Matthew Palmquist

The Project

Matt (he/him/his) will partner with the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project to provide holistic representation for detained LGBTQIA+ migrants in Arizona via direct representation, strategic litigation, and community lawyering.

LGBTQIA+ migrants fleeing violence and discrimination at home often arrive at the Southwest Border only to encounter more of the same. Arizona has one of the highest immigrant detention rates in the nation, and many are locked up merely for asserting their legal right to seek asylum. In detention, queer migrants are particularly vulnerable. Nationwide, they represent 0.14% of detainees but 12% of sexual abuse cases and remain in ICE custody up to three times longer than cisgender, heterosexual migrants. Now more than ever, LGBTQIA+ migrants in Arizona need a dedicated advocate.

Matt is inspired by his musical genius Korean mother, who came to the U.S. back when racist quotas kept most Asians out, and his white, hippie science professor father, who left his church due to its opposition to gay rights. They taught him to embrace those who are different, fight for the less fortunate, and never give up on the gay agenda.

Fellowship Plans

During his Fellowship, Matt will provide direct representation for LGBTQIA+ migrants by fighting for their release through ICE advocacy and custody redetermination hearings. He will also strategically litigate asylum claims and build resources to help fellow practitioners. Finally, Matt will collaborate with existing community organizations to strengthen Arizona’s support system for LGBTQIA+ migrants and push for structural change.

Media

2022 Equal Justice Works Fellowship Winner Has a Passion for Immigrant Rights

69 countries still criminalize same-sex relationships−including the U.S. until 2003. Sexual orientation and gender identity can be strong bases for asylum, but, without representation, queer migrants often face prolonged detention and removal.

Matthew Palmquist /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Seran (they/them/theirs) seeks to advance protections for transgender and non-binary people in housing and homelessness contexts through direct representation, policy advocacy, and education.

Transgender and non-binary people, especially transgender and non-binary people of color, face disproportionately high rates of housing discrimination and homelessness. Transgender and non-binary people experience disproportionately high rates of housing instability and homelessness for several (often related) reasons, including family rejection, heightened risk of abuse, increased risk of chronic health conditions, and discrimination. Additionally, while experiencing homelessness, transgender and non-binary individuals struggle to find shelter because of discriminatory policies and attitudes.

Seran’s experiences as a non-binary person of color have driven them to advocate for the just treatment of all people regardless of gender, class, ability, or race.

Fellowship Plans

During their fellowship, Seran will represent transgender and non-binary people who have faced housing discrimination or been denied access to a homeless shelter. They will work directly with members of their community to ensure that policies and legislation fully protect the rights of transgender people in housing and homelessness contexts. Additionally, they will provide education to service providers to ensure service providers are aware of the rights of transgender and non-binary people.

The goal is not just survival; we deserve the chance to have lives worth living.

Seran Gee /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Kat’s (they/them/theirs) project will work to improve the legal landscape for LGBTQIA+ people in the United States through focused effort on advocacy based on the free exercise and establishment clauses of the First Amendment.

In the United States, an estimated 8 million adults and 2 million minors identify as members of the LGBTQIA+ community. They are significantly more likely to be placed in situations where the separation of church and state is critical to protecting their health, safety, and well-being. The intrusion of religion on government programs impacts LGBTQIA+ youth, adults, families, and individuals at every imaginable level. Each time rights for LGBTQIA+ people expand, there are efforts to roll those rights back under the guise of religious freedom. First amendment advocacy is a critical part of continuing to build and protect LGBTQIA+ communities.

Kat’s passion for advocacy started with their experiences as an openly queer student. They remain committed to making the world a safer, more equitable place for all members of LGBTQIA+ communities.

Fellowship Plans

During their Fellowship, Kat will work on litigation through representation and amicus briefs as LGBTQIA+ rights cases make their way through the court system. They will also work on public educational materials such as know your rights resources and webinars. Additionally,they will participate in legislative advocacy efforts.

Media

New Legal Fellows Join FFRF, Including One on a Prestigious Fellowship

As a queer person who grew up in a conservative religious community, I know first-hand how important the separation of church and state is to ensure the safety and dignity of LGBTQIA+ individuals and communities.

Kat Grant /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Lydia will help LGBTQIA+ survivors of violence in the Texas Rio Grande Valley through outreach, education, and direct representation.

Instances of violence, including family and intimate partner violence, have increased and become more severe since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has had exacerbating effects for LGBTQIA+ individuals, who experience violence at rates greater than or equal to their cisgender, heterosexual counterparts. These survivors face unique barriers to access survivor support resources that are not also experienced by their cisgender, heterosexual counterparts.

LGBTQIA+ survivors in the Rio Grande Valley face systemic barriers related to poverty and lack of access to resources. This project focuses on the legal needs of LGBTQIA+ survivors of violence and will contribute to existing community resources.

Fellowship Plans

During the Fellowship, Lydia will help LGBTQIA+ individuals in the Rio Grande Valley with protective orders, divorce and custody orders, and name changes. They will also engage with LGBTQIA+ communities through community partnerships and Know Your Rights sessions. Lydia will seek to connect existing resources within the Rio Grande Valley and create a network of care for LGBTQIA+ survivors of violence.

As a queer person who has seen firsthand how difficult it is to access culturally humble, affirming resources for LGBTQIA+ survivors of violence, I knew I wanted to become that kind of resource for other LGBTQIA+ survivors.

Lydia Harris /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Lucie (she/her/hers) will launch a first-of-its kind clemency and family support project focused on holistic advocacy and outreach to lower-income Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC) in Boston through direct representation, a public awareness campaign, and collaboration with community organizations. 

In Massachusetts, clemency—whether in the form of pardon or commutation—is a critical tool that enables the Governor to retroactively combat the detrimental impacts of the criminal justice system, which include the disproportionate incarceration of BIPOC and QTPOC. Over the past few decades and in the wake of the “War on Drugs,” the number of clemency grants, particularly in the form of commutation, has dwindled: in 2020, there were more than 100 petitioners seeking commutation with only one successful petitioner. Clemency petitioners often cannot access legal representation at all because there is no right to counsel in the clemency process and there is a dearth of attorneys available to provide pro bono representation. 

Fellowship Plans

Lucie will start a clemency pro bono clinic housed in the CORI & Re-entry Project at Greater Boston Legal Services that will provide legal assistance and representation to people seeking clemency. Contact with families and support networks is often critical to future successful clemency petitions. Lucie will host community meetings and “Know Your Rights” events to help people stay connected to their loved ones who are incarcerated. To address systemic reform, Lucie will combat the unfavorable view of clemency among the Governor, Governor’s Council, and Parole Board in Massachusetts by engaging in a public education campaign that raises awareness about the potential to reimagine clemency as a tool for racial justice. 

Media

Celebrating the 2021 Fellows Upholding LGBTQ+ Rights

Movement work grounded in abolition and redistribution of power is what creates long-term and sustainable change, but community-based legal advocacy is an essential way to mitigate the immediate violence the criminal justice system enacts upon BIPOC and QTPOC.

Lucie Gulino /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Leveraging the expertise of Prison Law Office, A.D. (he/him/his and they/them/theirs) will advocate alongside incarcerated and detained trans people with disabilities in jails. His work will challenge harmful and discriminatory conditions of confinement.

Trans people (including transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary individuals) experience significant discrimination, mistreatment, and violence in California prisons, jails, immigration detention centers, and psychiatric facilities, including sexual and physical violence, solitary confinement, inadequate mental health and medical care, harassment, and denials of fundamental self-expression. These deplorable conditions make locked facilities uniquely disabling for trans people. They cause high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal ideation, and other mental health conditions, and exacerbate trans individuals’ existing mental health conditions. By focusing on marginalized and underserved trans people, this project will challenge the structural barriers that trans people with disabilities face when seeking justice, fair treatment, and adequate care.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the first year of the Fellowship, A.D. has:

  • Provided brief service, referrals, and legal advice to hundreds of individuals, including 68 in person visits, 18 video visits, 88 phone calls and 145 letters, and distributed hundreds of resources.
  • Leveraged structured negotiations and litigation to secure strong protections for LGBTQ+ individuals in multiple County jails
  • Testified to the State Legislature about County Jail conditions
  • Developed and provided trainings and presentations on the intersections of disability justice, trans liberation, and abolition

Next Steps

In the next year, A.D. plans to:

  • Expand the project into other types of locked facilities
  • Develop Know Your Rights packets and other resources for incarcerated individuals
  • Work with sponsors and community organizations to increase the project’s pro bono capacity

Media

Celebrating the 2021 Fellows Upholding LGBTQ+ Rights

As a trans lawyer, I will fight for the most marginalized people in my community. They deserve fierce legal advocacy and caring community.

A.D. Lewis /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Victoria provides affirming legal representation for queer immigrants and engages in community-based education and outreach to serve all LGBTQ+ races of color, with a particular focus on expanding UnLocal’s services to include outreach to Asian Pacific Islander communities.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) immigrants face unique challenges due to their sexual orientation and/or their gender identity. Some LGBTQ+ immigrants come to escape persecution, homophobic discrimination, or trauma from their home countries. There is also a need for stronger community infrastructure among queer immigrants in light of homophobia or anti-immigrant rhetoric, especially among asylum seekers, undocumented immigrants, and LGBTQ+ Asian Americans (API), who are often overlooked. This leaves a visible gap in addressing queer immigrants’ and LGBTQ+ APIs’ legal needs. This project seeks to ensure that such people receive culturally sensitive and affirming legal services.

Victoria is an LGBTQ+ Korean immigrant, lying at the exact intersections of an Asian-American, LGBTQ+ individual, and an immigrant. She therefore identifies and empathizes with the community she works with and wants to see LGBTQ+ APIs represented in the law, LGBTQ+ community, and society at large.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the first year of the Fellowship, Victoria has:

  • Represented and advised over 30 individuals from UnLocal, its partner clinics, and the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA).
  • Collaborated with the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (NCAPACD) and the LGBTQ+ Taskforce for policy, advocacy, and awareness efforts through a collaborative policy letter and a live web panel.
  • Attended clinics to assist with intake for LGBTQ+ immigrants and DACA clients and formed partnerships with CBST and local API groups.
  • Achieved victory in an LGBTQ+ client’s asylum case in Immigration Court.

Next Steps

In the next year, Victoria plans to:

  • Continue to provide direct legal representation to LGBTQ+ immigrants of color via the current docket with a focus on asylum.
  • Take more clients independently and represent them through the immigration and asylum process.
  • Help solidify and maintain partnerships with local API and LGBTQ+ affirming organizations for additional clients, education and outreach, and/or funding, and reach out to more organizations throughout the year to build UnLocal’s reach to the API community.
  • Continue to develop and present educational resources and seminars on queer and/or queer immigrant issues for local communities, including translating them for API communities.

Media

Building Connections in the Asian and Pacific Islander and LGBTQ+ Asian and Pacific Islander Communities

Introducing the 2020 Fellows Fighting for the LGBTQ+ Community

What I am fighting for is written in my face and identity. I want to be an advocate for my own intersectional community and make a difference on their behalf.

Victoria Jeon /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Arielle provides holistic advocacy for transgender, gender-nonconforming, intersex (TGNCI) and/or HIV+ immigrant New Yorkers to gain immigration status and access to health care—including gender-affirming procedures—through direct immigration legal services, community partnerships, and legislative advocacy.

There are an estimated 15,000 to 50,000 transgender undocumented individuals in the U.S. Undocumented TGNCI individuals, doubly marginalized due to citizenship status and gender identity, face particular vulnerabilities: one in four transgender individuals report experiencing discrimination in health care, and one in three report verbal harassment or refusal of treatment. Disparities in care are compounded when an individual is undocumented, and as a result, uninsured. Further, TGNCI undocumented individuals are often criminalized and detained due to police profiling, targeting and harassment. If detained, TGNCI individuals are subject to conditions that lead to rapid deterioration in their physical and mental health, such as solitary confinement, inconsistent administration of HIV medication, and denial of hormones.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

During the first year of the Fellowship, Arielle has:

  • Launched the UndocuCare TGNCI+ Project and provided immigration legal representation to 25 individuals who identify as transgender and/or are living with HIV, including work permits granted for 10 clients with their correct gender marker
  • Solidified a community partnership with the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project (QDEP) and presented to members on access to health care and other public benefits for immigrant New Yorkers
  • Advocated on behalf of asylum seekers to have harmful ankle monitors removed
  • Established a mutual referral partnership with the LGBT Community Center of Manhattan, ensuring that TGNCI clients obtain access to gender-affirming health insurance navigation
  • Hosted a legal name change clinic and training with the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF) for fellowship sponsors AIG and S&C, who took on clients’ legal name change cases pro bono

Next Steps

In the next six months, Arielle plans to:

  • Ensure continued access to health care and gender-affirming procedures for clients and continue representing TGNCI clients and/or clients living with HIV in their immigration proceedings
  • Work with clients to obtain identity documents with their correct legal name and gender
  • Deepen expertise for T-visa and U-visa cases for survivors of trafficking and other crimes and increase outreach to NYC-based and sex-worker led organizations already doing this work

Media

Introducing the 2020 Fellows Fighting for the LGBTQ+ Community

While working at the border and in immigrant detention centers outside of New York City, I saw firsthand how manageable illnesses can turn fatal in immigrant detention—especially for LGBTQ and HIV+ folks.

Arielle Wisbaum /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Gabriella engages in advocacy, public education, outreach, and litigation to challenge the use of religion to discriminate against individuals seeking reproductive health care and LGBTQ New Yorkers.

Increasingly, religion is weaponized to discriminate against people seeking reproductive health care and LGBTQ individuals. As a growing number of religious and secular hospitals merge, more and more health care is subject to religious directives that prohibit certain types of care, ranging from miscarriage management to treatment of ectopic pregnancies, to gender-affirming care, to end of life care. These restrictions are rooted not in sound medical science, but rather in administrators’ ideology, and the resultant denials of care too often jeopardize people’s lives, wellbeing, and dignity, and, in some cases, have proven deadly. Hospital consolidation can leave entire regions of the state where people cannot access necessary health care.

Gabriella’s project seeks to uncover health care deserts across New York state, with an emphasis on rural communities. This project develops solutions to intercede in hospital mergers to preserve access to care; educate people so that they can make informed decisions about their health care; challenge the use of religion to discriminate against patients seeking reproductive care, as well as LGBTQ people; and, ultimately, lay the groundwork to eliminate health care deserts in New York state.

As a queer woman of color who grew up religious, Gabriella knows and understands firsthand how religion can be weaponized to harm others and how law and policy can deeply shape one’s sense of self. Gabriella’s experience working on a range of civil liberties issues, including reproductive justice and LGBTQ rights, as an intern, research assistant, volunteer, and advocate made her the right person for this project.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the first year of the Fellowship, Gabriella has:

  • Collaborated with a community coalition to intervene in a proposed merger between a secular hospital and religious health care system in Schenectady to help educate the public and elevate the impact of religious directives on reproductive health care and LGBTQ-inclusive care
  • Connected with community organizations and health care providers to gather evidence of denials of care at hospitals subject to ethical and religious directives
  • Co-authored amicus briefs in Weichman v. Weichman and Carpenter v. James, which argued that religion cannot be used to discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual orientation
  • Submitted a public comment to the NYS Public Health and Health Planning Council advocating for enforceable conditions to preserve comprehensive health care in a hospital transaction
  • Worked on the Princess Janae Place v. NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance litigation team, a case suing the state benefits agency for discriminating based on gender identity against nonbinary New York residents seeking public assistance
  • Engaged in research and strategic thinking on how to challenge discrimination in hospital settings, specifically relating to sex and pregnancy discrimination
  • Conducted research to support legislative efforts to ensure religion is not used to discriminate

Next Steps

In the next year, Gabriella plans to:

  • Continue engaging in targeted advocacy and developing enforceable mechanisms to preserve reproductive health care and LGBTQ-inclusive health care in Schenectady
  • Continue investigating religious hospital consolidation and denials of care through public records requests, community outreach, and monitoring the NYS PHHPC for religious hospital transactions
  • Develop materials for public education and legislative advocacy on how religious restrictions jeopardize access to health care
  • Develop materials related to legislation that would give New York the tools necessary to identify areas in the state where particular types of care are unavailable and prospective patients the tools necessary to determine whether their local hospital provides the care they seek before admission
  • Continue identifying opportunities to draft and file amicus briefs challenging the use of religion to discriminate and identifying opportunities to submit public comments on religious hospital transactions that threaten to limit care

 Media

The Bronx Women’s Bar Association Hosts Legal Program on Reproductive Rights

Introducing the 2020 Fellows Fighting for the LGBTQ+ Community

Five NYU Law Graduates Named 2020 Equal Justice Works Fellows

NYCLU Calls on State To Require Abortions at Catholic Hospital in Lockport

State Approves Plan for New Lockport Hospital

New Catholic Health Hospital Gets NYS Health Panel Approval Despite Opposition

No person should be denied health care because of a provider’s religious beliefs. I am grateful for the opportunity to combine my lived experiences and passion for reproductive, social, and economic justice to protect people seeking reproductive health care and LGBTQ New Yorkers from discrimination.

Gabriella Larios /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Shannon is one of the nation’s leading advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. He began his law career as an Equal Justice Works Fellow in 1993 and has litigated several landmark cases involving the civil rights of same-sex couples and families.

In 1993,  Shannon founded the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) Youth Project, the first legal-advocacy group to address the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ+) youth. He now supervises the Safe Homes Project at NCLR, which helps LGBTQ+ youth who face discrimination and problems in foster care, group homes, or the juvenile-justice system.

What’s Next?

Shannon is the legal director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, where he oversees litigation, legislation, and policy advocacy, with special expertise in family law, youth law, education law, immigration & asylum law, employment discrimination, and HIV criminalization.

Media

LGBTQ People Must Oppose Trump SCOTUS Nominee

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