Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities often find themselves on the receiving end of practices or actions that violate their rights. These actions vary in severity but can leave one in need of legal support, advice, or just assistance. Unfortunately, this can prove problematic. Some people may lack the financial resources to consult and hire an attorney, while others may find it difficult to find representation that understands their needs or has experience with LGBTQ matters. In some cases, a person may be too frightened or feel unsafe when it comes to seeking out the help that they need. Regardless of one’s situation, many resources are available to help those who know where to look.
There are a multitude of reasons why someone would need legal support. Depending on that reason, it can be helpful to first understand what the relevant laws are in one’s state. By understanding the law, a person can develop an idea of what their rights and options are. In cases of discrimination and hate crimes, there are a number of online resources, including maps, that list anti-discrimination and hate crime laws by state. Discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community can occur at any time in many different circumstances. For example, one may encounter discrimination while searching for employment, while at one’s current place of employment, when buying or renting a home, or even while shopping. Discrimination due to one’s health is yet another issue. For some people, their HIV status (either actual or presumed) may be the excuse someone uses to deny service or employment or otherwise discriminate against them.
When discrimination based on one’s gender identity or sexual orientation turns to intimidation, coercion, or harassment through the use of violence against one’s property or person, it then becomes a hate crime. In some cases, people may commit hate crimes to prevent LGBT individuals from living, working, or attending school in a specific area. Hate crimes can also occur at random, at any time or place. When one is the victim of a hate crime, it is important to immediately report it to law enforcement, despite the fear that it may inspire. Reporting hate crimes and prosecuting the offenders helps bring attention to the problem of hate crimes, allows the victim to seek justice and closure, and prevents the people who committed the crime from harming someone else.
Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender teens may also find themselves bullied and harassed. This behavior may come from other students or even teachers. Domestic violence against both adults and teens is another reason why one may seek out legal assistance or support from their community. Hotlines are available to help people make the move away from these volatile situations. These resources often have quick-exit options for the safety of site visitors who are secretly seeking assistance. Other issues that may require legal assistance include health and elder care and identity change documentation.
When contacting an online legal help desk or hotline, one should keep in mind that they may have limited availability that may hinder their ability to take on a new case. In these situations, the type of help may be limited and in the form of a consultation in which they provide valuable information or a referral to legal representation. Others may only refer the interested party to the appropriate legal resource. These discussions are generally private.
For more information about legal resources for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community, click on any of the following links:
- ACLU: LGBT Nondiscrimination Protections
- Southern Poverty Law Center: LGBT Rights
- Legal Help for LGBTQ Immigrants
- LGBT Workers’ Rights Project
- Lambda Legal: Legal Help Desk
- Bravo Helpline
- Anti-Violence Project: Get Support
- Outserve-SLDN: Get Legal Help
- National Center for Lesbian Rights: Get Help
- LeGaL’s Pro Bono Walk-in Clinics
- Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender National Hotline
- Transgender Law Center: Legal Information Helpline
- Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund: The Name Change Project
- State Nondiscrimination Laws
- Workplace Discrimination Map
- Ending Housing Discrimination Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Individuals and Their Families
- State Anti-Bullying Laws and Policies
- What Should You Know About the EEOC and the Enforcement Protections for LGBT Workers
- Nondiscrimination Protections for LGBTQ Communities
- Snapshot: LGBT Equality by State
- Lawyer Referral Service
- We Are With You: Resources for the LGBTQ Community During a Time of Need
- LGBT Equality and Civil Rights
- The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009
- Protecting the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) Individuals: Fighting Discrimination
- An Introduction to Hate Crime Laws (PDF)