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Postcard from Lavender Law

Sharon McGowan,
LGBT and AIDS Project
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September 9, 2008

Greetings from the (free!) state of California. I write from San Francisco, where we just finished up the 20th installment of Lavender Law, the annual conference of the newly renamed National LGBT Bar Association. As I checked into the hotel, all of the staff noted how everyone seemed to be so happy — well, that’s what you get for holding a conference with LGBT lawyers in California! There was a running joke about how many of the attendees would take a break from the conference activities to go down and tie the knot (legally) after years of commitment to their partners.

Yet throughout the weekend we were reminded that the freedom that we now enjoy in California to marry the one we love hangs in the balance, and each one of us has a duty to step up in any way that we can. I had a chance to visit with Elizabeth Gill, our LGBT Project staff attorney at the Northern California office, who is an integral part of the No on 8 team. And even though Project Director Matt Coles flew into San Francisco for Lav Law on Wednesday, I didn’t actually meet up with him until Saturday afternoon, when he was coming back to the conference after attending the kick-off party for the No on 8 office on Market Street.

While at Lav Law, I participated on a few panels relating to working for transgender equality, and a panel about the use of social science in LGBT litigation. It was an honor to talk about the amazing work of Leslie Cooper and others in the Project, including their efforts in putting together the ACLU publication, Too High a Price. Countless people come up to me after the session wanting to know how they could get a copy. You can download a PDF of the book here, or request a copy by emailing

Much fun was had at the Dan Bradley Awards ceremony on Thursday night, where we all had a chance to congratulate Shannon Minter and Therese Stewart (from the City of San Francisco — and a newlywed!) for their work on the marriage case. On Friday morning, I attended a history panel — “The Way We Were” — which provided an important review of where we’ve been and how we’ve gotten to where we are now. Phyllis Randolph Frye , the grand/godmother of the transgender civil rights movement, Abby Rubenfeld, and Bridget Wilson all shared their thoughts from the podium, as did those in the audience, including Nan Hunter, founder of the ACLU (then-named) Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.

We wrapped up with a panel called “Where We Are Going,” where Matt and others made clear that there is simply nothing more important than beating back Prop 8. So, as I’ve taken a few extra days of vacation here in the Bay Area, I have been talking to everyone I can — from my wine pourer in Sonoma to my straight friends in Oakland — about how they need to vote no on 8. Tomorrow, I’ll take a stroll down Market Street to offer my support. What will you do today?

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