Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 12 / 22 March 2018

Lesbian SF attorney, nonprofit head receives Stonewall honor

NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell (Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland)

NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell (Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland)

The attorney who heads the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights has been named as a recipient of the American Bar Association’s third annual Stonewall Award.

Kate Kendell, an out lesbian, is one of three longtime activists who will be honored at the ABA’s meeting in Houston in February 2015. The association’s Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity selected Kendell for the award, which was announced Thursday, September 11.

“It is very humbling to receive a recognition for work that you feel so privileged to be doing and that is the case here for me,” Kendell said in an email to the Bay Area Reporter. “I am moved and honored to be a recipient of the Stonewall Award from the American Bar Association and I follow in the footsteps of many of my heroes and colleagues who have been past recipients of the award. … It is my life’s joy to do work at NCLR on behalf of the LGBT community and I feel enormously grateful every day that this is my life.”

Among other recent cases, NCLR has helped represent same-sex couples working to overturn Idaho’s same-sex marriage ban. A 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel heard oral arguments in the couples’ lawsuit Monday, September 8, with judges seeming puzzled as to why the couples shouldn’t be allowed to marry.

In a news release Thursday, the ABA said, “In addition to being at the forefront of litigation moving forward marriage equality, Kendell has developed key arguments and strategies advancing LGBT family law, including securing spousal rights for a same-sex partner in a wrongful death action and adoption rights for LGBT parents in dozens of states.”

Kendell served as the first staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union in Utah before becoming NCLR’s legal director in 1994. In its announcement, the ABA said, “Through her leadership, today [NCLR] has a staff of 24 and a budget of $5 million.”

Representative Brian K. Sims, the first out LGBT member of Pennsylvania’s General Assembly, and Lise M. Iwon, the first out lesbian president of the Rhode Island Bar Association, are the other two Stonewall honorees named Thursday.

The honor “recognizes lawyers who have considerably advanced [LGBTs] in the legal profession and successfully championed LGBT legal causes,” the ABA said.

The award is named for New York City’s Stonewall Inn, the gay bar where patrons rioted against police in June 1969 and played a key role in the modern LGBT rights movement.

Kendell said she’s “honored to share” the recognition Sims and Iwon, who have “made my job easier through their work and commitment.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, September 11, 2014 @ 3:46 pm PST
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