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Law school hosts LGBT-rights conference
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times

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Hundreds gathered at the Chicago-Kent College of Law March 5 as the Chicago-Kent Lambdas hosted the 2011 LGBT civil-rights conference March 5. Attorneys and law students gathered to hear from experts on a variety of LGBT-rights issues, including the policing, prosecution and punishment of LGBT people.

Panelists at this session included Joey Mogul, an attorney at the Peoples Law Office who focuses on civil rights cases and co-author of the book Queer Injustice; and Owen Daniel-McCarthy and Avi Rudnick, both project attorneys at the Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois.

One thing that made this panel different from the other panels that day was its free-form nature. Instead of each panelist taking 15 minutes to speak with a Q&A session afterwards, the panelists spoke when they had something to add to the topic, with the Q&A portion at the end.

Mogul said the panel was a way to address "some of the things we are seeing and ways we can challenge the various criminal charges brought up against LGBTQ people." Then Rudnick spoke about "how we practice as queer people and also how we defend and advocate for queer clients" in this landscape. Daniel-McCarter said "homophobia and transphobia is systemic and as practitioners we need to have in our framework as we practice so we know where our clients are coming from."

Then the panelists shared their strategies on cases and their personal stories of being LGBTQ attorneys. They also related some of the roadblocks they face when they deal with judges and juries as they defend clients. What was troubling to the panel was the disproportionate number of LGBTQ people of color who are getting charged with crimes. Another thing they pointed out was the conduct of some police officers who arrest and charge LGBTQ people. The other thing the panelists said that directly affects Trans people is police officers who strip search suspects to determine their genitalia before they are locked up. This results in Trans people getting put into cells with people who are of the opposite sex.

Mogul's focus was on cases involving public indecency, solicitation and prostitution where individuals are arrested and charged as a result of entrapment. One area of the city that gay men and Trans women are being targeted for these kinds of crimes is "The Magic Hedge" at the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary where some are getting arrested and charged despite the fact that they are just there to look at the birds according to Mogul.

Daniel-McCarter remarked that transgender people are the most marginalized members of the LGBTQ community which makes them more vulnerable to arrest and conviction. One area that Daniel-McCarter touched on was the fact that people still use the wrong pronoun when addressing trans people and this has happened to his clients in the courtroom.

Rudnick spoke about the voir dire process, which allows him to find out about potential jurors thoughts, feelings and potential prejudices so he can defend his clients.

Other forums covered subjects such as transgender rights; hate crimes and bullying; elder law; and marriage-equality legislation. There were also be opening and closing receptions (sponsored by, respectively, Hinshaw & Culbertson and Goldberg, Weisman & Cairo).

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