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Unprecedented Past. Unstoppable Future.

For 50 years, Lambda Legal has represented unprecedented legal victories and a vision of equality for LGBTQ+ people and everyone living with HIV.

Our History

In 1973, Bill Thom founded Lambda Legal with only $25 in the bank and the organization’s name taped to his apartment mailbox with a Band-Aid. The goal was to focus on litigation first, and education second. Nearly fifty years later, Lambda Legal has done just that, taking on cases that address marriage equality, youth in schools, LGBTQ+ families, and workplace discrimination while creating education campaigns around HIV stigma, transgender sports bans and access to health care. Take a look.

  • In Re Thom

    Our first case, filed on our own behalf, forces the state of New York to allow Lambda Legal to form as a nonprofit organization. Basing our Articles of Incorporation on those of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense & Education Fund (PRLDEF), Atty. Bill Thom founds Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, officially authorized to practice law on October 18, 1973.

  • People v. West 12 Tenants Corp.

    Working with the New York Attorney General’s office, Lambda Legal files the nation’s first AIDS-discrimination challenge and wins a court order stopping the efforts of neighbors to evict a doctor because he treated HIV-positive patients.

  • Lambda Legal’s First Regional Office

    Lambda Legal opens its first regional office, the Western Regional Office in Los Angeles.

  • Henkle v. Gregory

    Lambda Legal's school harassment case establishes that LGBT students have a First Amendment right to be "out" at school.

  • Lawrence v. Texas

    Lambda Legal wins landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Lawrence v. Texas, which strikes down the nation's remaining state sodomy laws and affirms the constitutional liberty to engage in private, consensual sexual intimacy without government interference.

  • Taylor v. Rice

    Two weeks before trial, the State Department lifts its ban on hiring people with HIV as Foreign Service Officers, ending Lambda Legal’s five-year case challenging this discriminatory policy.

  • Glenn v. Brumby

    The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upholds ruling that the firing of Vandy Beth Glenn, a transgender woman who worked for the Georgia General Assembly, was unconstitutional-- the most important ruling in federal court to date supporting the rights of transgender employees.

  • Obergefell v. Hodges

    In a historic decision, the U.S. Supreme Court declares that denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry violates the U.S. Constitution. The Court’s decision invalidates all state statutes and constitutional amendments barring same-sex couples from marriage. Lambda Legal was co-counsel in one of the landmark cases.

  • Bostock v. Clayton County, GA

    On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision approving the analysis Lambda Legal has been advancing for fifteen years that discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation is sex discrimination, and violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This federal law, which often is referred to as “Title VII,” prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion.

  • Ely v. Saul

    A lawsuit against the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) on behalf of a 65-year-old gay man seeking spousal survivor’s benefits based on his 43-year relationship with his husband, who died seven months after Arizona began allowing same-sex couples to marry. The Social Security Administration withdraws its appeal, securing the victory for all surviving same-sex spouses across the country who were barred from being married for at least nine months by discriminatory marriage bans.

Strategic Plan

For 50 years, Lambda Legal has worked to address the highest priority needs for members of the LGBTQ+ community and those living with HIV.

As we push forward, Lambda Legal will continue to serve as a firewall against the escalating attacks on the LGBTQ+ community and people living with HIV, and continue to chart the course to a world where our identities and relationships are respected, protected, and celebrated. We will continue to do so through:

Impact litigation designed to expand protections and defend the rights of the LGBTQ+ community and people living with HIV

Education programs to expand awareness and build coalitions of support for our communities

Public policy advocacy to challenge anti-LGBTQ+ bias and create new protections in our legal system

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