L to R: Supervising Attorney of the LGBTQ Law Project Anya Mukarji-Connolly, Advisory Board members Christopher Riano, Deborah Berkman, David O'Connell and Erik Graham-Smith

L to R: Supervising Attorney of the LGBTQ Law Project Anya Mukarji-Connolly, Advisory Board members Christopher Riano, Deborah Berkman, David O’Connell and Erik Graham-Smith

NYLAG’s LGBTQ Law Project celebrated the arrival of spring and recognized the support of its Advisory Board, LGBTQ organizations and law firm partners at a reception on May 14. The event was hosted by Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, a strong supporter of NYLAG.

Click here to view photos from the event.

Anya Mukarji-Connolly, Supervising Attorney of the LGBTQ Law Project, welcomed guests, recognized the contributions of the Project’s staff, and thanked the Advisory Board members for their support. The board was established in 2014 to provide guidance and propose initiatives that can further the impact of the LGBTQ Law Project.

“I want to recognize and thank our Advisory Board – each of you has made personal and professional commitments to our work – spending many an early morning meeting with us to help grow this vital program,” said Mukarji-Connolly. “Together with our staff, community and law firm partners and elected officials, we have fought to protect our client’s relationships with their children, helped LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence access the courts and seek orders of protection, and ensured that transgender and gender non-conforming immigrants can access the courts to seek a legal name change.”

Christopher Riano, Partner, Drohan Lee LLP.

Christopher Riano, Partner, Drohan Lee LLP.

“It is so heartwarming to see so many old friends and new faces here tonight in support of the critical mission of NYLAG’s LGBTQ Law Project,” said Christopher Riano. “On behalf of the Advisory Board, thank you so much for supporting our work, which provides for our ability to offer direct civil legal assistance to those LGBTQ New Yorkers among us who are most in need.”

The LGBTQ Law Project was founded in 2008 at a time when there were few legal service programs addressing the wide range of civil legal needs among low-income LGBTQ communities in New York City. Many programs focused on a particular segment of the community or a particular issue. NYLAG saw the need for a comprehensive legal service program for low-income or no-income LGBTQ New Yorkers, regardless of age or immigration status.

In 2014, the LGBTQ Project’s legal staff and volunteers served over 350 people in over 450 legal matters including family law, employment, housing, public benefits, shelter access, name changes, gender marker changes, and life planning. NYLAG also works in coalition with community organizations, the Mayor’s office and the City Council to expand the rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers. In the last year, the City has made great strides: a gender affirming Municipal ID program was launched; State and City birth certificate policies were reformed; a trans-exclusion Medicaid policy was revoked, and stronger policies were introduced to enable New York City’s Commission on Human Rights and Human Resource Administration to better serve LGBTQ communities.

The Project staffs six monthly legal clinics in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, and works with LGBTQ organizations and City Council members in Queens and Brooklyn to provide Know Yours Rights trainings and legal clinics. NYLAG partners with LGBTQ social service providers across the city, including Destination Tomorrow, Center Families, NY LGBT Community Center, Rainbow Heights Club, LeGaL, Trinity Place Shelter, and SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders).

According to Daniel Brito, Art Coordinator and Guest Speaker Coordinator with Rainbow Heights Club, who attended the event, “Our consumers come to our program seeking culturally competent recovery support services in a safe and affirming environment. We are thrilled to be able to refer our consumers who suffer from mental illness to high quality legal services from a program that shares a similar mission and commitment to vulnerable LGBTQ communities. We are proud of our partnership with NYLAG’S LGBTQ Law Project.”

LGBTQ Law Project Advisory Board
Paris Baldacci, Cardozo School of Law
Deborah Berkman, New York Legal Assistance Group
Terry Boggis, Formerly of the NYC LGBT Community Center, Stonewall Foundation and Queers for Economic Justice
Brian Esser, Law Office of Brian Esser
Erik Graham-Smith, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP
Erica Kagan, The Kurland Group
Stephen Lessard Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
David O’Connell, Ewenstein Young & Roth LLP
Christopher Riano, Drohan Lee LLP
Fuaud Yasin, Conde Nast