Speaking at Equality Illinois' 2017 Raising the Bar Breakfast on Aug. 1, Lambda Legal Staff Attorney and Senior Workforce Strategist Gregory Nevins suggested that, at least for the near future, advancements in LGBT rights are most likely to happen at the judicial level.
"Lawyers should be really thankful for the profession that we have," Nevins said. "Courts don't deal in alternative facts."
The Equality Illinois event honors law firms that "are leading the way with regard to creating a welcoming and affirming workplace for [LGBTQ] employees," according to the organization. Its CEO, Brian Johnson, read the names of 51 firms so honored that day.
Nevins, who is based in Lambda Legal's Atlanta office, argued Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College on behalf of an Indiana woman, Kimberly Hively, who said she was not promoted in her job because she is a lesbian. In that case, attorneys successfully maintained that she was covered under federal Title VII sex-discrimination protections. Nevins is working on a similar case, Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital, that Lambda Legal will try to appeal to the United States Supreme Court after another appellate court conversely stuck to a longstanding precedent that suggesting LGBTs were not covered.
Nevins said that, with both a dysfunctional Congress and several similarly dysfunctional statehouses, the LGBT community should not expect much significant pro-LGBT legislation. Only one state, Utah, has added anti-discrimination protections for LGBTs in recent years.
Legislative pushes from the LGBT community, he predicted, will be a "slog." The legal profession needs "to be there, making sure we keep the doors open for the most vulnerable people in our community," Nevins said.
He added, "We deal in a world where we have facts on our side. That shouldn't have to be a privilege, but it is. … America needs this profession now, more than ever."