Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Non-Profit Spotlight: NYLAG's LGBTQ Law Project

In 2008 NYLAG’s LGBTQ Law Project was founded to protect and expand the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community and to provide services that meet the unique legal needs of low-income LGBTQ New Yorkers. LGBTQ communities, especially those of color, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals and youth, are at greater risk of living in poverty and of being targeted for violence. 

“Through direct legal services and systemic advocacy efforts, NYLAG strive to work at the intersections of gender, racial and economic justice, and believe that with economic and physical security come empowerment, leadership and collective change. The LGBTQ Law Project envisions a world where all people, regardless of sexual or gender identity, have access to legal protections under the law, dignified work, adequate housing and health care, the right to create families and the ability to live fulfilling lives.”

The LGBTQ Law Project provides high-quality, free legal services in a wide variety of civil legal matters impacting the LGBTQ community, including employment, housing, public benefits, shelter access, name changes, gender marker changes, family law and life planning. They staff four legal clinics in New York City and host a variety of know-your-rights trainings and educational workshops throughout the year. 

Heather Betz, Executive Director

“NYLAG has strong partnerships within the LGBTQ and social services communities, and a strong network of referrals to reach the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ community. The organization also engage in systemic advocacy efforts to reform city and state policies, and work to ensure that LGBTQ New Yorkers have equal access to critical services, benefits and legal protections.”

Heather Betz, Executive Director shared that the LGBTQ Law Project plays an active role in advocating for the rights of LGBTQ individuals. In the last several years, in coalition with community organizations, the Mayor’s office and the New York City Council, NYLAG has supported the creation of a gender-affirming Municipal ID, reforms to State and City birth certificate and Medicaid policies, and stronger policies to enable New York City’s Commission on Human Rights and Human Resource Administration to better serve LGBTQ communities.

Tell me more about the LGBTQ Law Project?

We are small project within a larger organization. NYLAG is about 20 years old and is made up of many different units. Some units include family law, housing, special lit immigration to name a few. Each project has its own special funding. We work with the LGBTQ community.

What types of requests do get from people in need?

From name change to housing to partner violence. We get request from parents that don’t know or understand the gender non-conforming.

How do you handle the challenges of such a diverse community?

We try to do everything we can while being as efficient as possible. We’re a work in progress. We try to hit on a lot of different issues and we partner with other services related to LGBTQ. Host drop-in clinics that work with vulnerable population including youth, the elderly, trans-persons, etc.

While we’re a small staff, we are willing to go where people are. We are looking to start a legal clinic in Brooklyn.

How can people engage and support what you’re doing?

We are always looking for volunteer attorneys who want to come to legal clinics. We do a good deal of work on bullying. It’s a complex issue. We are interested in working with attorneys who know/understand this issue. Real Estate Attorneys are other type of volunteers we are interested in engaging.

In general, we maintain a list of LGBTQ attorneys for referral services that we happily share with those in need of services.

What is the LGBTQ Law Project doing in terms of fundraising?

We have a small advisory board. Looking to raise the profile and funds for the organization. Aim to do an event in 2017.

The work of the LGBTQ Law Project is generously supported by The Orrick Community Responsibility Program.

To learn more about NYLAG’s LGBTQ Laws Project go to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Written by Ingrid Galvez,
Chair, Diversity & Inclusion and Programming, NGLCCNY

Organizational Development Consultant, Strategic Remedy Group

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