Established in 1978, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) describes itself as “New England’s leading legal-rights organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status and gender identity and expression.” Its mission is to “tear down … the outdated laws and stereotypes that have denied LGBT people and people with HIV basic protections and opportunities in every area of daily life.”
GLAD’s founding was precipitated by a spate of complaints issued by patrons of the Boston Public Library, claiming that a number of men were soliciting sex in the library’s bathroom. In early 1978, Boston police responded to these complaints by assigning plainclothes officers to the facility. In a two-week period that March, these officers arrested 103 men on charges ranging from indecent exposure to “open and gross lewdness”—a felony. Boston’s gay residents were outraged by this “entrapment” campaign. John Ward, the first openly gay male lawyer to practice in that city, established GLAD to litigate on their behalf.
In 1980 GLAD litigated a high-profile case known as Aaron Fricke v. Richard B. Lynch, which centered around a Rhode Island high-school student (Fricke) who had asked a boy to accompany him to the junior prom. When the school sought to prevent these boys from attending the event as a couple, GLAD argued in federal court that the school’s action violated Fricke’s First Amendment rights of association and free speech, and his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection of the laws. The court issued an injunction allowing the couple to attend the dance.
In 1985 a same-sex couple in Massachusetts, Don Babets and David Jean, took two young boys into their home through the state’s foster-care system. But soon after the placement, the Department of Social Services removed the boys from the home and announced a new policy that all but banned gays and lesbians from becoming foster parents. In response, GLAD litigated the case (Babets v. Johnston), which, by GLAD’s telling, “reaffirmed that gays and lesbians have an equal right to provide homes for children in need.”
When Bangor, Maine dentist Randon Bragdon in 1994 refused to treat a woman named Sidney Abbott, after the latter had disclosed that she was HIV-positive, GLAD filed suit in a federal district court on Abbott’s behalf, arguing that Bragdon’s action was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. GLAD won the case. Bragdon later appealed, unsuccessfully, to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In July 1998, Lucas Rosa, who was biologically male but, according to GLAD, “had been expressing a female gender identity since at least age 15,” gave the loan officer at Park West Bank (Massachusetts) the three forms of photo identification required for a car-loan application. In one of those photos, says GLAD, Rosa “presented in a more female gendered expression.” But in his two other ID’s, “Rosa presented differently—one photo was more gender ambiguous, and the third was more stereotypically male.” When the loan officer asked the transgendered applicant to come back dressed like his more masculine photo, Rosa and GLAD filed suit in federal court and won. According to GLAD, this decision “confirmed that sex-discrimination laws extend to situations where people are discriminated against because they don’t conform to stereotypes of how men and women are supposed to look and act.”
In 2000, GLAD litigated the Boy Scouts of America v. Wyman case in a federal appeals court, which ruled that if the organization wished to exclude homosexuals from serving as scout leaders, it was not entitled to receive state funds that were predicated on adherence to non-discrimination practices.
Also in 2000, GLAD filed suit in Massachusetts Superior Court on behalf of a biologically male transgender student named Katrina Harrington, a seventh-grader at South Junior High in Brockton, Massachusetts. When Harrington began wearing skirts, hair accessories, and makeup to school (“like most girls her age,” as GLAD put it), school officials objected and sometimes sent him home for violating the school’s dress code prohibiting “distracting or disruptive” clothing. GLAD countered that “the school excluded Trina on the basis of her sex: if she had been biologically female there would be no question that she could wear the clothing she wanted to wear.” The court ultimately ruled in favor of GLAD and Harrington.
In 2001 GLAD worked on behalf of a New Hampshire lesbian named Nancy Walsh, whose domestic partner, Carol Flyzik, had been killed in the 9/11 attacks. GLAD won compensation for Walsh from the federal September 11 Victim Compensation Fund, and helped her deal with probate issues as well.
Also in 2001, GLAD represented two HIV-positive Massachusetts residents with end-stage liver disease (caused by Hepatitis-C), who had been told they would die within a few months if they did not undergo liver transplants. When private insurers and Medicaid refused to pay for their transplants because the procedures were considered “experimental” for such patients, GLAD challenged those decisions in court and won.
GLAD boasts that it “has been at the forefront of the marriage equality fight” for same-sex unions. In April 2001 the organization filed a court case that ultimately made Massachusetts the first U.S. state to give legal recognition to such marriages.
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