Rise Above Coffee is proud to be the LGBTQ+ Coffee that gives back, and each month, we feature a non-profit doing exceptional work in the LGBTQ+ community. This September, we’re shining a spotlight on Lambda Legal.
Lambda Legal was founded in 1973 as the Nation’s first legal organization dedicated to achieving full equality for lesbian and gay people. Today, it is the oldest and largest national organization fighting to secure the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, and everyone living with HIV.
As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, Lambda Legal does not charge their clients for legal representation or advocacy. They do not receive government funding and rely entirely on the contributions of supporters around the country.
Lambda Legal Priorities
Lambda Legal strategically selects cases that will have the greatest impact in protecting and advancing the rights of LGBT people and those with HIV.
As an example of a current open case, Lambda Legal recently partnered with three other legal organizations to jointly file a federal lawsuit on behalf of Florida families and advocacy groups challenging the recently enacted House Bill 1557, commonly referred to as the Don’t Say Gay law. The lawsuit seeks to overturn the law, arguing that it effectively silences and erases LGBTQ+ students and families.
Lambda Legal also leads high-impact public education campaigns. These help people exercise the rights they have and encourages public support for equality. One example is #DontEraseUs, a campaign to eliminate anti-LGBT curriculum laws and classroom discrimination.
Lambda Legal also advocates for public policy at the local, state, and federal level to improve the lives of LGBT people, people affected by HIV, as well as their families and allies.
Lambda Legal Beginnings
Lambda Legal has now been fighting for LGBT rights for nearly 50 years. What began as a band of volunteer lawyers struggling to break new ground for LGBT people in the American justice system has grown into a national civil rights group that has achieved unprecedented success.
When Lambda Legal began, people in the LGBT and HIV communities were penalized and barely recognized under existing laws. Due to the extreme climate of prejudice against gay people at the time, Lambda Legal became their own first client.
When founder Bill Thom applied for non-profit status, a panel of New York judges denied the application because the Lambda Legal mission was not seen as benevolent or charitable. But with pro bono help, Thom appealed to New York’s highest court and won, allowing Lambda Legal to move forward as a non-profit.
Impact Over the Years
With non-profit status granted, Lambda Legal got busy fighting for LGBT rights and protections. They fought and won some of the nation’s first cases on behalf of lesbian and gay parents and same-sex couples. In 1983, they won the first HIV/AIDS discrimination case in the US.
In 1996, they convinced the Supreme Court to determine that lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals have the same right to seek government protection against discrimination as any other group of people. They persuaded the Supreme Court again in 2003, this time in striking down all remaining state sodomy laws. And in 2015, Lambda Legal was co-counsel in one of the cases known collectively as Obergefell v. Hodges; where the Supreme Court ruled that denying same-sex couples the right to marry violated the Constitution, effectively making same sex marriage legal nationwide.
According to Lambda Legal, “Our work is vital, and our strategy works: We make the case for equality in the nation’s courts and in the court of public opinion. We make a big impact in people's lives by changing laws, policies, and ideas. Until we achieve full equality under the law in every state in this country, we will keep fighting and moving history forward.”
Coffee for a Cause
In support of Lambda Legal, we’re offering Twisted Grinds as our September #coffeeforacause. When you buy Twisted Grinds coffee during the month of September, a portion of the proceeds will be donated directly to Lambda Legal.