By ARI EZRA WALDMAN
Lambda Legal, the country's oldest and arguably most important legal services organization dedicated to protecting the rights of the LGBT community, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. It began as a small operation, evoking a David-versus-Goliath motif. It's first client was itself. Its second major victory changed the way we think about free speech. Its most famous case brought gay people out from the shadows. And through countless legal, educational, and political efforts over forty years, Lambda has done more for the gay community than any one person could adequately appreciate or explain.
Because of Lambda's incomparable accomplishments, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has declared today, May 6, 2013, "Lambda Legal Day." I'd like to make sure we all understand why.
Without Lambda Legal, we wouldn't be where we are today: celebrating the freedom to marry in New England, permitted to express and embrace our sexuality in schools and elsewhere, arguing marriage and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) at the Supreme Court, and expecting victories in state legislatures across the country, to name just a few our remarkable successes. We used to be hidden in underground bars with darkened windows, subject to random and pernicious police raids, and forced deep into the closet and far toward the margins of legitimate society. Today, for the most part, we aren't.
To some of us, names like Bill Thom, James Dale, John Lawrence, Ninia Baehr, and Karen Golinski evoke feelings of heroism and shared sacrifice. They all were plaintiffs in important gay rights cases in the last forty years and they were all represented by Lambda Legal.
AFTER THE JUMP, I offer a taste of some of Lambda's most notable accomplishments. If you're interested in learning more, I encourage you to check out the organization's website, contact their staff, and see how you can help.