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Highlighting Fellows Advocating for LGBTQ+ Rights

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To commemorate Pride Month, Equal Justice Works Fellows Matthew Palmquist, Seran Gee, and Henry McDonald shared their LGBTQ+ rights-focused projects. Read more about their work below: 

Headshot of Matthew Palmquist
Photo of Matthew Palmquist

Matthew Palmquist

I represent detained LGBTQ+ asylum seekers in bond for release from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention and removal (aka “deportation”) proceedings. 

What does an average day working with your clients look like? 

I normally drive one and a half hours into the desert to pass through security and either counsel my clients, dressed in prison jumpsuits, in the tiny ICE detention center visitation room or appear with them in the court located within the detention center. 

What have you accomplished or learned so far?   

I’ve been the solo attorney in an asylum merits hearing eight months after being admitted to the bar. Since starting my Fellowship, I have won freedom (via contentious court bond hearings) or a future in the U.S. (via contentious final asylum hearings) for seven people. I’ve learned how the various agencies that oversee immigration relief and enforcement (such as the Executive Office for Immigration Review, ICE, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) intersect. Most importantly, I have learned which levers to pull—and when, where, and how to pull them—to get the best outcomes for my clients. I’ve also drastically improved my Spanish language abilities when it comes to explaining complex legal procedures and eating-while-driving skills (putting 30,000+ miles on my Prius). 

What are you most excited about continuing your project? 

I have been able to win and keep winning freedom and a future in the U.S. for people who have survived and sacrificed so much to be here. I’m hoping to stay on the Florence Project as a staff attorney and specialize in using what I’ve learned during my Fellowship to fight for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers. 

Photo of Seran Gee
Photo of Seran Gee

Seran Gee 

I work to improve access to housing for transgender and nonbinary individuals, who   experience disproportionately high rates of housing instability due to family rejection, discrimination, and heightened risk of abuse or chronic health conditions. Additionally, while experiencing homelessness, transgender and non-binary individuals struggle to find shelter because of discriminatory policies and attitudes. 

What does an average day working with your clients look like? 

I normally meet with service providers to plan litigation that will hopefully change discriminatory [housing] policies. I work towards my goals through direct representation, policy advocacy, and provide education to service providers to ensure that they are aware of transgender and non-binary people’s rights. 

What have you accomplished or learned so far?   

I have learned how to work with a wide range of stakeholders to advance a common goal. 

What are you most excited about continuing your project? 

I am looking forward to filing a complaint to challenge discriminatory housing practices. 

Headshot of Henry McDonald
Photo of Henry McDonald

Henry McDonald 

I provide free legal services to young queer and trans people of color in the Boston area. I provide support in various practice areas, but most of my cases relate to housing, public benefits, and name or identity document changes. 

What does an average day working with your clients look like? 

Like many attorneys, I spend some days in court drafting pleadings, researching legal questions, and corresponding with other lawyers or public agencies. By virtue of the collaborative nature of this Fellowshipwhere I am co-located with Boston GLASS, an LGBTQ+ youth services programI get to meet and counsel clients in partnership with trusted service providers like mental health clinicians, HIV/STI testers, vogue instructors, and health navigators. 

What have you accomplished or learned so far?   

In this position, I have learned so much about myself and the legal issues facing young queer and trans people of color. My cases have offered me immense opportunities to develop “traditional” legal skills such as researching, writing, and negotiating. Perhaps more importantly, this project–thanks to my excellent colleagues–has allowed me to learn how to practice in a way that is truly trauma-informed and client-centered. 

What are you most excited about continuing your project? 

For me, Pride Month is a time to connect with my community. I’m excited to foster relationships with additional community partners and to expand the reach of what we’ve accomplished so far. 

To learn more about Equal Justice Works Fellows and alums supporting the LGBTQ+ community, visit here. 

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow