lesbian Rights
  • Sylvia Rivera Law Project
  • International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
  • Legal Momentum (formerly NOW Legal Defense & Education Fund)
  • ACLU Women’s Rights Project
  • Immigration Equality
  • Transgender Legal Defense Fund
  • NYC Commission on Human Rights
     

Related Centers and Programs

Center for Gender and Sexuality Law

Columbia Law School established the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law as an incubator for bold new approaches to complex issues facing gender and sexual justice movements. The center is home to research projects and initiatives focused on gender, sexuality, reproductive rights, bodily autonomy, and gender identity and expression across law, policy, and professional practice. Students can supplement coursework with lectures, panel discussions, conferences, and guest speaker series on contemporary issues.