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Lambda Legal event marks 40th anniversary

by James Patterson
Monday Apr 22, 2013

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a national legal advocacy group with five offices across the country, will host its San Francisco Soiree 2013 Friday, April 26 to celebrate 40 years of successful and historic legal advocacy for LGBT people.

Event planners expect to raise a half-million dollars as attendees party around the theme: "From Disco to Now - Fighting for LGBT People and People with HIV since 1973." The event takes place at Terra Gallery starting with a 6 p.m. reception, followed by dinner.

Local planner and commercial litigation attorney Daniel Slaughter, a new board member with Lambda Legal, has been co-chair of the organization's San Francisco Leadership Council since 2010. He expects 500 people will attend and he expects to raise $500,000 or more.

"Some attendees will pay far more than the minimum ticket price," he explained.

Tickets start at $325.

The headlining entertainment will be an after-dinner show with Tony-nominated transgender artist Justin Vivian Bond, half of the popular lounge act Kiki and Herb.

Speakers include Kevin Cathcart, the longtime executive director of Lambda Legal, and gay plaintiff Maverick Couch, 18, who successfully sued his Ohio high school in 2012 when school officials sent him home for wearing a "Jesus is not a Homophobe" T-shirt.

Slaughter said marriage equality has been in Lambda's portfolio since 1990 when it represented plaintiffs in a Hawaiian case. In 2003, he noted that state sodomy laws were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas. Lambda attorneys represented the client in that case, the late John Lawrence.

"Lawrence is the basis for the equal protection challenges currently before the U.S. Supreme Court," he said, referring to the same-sex marriage cases involving California's same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Slaughter, who is gay, said Lambda filed amicus briefs challenging the constitutionality of Prop 8 and DOMA.

Lambda's role is bigger than the two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, Slaughter stressed, as the organization expects "years of litigation" regardless of the resolution of the cases.

More legal advocacy will be needed, he said, to work out issues such as whether each state must recognize another state's marriages and whether private entities, such as insurance companies located in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage, must offer insurance and other products to legally married same-sex couples.

"Lambda Legal is fully prepared to litigate these issues," Slaughter said.

Concerning future litigation, Slaughter pointed out that African Americans, for example, still face legal obstacles many years after laws were enacted to end racial discrimination. "Laws change, but not everyone's attitude changes so we expect some of the same legal obstacles African Americans experience," he said.

Aside from marriage equality, Slaughter said Lambda Legal is working on a variety of legal issues affecting the LGBT community. In an e-mail, he said Lambda currently has over 75 active cases.

Last week, the organization submitted a brief asking the U.S. Department of Homeland Security not to deport an HIV-positive immigrant convicted of solicitation of oral sex in Los Angeles.

In another case, a Florida school district, in response to Lambda's advocacy, reversed a decision and allowed a high school student to observe a Day of Silence intended to address homophobia.

For more information about San Francisco Soiree 2013, contact Jennifer Bing at (415) 800-8127.

Next week's event will be at Terra Gallery, 511 Harrison Street. Tickets are $325 per person for the full event, but a special $75 ticket allows attendees to enjoy an after-dinner open bar and Bond s performance, scheduled for 9 p.m. Tickets are available online at The event is cocktail attire.

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